Halong bay is made of 3000 limestone islands.
Despite its infamous troubled times in the 1970s, Vietnam (also spelled Viet Nam) is a must-see desintation for all travel buffs. This stunning country in Southeast Asia is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in all of Asia. With a rich culture, majestic landscapes and an intriguing political system and history, it offers a one-of-a-kind experience.
Currency: Dong (VND)
Government: Unitary Socialist Republic
DID YOU KNOW?
- The official name of the country is actually the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
- Vietnam has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Third World.
- The literacy rate in Vietnam is 94%.
- There are an estimated 10 million motor bikes on Vietnamese roads.
- A Vietnamese specialty is Rou Ran (snake wine)—rice wine with a pickled snake floating in it.
- The most common Vietnamese surname is Nguyen.
Vietnam’s weather varies from the subtropics in the north to the tropics in the south. There is a year-round average of about 84% humidity. Northern Vietnam has four seasons with a cold winter and a hot summer and the further north you go, the colder it gets. In central Vietnam, you can expect high temperatures year-round. Southern Vietnam has a dry season from November to April and a wet season from May to October.
- Southwest Monsoon: April to September
- Northeast Monsoon: October to April
It is thought that the beginnings of Vietnamese civilization began in the Neolithic-early Bronze Age, around 2,000 BC. From the 16th century onwards, civil unrest and frequent infighting took over most of Vietnam and, after 40 years, the long civil war ended in 1679. Due to a series of military conquests by the French in 1859 to 1885, Vietnam’s independence was eroded and it became part of French Indochina. In the 1950s, the pro-Hanoi Vietcong started a guerrilla campaign to overthrow the government. With the communist regime from the north starting to pick up steam and taking over the south, the United States stepped up its contribution, peaking in 1965 with more than 500,000 troops. The U.S. withdrew its troops by 1973, but limited fighting continued and, in 1975, Saigon—the capital of South Vietnam—fell to the communists and the South Vietnamese army surrendered. The following year, Saigon was renamed as Ho Chi Minh City. In 1976, North and South Vietnam were merged to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
CU CHI TUNNELS
Vietnam’s Cu Chi Tunnels are a massive network of underground tunnels located northwest of Hoh Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). They were used by the Vietcong as hiding spots during the Vietnam War—a spot where people slept, ate, planned attacks and lived day-to-day underground while the world exploded above them. The tunnels have since become a popular tourist attraction; visitors can crawl through a 30-metre portion of the system, learn what it was like to live in such difficult conditions, and see examples of traps used during the war.
This fishing-village turned tourist attraction is located on the coast of the South China Sea, and offers a charming—if rather touristy—vacation spot for Vietnam visitors. Dating back to the 16th century, it was, and continues to be, an international port, although the country’s serious shipping has since moved away. Today, Hoi An is filled with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. The heart of the city is still the Old Town, a pedestrian-only neighbourhood filled with winding lanes and Chinese-styled shops. Hoi An is known by tourists as the ‘Venice of Vietnam” due to the narrow canals that wind in and out of the town.
THIEN MU PAGODA
With seven stories, the Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue is the tallest pagoda in Vietnam. It overlooks the Perfume River and is widely regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital. Built in 1601, the initial temple was very simply constructed, but over time it has been redeveloped and expanded with more intricate features. In 1963, Thien Mu Pagoda became a site for anti-government protest for South Vietnam’s Buddhist community, who were dissatisfied with the rule of president Ngo Dinh Diem. Today, the temple houses the car in which Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc was driven to his self-immolation in 1963. Thich Quang Duc’s suicide at a busy intersection in Saigon was the first of a series of self-immolations by members of the Buddhist clergy, which brought international attention to the Buddhists’ plight.
SA PA TERRACES
These terraces are located in the North-West of Vietnam, not far from the Chinese border. These spectacular Rice terraces can be found in the Muong Hoa valley between Sa Pa and the Fansipan Mountain. With a backdrop of thick bamboo woodlands, this is where locals grow their rice and corn.
Yes, you can eat the street food while travelling–provided you know what to taste, where to go and what to avoid. Here are some top tips for navigating the street food stalls of Vietnam.
Budget carrier VietJetAir has been fined $1,000 for offering some unusual in-flight entertainment.
If you have found your way to Mekong River Delta in Vietnam, you cannot afford to miss visiting the Floating Market. Experience how people exchange goods, fruit and many other commodities on their vessels.
Fancy some wine? A bundled up snake with a touch of scorpion perhaps?
China is not alone in celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Dragon. Find out your best travel bets for ringing in your luck with an extra roar this year.
Hotel or homestay? Experience the difference when T+E’s Chefs Run Wild heads to Can Tho, Vietnam.
Lynn Elmhirst’s top five insights into a country full of contradictions.