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General information about Vietnam

Hunter in Hanoi

Welcome to my experiences working and traveling in Vietnam.

Traveling extensively through Indochina, especially Vietnam, I have experienced some wonderful, hospitable, and at time hilarious memories. In this blog, I will supply some information about Vietnam.

Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia. It is a united communist country and, while it is not the richest country in the world, and having experienced terrible wars striving for independence, it is a great place to visit. In the 21st century, Vietnam has a steadily growing stable economy and is an affordable destination for travelers. The North (Hanoi), South (Ho Chi Minh City) and central areas (Danang, Hoi An and Hue) all have a quite different aspects in their people, climate and culture.

Climate

Northern Vietnam’s climate is four seasons, summer, autumn, winter and spring. Winter months (December – February) in the north are very cold with biting winds breezing through Hanoi. Summer (June to August) is hot and humid.

Southern Vietnam experiences three seasons, hot and dry (March to May) and Rainy and wet (June to November) and cool and dry (December to January).

Central Vietnam is a sort of buffer for the north and south and generally is mild most of the year with it being hottest from December to January.

Cultures

Northern Vietnam’s people are probably the most pure, culturally, in Vietnam. They more strictly adhere to their ancient customs and are a very proud, friendly and patriotic people.

Southern Vietnam people are none the less friendly but have experienced more American influences which often reflect in their culture along with the Vietnamese culture.

Central residents are friendly, cultural and generally a mix of the northern and southern cultures.

Overall, Vietnamese people are very dedicated to their family units and children and old people are very precious. The extended family units are prevalent right throughout Vietnam.

Language

Vietnamese is the national language spoken and is not an easy language to learn. Many Vietnamese don’t speak English but usually you will find someone who can translate for you. Some of the older people speak 3 or 4 languages, French, English, Russian and Chinese.

Currency

Vietnamese Dong is the nation’s currency but many Vietnamese prefer to trade in American Dollars. 100,000 Vietnamese Dong (VND) is equivalent to about US$5.00.

Some interesting destination suggestions in Vietnam

Northern Vietnam.

HANOI (The capital of Vietnam) has the Ho Chi Minh Complex (Ho Chi Minh is affectionately called Uncle Ho by Vietnamese) which contains Uncle Ho’s mausoleum, museum and house on stilts is a great one day tour. There is also the Museum of Ethnology, Temple of literature, the culturally famous water puppets and a “Cyclo” ride ( a 3 wheeled bicycle with a sedan chair at the front and peddled by a Vietnamese man from the back)through the streets. THE OLD FRENCH QUARTER is situated around Lake Hoan Kiem (Lake of the returned sword) and contains many great shopping opportunities. The streets are referred to as Gold Street, Clothing Street, Paper Street, Metal Street, etc. There are many day trips available including the PERFUME PAGODA (3 Temples and a cave pagoda situated on the Day River), HANOI CITY TOUR (Ho Chi Minh Complex, Museum of Ethnology and Temple of Literature) plus many more. Traveling from Hanoi it’s worth a visit to HALONG BAY or CAT BA ISLAND. This is a majestic part of Vietnam and you can do a day trip or stay overnight on a basic, up to a deluxe class, junk or stay overnight on Cat Ba Island. Sailing through the limestone karsts rising straight out of the ocean reaching hundreds of meters towards the sky is awe inspiring. SA PA is a 2 or 3 day trip and you can take the overnight, 4 berth, soft

sleeper train to this magnificent cultural highland. The ethnic D’zay and Black H’mong peoples are truly fascinating and the terraced rice paddies on the side of the mountains are to be seen to be believed. You can do some easy trekking here and experience everyday life of the ethnic people.

These are but a few of the highlights of the north. There are many more wonderful tours to experience.

Central Vietnam

HUE, the old capital of Vietnam, is a culturally rewarding experience. The ancient royal palaces, Buddhist monasteries and the site of the TET offensive during the American war are but a few sites to see. HOI AN is probably the most popular central destination for tourists (all of my past tours have absolutely loved Hoi An). It has an ancient charm, friendly people, great beaches and arguably the best shopping in Vietnam. The old town is especially famous for its tinkers and tailors. You can hire a push bike and explore on your own or take a boat trip down the river to do a cooking class in one of the villager’s homes. Delicious! MY SON has some of the oldest temple remains in Southeast Asia. The history here is remarkable.

Again, these are only some of the highlights of the central region. There are many more culturally rewarding and relaxing places to visit.

Southern Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY, still called Saigon by the locals, is a hustling and bustling metropolis with great restaurants and bars to experience. You can take a day tour to the Presidential Complex, witness the War Remnants Museum or, do a city tour, to learn more about this large city. CU CHI or BEN DUC TUNNELS are of significant importance to Vietnam in there wars to gain independence. These tunnels are in original condition and show the determination and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese during these struggles. PHU QUOC or CON DAU ISLANDS are unrivalled in their beauty, unspoiled beaches and history, in Asia. They are about a 1 hour and 1 ½ hour flight, respectively, from Ho Chi Minh City. The MEKONG DELTA is either a day trip or overnight home stay to experience this river which is the life blood of the south. Experience the local culture, everyday life of the rice, fruit and cottage industries that make up this area.

There are many more interesting tours to be experienced in Ho Chi Minh City and these are but a few highlights.

Footnote: I am fortunate to have traveled to all these destinations in Vietnam, in all sorts of transport and weather, plus many more. There are so many interesting, beautiful, culturally rewarding and fun places besides the ones I have mentioned. Usually my tourist visitors’ return as one visit is not enough to see everything. Come see for yourself!

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