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Vietnam

Timeless Charme

The Country has captured the hearts and minds of tourists from all over the world with its eclectic mixture of old and new. Traditional and historic Hanoi balances with the dynamic and modern Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). In central Vietnam, the ancient former imperial capital, Hue, is reminiscent of a time of concubines and eunuchs. Elsewhere, the green patchwork of rice paddies stretches into the distance, broken only by the silhouette of water buffalo and farmers wearing iconic conical hats.

Local Flavours

From a backstreet food tour of Hanoi to feasting on fresh seafood as you cruise throughout Halong Bay, eating your way through Vietnam is a delicious way to experience the country.

Unique Experiences

Unique experiences are at every turn. Create a souvenir from recycled materials at the Spiral Foundation, take a picturesque coastal train journey or travel by speedboat to the Mekong Delta.

Local Encounters

Gain a fascinating insight into the Vietnamese culture as you share a meal with a local family in Hue or visit colourful minority communities in the beautiful mountains surrounding Sapa.

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Top Highlights

Vietnam Map and Infos

Capital

Hanoi

Currency

Dong

Language

Vietnamese

Population

97 Million

Religion

Buddhism

Time

GMT+7

Sapa
Located 1,500 metres above sea level in Vietnam’s remote northwest mountains, Sapa is famous for its rugged scenery, luscious rice fields and rich ethnic and cultural diversity. Close to China, this picturesque town is home to many ethnic groups, who can be seen around the town in their colourful, traditional clothing.
Hanoi
Hanoi, the capital, is a rich city featuring mazes of winding, narrow lanes full of shops, taverns, cyclos and motorbikes. The city centre is an architectural museum piece, featuring blocks of colonial-style buildings retaining the air of a peaceful and austere provincial town. Stroll around in the old quarters near Hoan Kiem Lake for a peaceful oasis in the middle of the bustling metropolis.
Halong Bay
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered by many to be one of Natural Wonders of the World, and for good reason. Over 2,000 magnificent limestone karsts rise from the clear, emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, making for a truly picturesque scene not to be missed. The limestone basin reveals stalactite caves, crescent beaches and odd-shaped formations. It is also famous for its varied ecological system housing thousands of fish species, along with hundreds of coral and other sea creatures.
Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is considered by some to be a “dry Halong Bay,” known for its limestone hills and meandering river taking you through three caves before entering a secluded valley. Here, the river merges seamlessly into rich green rice fields, and farmer’s dwellings can be seen, clinging to the cliffs tending to its rocky outcrops. As you make your way through the river, keep an eye out for plunging Kingfishers or nimble-footed mountain goats silhouetted against the skyline and rough stone.
Hai Phong
Hai Phong is a large trading gateway in the Northern part of the country. The Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish and Portuguese have been trading here for centuries. Nowadays it’s a commercial centre with an important transportation hub. Moreover, visitors can enjoy beautiful landscapes as well as unique festivals celebrated on Cat Ba Island and Do Son Beach.
Danang
Danang’s origin dates back to the ancient Champa Kingdom, established by Indonesian settlers in 192 AD. However, nowhere in Vietnam has changed as fast as Danang. Along the waterfront, you will find new modernist hotels, spectacular bridges, and new beachside developments emerging. Located directly on the coast with fabulous beaches, it is an ideal base to begin exploring both Hoi An and Hue city.
Hue
This quaint riverside town was once the principal port of the Cham Kingdom. Beautiful, steeped in history and culture, this UNESCO World Heritage Town is very popular with visitors, and for good reason. Just 30km south of Danang, Hoi An was one of the major trading centres of southeast Asia in the 16th century. Hoi An has retained a distinct Chinese atmosphere with low, tile-roofed houses and narrow streets. Ancient houses are made of rare wood, decorated with lacquered boards and panels engraved with Chinese characters; pillars are also carved with ornamental designs.
Hoi An
This quaint riverside town was once the principal port of the Cham Kingdom. Beautiful, steeped in history and culture, this UNESCO World Heritage Town is very popular with visitors to Vietnam, and for good reason. Just 30km south of Danang, Hoi An was one of the major trading centres of southeast Asia in the 16th century. Hoi An has retained a distinct Chinese atmosphere with low, tile-roofed houses and narrow streets. The original structure of some of these streets remains intact. All the houses were made of rare wood, decorated with lacquered boards and panels engraved with Chinese characters; pillars were also carved with ornamental designs. Tourists can visit the relics of the Sa Huynh and Cham cultures and enjoy sunset strolls along the romantic Hoi An River, Cua Dai Beach and Cham Island.
Cam Ranh
This up-and-coming beach town in South Central Vietnam is located on picturesque Cam Ranh Bay. The international airport boasts a new terminal, and is a gateway to nearby Nha Trang. But despite this easy access, Cam Ranh still feels like an undiscovered whitesand beach, which is exactly its charm. Visit Tu Van Pagoda built almost entirely from shells and coral. Or take a boat out to explore tiny Binh Hung island opposite Cam Ranh Bay. Play golf, learn to surf, get up early for sunrise yoga on the beach, or just relax at your hotel spa. There is something for everyone.
Nha Trang
Pure, white sandy beaches and clear blue waters make Nha Trang the best place in Vietnam for swimming and scuba diving. Spend time touring the ocean by boat, visiting fishing villages and eating delicious, fresh seafood. Other than its seaside area, guests can take a bicycle ride along the beachfront boulevard to the city’s market and to the ancient Cham towers of Po Nagar to see a full view of the coast. A vibrant night scene with a diverse range or bars and restaurants mean this town has something to suit all tastes.
Dalat
Located in the South central highlands, Dalat is a slice of Europe tucked away in the rolling hills of Southern Vietnam. It was originally a getaway for the French, who built villas to escape the heat and humidity off the coast and in Saigon. Dalat’s colourful market features locally made specialities such as artichoke tea, candied fruits, coffee and the finest cool climate vegetables and flowers in Vietnam.
Phan Thiet
Often overlooked by travellers, Mui Ne is a charming beach town that is ideal for beach goers and kite surfers alike! Golfers will enjoy the Ocean Dunes, a classic course set amid a stunning surrounding. Phan Thiet is located 200km from Saigon along Vietnam’s southeastern coast; and is home to one of the best stretches of beach in the country. Phan Thiet has retained its fishing village culture despite a myriad of resorts that have opened on coast of Mui Ne.
Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta offers travellers the opportunity to experience rural Vietnam and a way of life little changed over centuries. Travel by sampan along narrow cancels to tropical fruit orchards and bonsai gardens; sample freshly picked fruits and the local delicacy, friend elephant-ear fish; and navigate the winding waterways and exlpore the area’s famed floating markets.
Phu Quoc
Surely the most beautiful island in Vietnam, Phu Quoc is surrounded by white sand beaches and a dense jungle in the centre. Long Beach is refined, Ong Lan Beach romantic, and Bai Sao simply irresistible. With 37,000 hectares of forest, it is home to assorted rare plants and birds. Phu Quoc is called the ‘Pearl Island’ because high quality, large pearls can be found there. Enjoy both sun and steam baths, climb up to caves or venture deep into the forest where you can enjoy nature and wildlife.
Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon is Vietnam’s most progressive and bustling city, buzzing with activity all hours of the day. French colonial buildings and historic landmarks and museums are highlights of this rapidly developing city. The city is crammed full of restaurants and bars ranging from simple pavement stalls where you can buy a bowl of noodles on the cheap, to sophisticated restaurants serving fine European cuisine. Ho Chi Minh’s nightlife is very cosmopolitan, and there are literally hundreds of bars, pubs, nightclubs and discotheques to explore. It is also a real shopper’s paradise with modern shopping centres and trendy boutiques situated near traditional street markets.
Vietnam, has finally won its last battle, to capture the imagination of the travelling public. Elegant Hanoi now vies with its dynamic sister, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for the attention of visitors drawn by the eclectic mix of old and new. More modern than other Vietnamese cities, Ho Chi Minh City has also retained its French colonial influences. Its vibrancy is maintained by the ever-entrepreneurial Saigonese and the streets are jam-packed with mopeds and scooters, often carrying whole families. The markets are chaotically busy Elsewhere, the scenes are timeless. Early morning on the Mekong Delta brings the daily floating markets where fruit and vegetables are peddled. Everywhere the green patchwork of rice paddies stretches into the distance, broken only by the silhouette of water buffalo and farm workers wearing conical hats bending down to tend the young plants. The soaring mountains in the north of the country tower over tiny villages where life continues much as it has done for centuries, with traditional costumes still proudly worn. The old French hill stations have survived throughout the country offering a welcomed respite from the heat. And, in the South China Sea, the 3000 chalk islands in Ha Long Bay are not to be missed. The ancient former imperial capital, Hue, takes you back to a time of concubines and eunuchs. The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and Anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960’s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under the Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies. However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries which have resulted in rapid economic growth in the last decade. The present constitution asserts the political supremacy of the Communist Party of Vietnam. In Jan 2011, the party chose a new Secretary General is Nguyen Phu Trong. Trong is one of the triumvirates that now govern Vietnam along with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President Tran Dai Quang.
Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and Anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960’s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under the Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies. However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries which have resulted in rapid economic growth in the last decade. The present constitution asserts the political supremacy of the Communist Party of Vietnam. In April 2001, the party chose a new Secretary General in Nong Duc Manh. Nong is one of the triumvirates that now govern Vietnam along with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President Nguyen Minh Triet. GOVERNMENT The present constitution, promulgated in 1992, asserts the political supremacy of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The 496-member National Assembly is responsible for legislation. The Assembly is elected every five years from candidates proposed by the CPV. Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers. The assembly elects a president, who acts as head of state an also appoints a prime minister from among the members of the Assembly. The prime minister leads the Council Ministers, the members of which hold executive power. It is a Social Republic since 1980 and it gained independence from France in 1954.
Vietnam borders the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. The country shares borders to the north with the People’s Republic of China and to the west with Laos and Cambodia. The land is principally agricultural with a central tropical rainforest. Extending 1,650km from north to south, Vietnam is only 50km across at its narrowest point.
There are no good or bad seasons to visit Vietnam. When one region is wet, cold or boiling hot, there is always somewhere else that is sunny and pleasant. Because of its geography, stretching 1,650km from north to south and from sea level to mountain… The south has a wet season from May to November, the wettest months being from June to August, and the dry season from December to April. The wet is characterized by high humidity levels and a refreshing afternoon downpour. Humidity in the South during the months of June and July ranges between 75% and 85%. The hottest months are from March to May, with temperatures well over 30 degrees Celsius. The central coast is dry from May to October and wet from December to February. The highland areas are significantly cooler than the lowlands, and temperatures can get down to freezing in winter. The North has cool, damp winters from November to April and hot summers from May to October. The months of December and January can be particularly cool with temperatures as low as 8 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can drop to 0 degrees Celsius in Sapa in winter, and there is sometimes snowfall. There is the possibility of seeing typhoons between July and November, affecting the north and central areas.
Vietnam’s traditional religious background is based on three great philosophies and religions. These are Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism that coexist with a more ancient but still thriving mother worship cult, ancestor worship, popular beliefs, superstitions and ancient Vietnamese animism. It is rich and finely balanced amalgam that permeates not only the spiritual side of Vietnamese life (most will say they are Buddhists) and their understanding of the universe (taken from Taoist philosophy) but also regulates family and civic duties (which is the main focus of Confucianism). Although religious identification is not such a clear-cut matter, statistics tell us that about 70% of the population are Buddhist, 10% Catholic, 3% Cao Daist, 2% Hao Hao and the rest of various other religious groups such as Protestantism, Islam, Hinduism and the specific beliefs of some minority ethnic groups. As far as individual beliefs are concerned, especially those of foreigners, Vietnam has to be one of the most tolerant societies. Actually, most Vietnamese couldn’t care less if you believe or what you believe in and will not try to convert you to their own sets of beliefs.
Vietnam has its own characteristics, quite different from its neighbours, including China. Vietnamese like to think they are very unique… that’s because they are! Please accept the fact that you are a guest in Vietnam and always will be. You will experience what it feels…As such, you’ll enjoy special status but also have special responsibilities. Do try to learn as much as you can about the culture before you depart, and be considerate of the cultural differences you will experience. The Vietnamese will highly appreciate your efforts to understand them, their culture, and their language. If you are up for a culture shock then Vietnam is the place to be. Do realize that the Vietnamese have a very different perspective on social, political and business organizations, most of which are modelled on the extended family concept. It would be difficult in fact to overestimate the importance of family and the extent to which the family model is present at all levels and in all social and professional structures. Don’t be offended if newly made friends poke into every detail of your personal life. They are in fact helping you become part of a Vietnamese group. Understand that family matters are paramount and unexpected family responsibilities will take precedence over appointments and activities scheduled previously. In general, don’t judge what you cannot understand. As always, respect is the key word here. You should show respect in general, as it will usually be shown by most Vietnamese in most situations. Don’t lose your temper; it is first seen as a lack of respect for yourself and a strong sign of disrespect for your counterparts. Nevertheless, although in many ways a very polite and courteous lot, you may sometimes find people in Vietnam to be quite rude by your own standards. For example, in Vietnam queuing is pointless, queues and orderly lines simply don’t happen. Also, don’t be offended by personal questions and remarks, people will often ask nosy questions like: how old are you? Where are you going? Why are you late?

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