Ho Chi Minh City
Total Area - 329,560 square kilometers
Capital - Hanoi
Time Zone - Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +7 hours
Vietnamis one of the most beautiful countries located in the South East Asia.In the North, Vietnam shares the long borderline with China. In theEast, Vietnam is bordered by the Gulf of Tonkin, inn the East and Southby the South China Sea, in the South West by the Gulf of Thailand, andin the West by Cambodia and Laos. Owning to stretching the length ofthe Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam boasts a unique shape of anelongated S and a long coastline of 3,444km (2,140 miles) with a lot ofwonderful sites.
Although Vietnam lies entirely within the tropics, the Vietnam’s climatesurprisinglyvaries from region to region with the annual average temperature from22ºC to 27ºC because of its topography. The mountainous people of Sapa in the north might be seeking shelter from snow while the urban dwellers of Ho Chi Minh City in the south seek refuge from mid-day heat.
Inthe North (from Hai Van mountain pass in the middle of Vietnam to theNorth), it is the weather of four different seasons in a year: Spring,Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Spring lasts from February to April withwarm weather. In Spring, it is characterized by fine drizzle that helpsplants grow fast and flowers bloom brightly. Summer lasts from May toAugust with hot and showery weather. The sun shines almost days. Andthere are sometimes sudden thundershowers that make summer less hot andbecome cooler. Autumn lasts from September to November with cool air,and dry and lightly windy weather. It can be said that it is the mostbeautiful season in a year with yellow leaves falling on the streetsand yellow bright shines in day time although sometimes typhoonsthreaten life and agriculture in the country. Winter lasts fromNovember to January with cold and dry weather. It is the coldest seasonin a year. Frost and snow can also occur in the mountains (over 1000mabove level sea), that make Vietnamese people eager to go up to see andtake nice photos of such scare event of a year.
Thesouthern region is predominantly sub-equatorial with two main seasonsof wet rainy season and dry season. A wet rainy season ranges fromApril to September. It is often sunny in mornings and rainy in lateafternoons. Showers often rain heavily but stop quickly. A dry seasonspans the months of October to May. The weather becomes hotter. The Sunshines all days. But it becomes so cool at night. Definitely, theweather is rather stable in the south.
Theofficial language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, which is the mother tongueof the Vietnamese people who constitute 86% of Vietnam's population,and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. And it is the secondlanguage of the ethnic minority groups in the country. It ismonosyllabic, with each syllable having six different tones that canchange the meaning of the word. This makes it quite difficult for newlearners. Beside the official language, each ethnic minority group hasits own dialect that has been used and preserved in daily life.
TheVietnamese writing system in use today is an adapted version of theLatin alphabet, with additional diacritics for tones and certainletters. The different tones are indicated by the use of accent marks.This system of writing, called quoc ngu, was created by a FrenchCatholic missionary, Fr. Alexander De Rhodes, in the 17th century totranslate the scriptures. When France invaded Vietnam in the late 19thcentury, French gradually replaced Chinese as the official language ineducation and government. Vietnamese adopted many French terms, such asđầm (dame, from madame),ga (train station, from gare), sơ mi (shirt, from chemise), and búp bê(doll, from poupée). In addition, many Sino-Vietnamese terms weredevised for Western ideas imported through the French. However, theRomanized script did not come to predominate until the beginning of the20th century, when education became widespread and a simpler writingsystem was found more expedient for teaching and communication with thegeneral population.
Althoughit is a small country with the area of 329,560 square kilometers, thereare up to 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting in Vietnam, of whichKinh (Viet) people accounts for nearly 86% of the whole population, andthe others are ethnic minority groups that represent about 14%.
Accordingto historical materials, Viet people was the first group living inVietnam. And then other people came from the Southeastern Asian area.Almost of them are from China. Their ancestors migrated to Vietnam fewhundred years ago. There are ethnic minority groups such as Khmer andCham, descendents of inhabitants who lived in central and southernVietnam before the area was conquered by Vietnam. The other groups areMuong, Pathen, Pu peo,etc. All of them are divided into 5 major groupsfollowing the language they speak: Austro-Asiatic, Mon-Khmer,Viet-Muong, Sino-Tibetan, and Austronesian.
Nowadays,Kinh (or Viet group) mostly base in plains, especially in the Red RiverDelta and the Mekong Delta. The ethnic minority groups locate in themountainous areas. Each group has their own custom and tradition.However, they are all friendly and love peace.
Eating out in Vietnam ranges from street food to fine dining in luxury hotels. Though from anywhere, it cannot be denied that Vietnamese foodis tasty and healthy. It is often made by different kinds ofvegetables. Rice is the staple cereal and fish-sauce "nuoc mam" isextensively used. The most popular dish among the local people is thePhở - a noodle soup with meat, beef or chicken. The chicken soup (phoga) or beef soup (pho bo) is quite spicy and available at all foodstalls at US $0.60 per bowl. Pho Bo Tai is a soup with rare beeffillets. Another specialty is the spring roll, which is found in manyversions, with varying ingredients used.
Themenu in restaurants is mainly non-vegetarian with dishes made frompork, fish and beef, snake and soft-shell turtle, which is considered adelicacy. Chè is a dessert made from sticky rice, beans, and a seasonalfruit. International cuisine such as French, Chinese, Japanese, Italianand American is also available.
Fruitsmoothies made from seasonal fruits are popular. Fruits such as custardapple, sugar apple, banana, avocado, durian, strawberry, jack fruit,passion fruit, dragon fruit, lychee and mango can be found in fruitstalls. You will need to clean the fruit thoroughly before eating.
Itis also recommended that you buy bottled water rather than drinking tapwater. Don't miss out the bia hơi (meaning ‘beer gas'), as theVietnamese call draught beer. Imported brands such as Carlsberg, SanMiguel and Heineken are available along with local brands such asTiger, Saigon, and 333 (pronounced "ba-ba-ba").
Thecurrency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Notes are available indenominations of VND 100,000; 50,000; 20, 000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000;1,000; 500; and 200 hundred. Many tourists call Vietnam is a country ofmany thousand Dong.
Coins have just recently been re-introduced and are available in 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500; and 200 Dong denominations.
TheUSD is widely used in Vietnam's cities. Tourists can use USD whentravel around Vietnam but please look at exchange rate in the exchangerate table before coming to Vietnam.
VISA,MasterCard and American Express cards are accepted in major hotels,restaurants, and shops in the urban areas. Travelers Checks are easilychangeable at banks and moneychangers all over the country. Commissionsare US$1 for a US$100 TC at Vietcombank, US$2 at ANZ Bank.
Vietnamis not exactly a shopper's paradise, and the streets are awash withlittle shops selling all manner of items. You can do a lot of souvenirshopping in Hanoi, Hanoi’s Old Quarter is particularly excellent forvisitors with shops selling clothes, gold, embroidered tablecloths andhandbags. Around Hanoihave many handicraft villages, Good souvenirs are marble figurines andvases, ceramics from Bat Trang village, silk paintings from silkvillage, and hand-painted greetings cards. In particular, the lacquerware, tailor-made ao dais (female national costume),mother-of-pearl inlay work, silk paintings, and wood block prints arevery artistic and worth acquiring to take back home. The hill tribes ofthe Central Highlands and the north of the country now sell colorfulwoven bags and clothing. Ho Chi Minh City is also a good place to shopfor jewellery, carpets and leather work.
Transportationin Vietnam may not rate as the best in the world. But, easy for you canget flight to come in and you can get by quite easily in the cities.Taxis are by far the most convenient mode of transportation and notexpensive. If you want to try and be a little different, then the cyclo(three wheels) or pedicab is an interesting and enjoyable way toexplore a city. These are available at all street corners and can bethe best way to see a city rather than whizzing around in a taxi.Alternatively, you can also go by the motorbike taxis. A must do is totake the boat tours which are available for many destinations. Togetting the high land of vietnam, you can take a night or day train,with luxury cabin (air condition…) the train will make you fellcomfortable. From Vietnam, if you want to go to some country nearvietnam (China, Lao, Cambodia, Thai lan), flight or train is bestchoice.
Inoculationregulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice inthe case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above,precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.
Thereare excellent hospitals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and health carecentres in all provinces, but facilities are limited and there is alack of medicines. Health insurance is essential and should include cover for emergency repatriation by air. Immediate cash payment is expected for services.
Vietnam runs off a 220V/50Hz system.
Theinternational country code to dial into Vietnam is +84. To dialoverseas from within Vietnam, dial 00 followed by the relevant countrycode and phone number.
Emergency numbers in Vietnam are: Ambulance (15); Fire (14); and Police (13).
AlthoughVietnam is in the process of modernising its communication systems. Theeasiest mode of communication is by telephone. All hotels allow the useof telephones and some do not charge for domestic calls. Internationaldirect dialling facilities are also easily available and standardcharges are applicable. However, if you are using this facility from ahotel, it may work out to be expensive. The most convenient way tocommunicate when you are in Vietnam would be to make use of cellularphone technology. All you need to do is buy a pre-paid phone-card andyou can be in touch wherever you go. Recharge the card when your talktime is over. All incoming calls are free in Vietnam, regardless ofwhere the calls come from. You have to pay the local rate for localcalls and the charges for international calls per minute are also veryreasonable. There is a concession when you call during off-peak hours:11:00pmto 7:00am. The cellular phone system in Vietnam is GSM. Eversince the government of Vietnam has permitted Internet usage in thecountry (in 1997). There are internet cafes in most hotel lobbies andbusiness centres, which you can use to access your mail by paying 4,000to 5000 VND per hour. However, some sites have been blocked by thegovernment.
You canalso use the good old-fashioned way of communication by using thepostal service. Post offices in the country are open from 8am to 8pm. Abooklet of ten postcards costs 10,000 VND. Letters and postcards takeabout two weeks to be delivered to either Europe or the USA.
New Year’s Day (Tet Duong Lich)
January or February (3 days)
Tet (Vietnamese New Year - Tet Am Lich)
Anniversary of the Founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party.
Liberation Day (Giai Phong Saigon - the day on which Saigon surrendered – 1945)
International Labour’s Day (Quoc te Lao Dong)
Ho Chi Minh’s birthday (1890)
Eighth day of the fourth moon
(usually in June)
Buddha’s birthday (Phat Dan)
National Day (1945)
Note: When a public holiday fall on Saturday and/or Sunday, then the Monday following the holiday is substituted.