Vietnam, a country nestled in the southern part of Eastern Asia is known for its peaceful and serene environ. Once haunted by the bloodshed and strife of Vietnam War, today, the streets of the country are buzzing with youthful energy, mopeds zooming through the roads, floating markets and paddy fields adding to its overall charms. Oozing overwhelming natural beauty and rich heritage, the country takes you on a journey of ancient architecture and its vibrant culture.
Vietnam is a thin and long country spread along the eastern coast of the Indonesian Peninsula for 1600 km. The place is mainly agriculture based with beautiful Red River dominating the Northern part of the country bisecting the city of Hanoi along with Chay and Lo Rivers. The country is adorned with green hilly areas and beautiful Sapa Valley in north while on the east of Hanoi lays Halong Bay sporting more than 3000 gorgeous natural formation of limestone islands projecting out of the South China Sea. The south part of Vietnam features Mekong River along with fertile plain that grows rice, rubber, coffee and tea.
Throughout the year is the best time to visit Vietnam
There is no particular time that can be described as best time to visit the country. Vietnam experiences great variation when it comes to weather condition from north to south. Depending upon which part of the country one is planning to visit, one should plan a trip to north during summers (April - June) while a winter trip to South (December - April). However, a trip during late January or early February will let the visitors witness `Tet New Year celebration, an annual holiday celebrated with great fervour throughout the country.
Breathtaking natural beauty. Intoxicating energy. Ancient architecture and rich culture. Beautiful Beaches. Delicious food.
Shopkeepers tend to overcharge foreigners. People may trick traveller for price value of Ô15Õ and Ô50Õ thousand Dong. Traffic accidents, especially riding a motorbike.
Nature lovers. History enthusiasts. Architecture buffs. People who enjoy the beaches. Those who are crazy for crafts.
Hotels in Vietnam are mostly scattered all over the country, however, one will find the several good standard hotels and international chains concentrated around the major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh offering facilities such as room service, air conditioning, swimming pool, health club and good restaurants. One will also find many small budget hotels/guest houses or as they are called mini-hotels all across the country. They are usually without air-conditioning and quite often without hot water and with shared bathrooms. For those who want a taste of true Vietnamese culture and traditional hospitality can opt for homestays, which are increasingly becoming popular among visitors. There are options of staying at the stilt house in northeast with hill tribe family or with farming family in the Mekong Delta.
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Vietnamese food is has its own distinct flavour from as you travel from one region to another. Where the South Vietnamese food is spicy, the North Vietnamese food is blander. However, overall the cuisine involves less oil and more of fresh vegetables. The food is always flavourful with main dished usually based on rice, noodles and soy sauce. There is also a good amount of seafood and meat involved including plenty of fish and shrimps. To add to the flavour the list of spices and condiments is endless; limes, sugar, tamarind, lemon grass, ginger, fish sauce(nuoc mam), basil, mint, Serrano peppers, coriander, dill, lemon grass are just few of them. One will also find variety of exotic fruits to choose from such as mangosteen, green dragon fruit, pomelo and three-seed cherry. Coffee is a must try with its distinct Vietnamese twist. In general, Vietnamese cuisine is regarded as healthy.
1. Make sure to brush up your haggling skills, as you will be overcharged for purchases almost everywhere. Price may come down more than 50 per cent. 2. Be careful with your purse and wallets when entering a busy and crowded area such as market place or tourist attraction. 3. As a lone female traveller, avoid walking along at night or taking solo motorbike taxi ride. 4. Get ready for heavy traffic jams almost all the time, which gets a little horrid during peak hours. 5. If you hired a two-wheeler, be prepared to face the rule-breakers who like to ride in any direction they want. 6. Avoid taking any tour packages for they may cost low but will scam you in spending unnecessary money. 7. Dress a little conservatively especially while going to temple. Make sure to cover you arms, legs and shoulders. 8. Carry your sunglasses, sunscreen, flip-flops and light summer clothes during summer season, as it gets extremely hot during the season. 9. Resist any kind of argument and violence while you are there as it is frowned upon.
Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Currency in Vietnam can be exchanged at banks, hotels and authorized bureaux de change. However, the banks offer the best rates. The Vietcombank (a government bank), Incombank, Eximbank (a private enterprise) and Saigonbank are some of the main banks that are allowed to handle foreign currency transaction by the government. One will find these centres as well as ATMs only at the major cities or near popular tourist places. It is best to carry cash in case you are planning g visit small towns or villages. The most favoured foreign currency is US Dollar followed by Australian, British, Japanese, Singaporean and Thai currency. A commission is charged for changing money in banks. Avoid any kind of black market currency exchanges.
The nightlife in Vietnam is mainly restricted to major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. HanoiÕs nightlife is comparatively quieter and completely slows down after 10:00 pm whereas Ho Chi Minh City is clustered with bars, clubs, pubs and some very high-end venues most of them concentrated around District 1. In Hanoi, one will find nightlife in the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. In small cities, one can enjoy the afterhours at either small bars, hotels or some good cafŽ, especially in central Vietnam. Live music is usually from Philippines and Thailand performing at international hotels.
Vietnam offers a great shopping experience for its visitors. With its rich culture of art and craft, the country is known for its impressive markets especially in larger metropolises like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Textiles, tapestries, jewellery, metalwork, lacquerware and ceramics are some of the main items to look out for. There are also some regional specials such as woodcarvings, tapestries, the ceramics, the jewellery and metalware. Bargaining in the country is widely accepted and is quite a norm; however, make sure to be polite. There are several souvenir shops to be found in major towns and cities with either fixed price or giving very less discounts.
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Vietnam is country of many festivals, which gives its visitors a chance to take a glance into its vibrant culture. There is plethora of Vietnamese festivals throughout the year according to its Vietnamese Lunar Calendar. Tet Festival is one of the most popular festivals of the country celebrated with great zest throughout the country. The Lim festival, National Day and Tet Trung Thu or Mid-autumn Festival are the other major festivals of Vietnam. The perfume Pagoda Festival, Cau Ngu festival, Nui Ba Festival, The Mam Ngu Qua and Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival are among other important festivals of the country.
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Vietnam is entrenched with a fascinating history with its earliest dynasty recorded to be the Hung kings, which was said to be ruling the area during Bronze Age. The seat of power was then passed on to the Indian kingdom of Funan closely followed by the Hindu kingdom of Champa. Soon after, the Chinese Han Empire annexed the country during the first millennium B.C. and was expelled from the country in 939 A.D after Vietnamese had a major victory over them the Bach Dang River. Later being ruled by a succession of kings and invasion by French and Spanish forces, the country went through a rebellion under the leadership of Ho Chih Minh, who declared its independence in 1945.
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Cleanliness and hygiene is usually maintained throughout Vietnam. However, it is recommended to boil water first before drinking or brushing teeth. Bottled water is easily available and quite cheep, but make sure that seal is unbroken. Also, prefer to eat well-cooked meat, fish, vegetables and peeled fruits. Medical and health facilities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are excellent and one can find health care centre in all provinces. However, facilities are limited and so is the supply of medicines. One must take vaccination against Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Vaccination against tuberculosis and hepatitis B are also advised. Carry first aid box and mosquito repellent as Dengue fever continues to be a problem.
Vietnam is a place of cultures and traditions and thus it is important even for tourists to take care of them. There are no handshakes or any physical contact between opposite genders in the city while greeting each other, only a slight bow indicated the greeting. Pointing towards anyone with a foot is considered disrespectful, as foot is believed to be lowly and dirty. Head is considered spiritually significant and thus it is inappropriate to touch that part of the body. Also, do not leave your chopsticks in the dish when you are done with your meal, it considered insulting. Although slurping loud while eating rice or noodles is sign that you enjoyed your food and it pleases the chef. Make sure to dress properly while visiting a temple, cover your arms, legs and shoulders and remove footwear before entering a temple and any house. The dressing style in Hanoi and Vietnam is quite liberal. Another advice is to keep ones temper in check as displaying anger is regarded as rude. Tipping is usually practiced at big restaurants and hotels but is not mandatory.