Travel to Vietnam

Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam
Vietnam

Touristically, Vietnam delivers. Cruise an azure ocean decorated by surreal-looking limestone islands in Halong Bay, and wind through the majestic inland karst mountains of Cao Bang. Hike mountain tracks and explore tribal villages near Sapa. Explore the bewitching backwaters of the Mekong Delta. Finally, no visit would be complete without experiencing the energy of big-city life in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, the grand old lady of the Orient, and Ho Chi Minh City, the engine room of the economy and the nation.


Hanoi - The charming Vietnamese capital has aged fairly well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments including cabling that hangs everywhere and appears in every photo you take!  Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored by taxi. As usual, motor bikes choke the streets and make crossing the road using the “Sticky Rice” technique a must. We highly recommend a guided tour to get the hang of this, before trying it yourself.

Halong Bay –  Travelers visit stunning Halong Bay for its amazing limestone islands, rock formations and caves.  Whittled away over centuries by wind and water, they’re breathtaking. Rent a kayak or a junk boat for a day…  or an overnight.  You’ll visit tiny fishing villages and picturesque karsts.  Halong Bay is a 4 hour drive from Hanoi – best not to attempt it as a day trip, even though it is possible.

Sapa - The northwest market town of Sapa is colorful and charming, providing the perfect oasis in the midst of a strenuous mountain trek or rice-paddy tour. The Gothic stone church at the center of town, surrounded by shops and stalls, serves as a reminder of the town’s French missionary influence. Dine on Vietnamese or European-inspired cuisine downtown, and don’t miss the Saturday night “love market,” one of the most potent—and strictest—single’s nights imaginable.

Hue - Hue is clustered around the Perfume River, which splits the city in two. There are endless must-see historic sites, especially those that are UNESCO World Heritage designated. Sightseeing can include the ornate Imperial Citadel, colorful Thanh Toan Bridge, royal tombs and the Forbidden Purple City. Spend a moment in quiet contemplation if you visit Hue Jungle Crevice, where thousands of citizens were pushed to their deaths.

Hoi An -  This small city on the central Vietnamese coast is a well-preserved example of the important Southeast Asian trading port it was from the 15th-19th centuries.  Referred to as the Venice of Vietnam, Hoi An is a must see.  On the 14th day of each lunar month, the town trades its electric lights for iconic traditional colored lanterns, which can be bought cheaply and make great souvenirs. Sights include the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Quan Cong Temple. Let the town’s expert tailors make you some bespoke clothing.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) - Vietnam’s bustling largest and most cosmopolitan city sets the cultural and economic pace for the country. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually choked with motor cycle traffic. Taxis are an option for seeing the sprawling city, and much can be seen on foot. The War Remnants Museum shows the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Don’t miss the impressive Jade Emperor Pagoda. Go to the frenetic Ben Thanh Market for food, flowers or frogs, but get ready to bargain mightily. Best not to ask to see something up close unless you really want to buy it.  Don’t miss a tour through the Mekong Delta, past rice paddies, houseboats and small villages.

Nha Trang -  is best known for its beautiful sandy beaches. Also to be found are amusement parks, mud baths, golf, and the historic Po Ngar temple complex, as well as a variety of hotels, stores and restaurants. Adventurous foodies can sample bun cha ca, a soup made from sailfish and jellyfish.

Astonishingly exotic and utterly compelling, Vietnam is a country of breathtaking natural beauty with an incredible heritage that quickly becomes addictive. It’s people are cheerful and resilient.

Travel experiences in Vietnam range from hilarious to haunting. Hilarious: crossing the street in “sticky rice” formation through an onslaught of motorbikes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  Haunting: gazing over a surreal seascape of impossibly picturesque limestone islands and karsts from a junk in Halong Bay at sunset.

And then there is the food; delicious beyond all description. While some may argue that Thai or Japanese are the dominant Asian cuisines, a growing number of gourmands would vote for the subtle flavors and outstanding diversity of Vietnamese food, and dozens of English language cooking schools in Hoi An are testament to this.

Vietnam is a country of many historic influences. Down south, Indian and Hindu culture is evident in the Cham temples and spicy regional cuisine, spiked with chili and tempered with coconut. Up north, Chinese connections are far more apparent. Sandwiched between these two opposing cultures, you’ll find a quintessential Vietnam in the central provinces: the graceful historic old port of Hoi An, and the royal tombs, pagodas and imperial cuisine of Hue. Adding to the mix is an enduring French colonial legacy, which is evident in Hanoi’s elegant boulevards, in Ho Chi Minh City’s stately museums, and in the crispy baguettes and coffee culture you’ll find on every street corner.

People

The Vietnamese - or the Kinh - people are an Asian ethnic group originating from present-day northern Vietnam and southern China. They are the majority ethnic group of Vietnam, comprising 86% of the population. The population of Vietnam is almost 90 million.

Language

The official national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, a tonal Mon–Khmer language which is spoken by the majority of the population. Older people speak Russian, but younger people are anxious to learn English.

History

Sometime between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200, the intermingling of the Red River Delta’s early inhabitants resulted in a distinct Vietnamese people. Virtually from the outset, the Vietnamese were ruled by the Chinese, and they would continue to be until A.D. 938. Two independent states rose to power in what is now central and southern Vietnam. From the first to the sixth centuries, the kingdom of Funan held sway aver the Mekong Delta and the region that is now Cambodia; the kingdom was over thrown by the Mon-Khmer, who founded the Cambodian empire.

Along the coast of central Vietnam, the kingdom of Champa ruled from the late second century until the 15th, when it was conquered by the Vietnamese, who expanded steadily southward after expelling the Chinese. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the Vietnamese would wrest the Mekong Delta from Cambodia, essentially completing the formation of their country.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Vietnam was split by warring factions. Northern Vietnam was ruled by the powerful Trinh Lords, the south controlled by lords of the Nguyen line. In 1786, three brothers, the Tay Son, briefly reunited the country, but even as they fought to depose the Trinh and Nguyen lords, their empire began fragmenting.

In 1802, one of the Nguyen lords defeated the Ay Son and proclaimed himself Emperor Gig Long, establishing the last of Vietnam’s dynasties. The Nguyen made Hue their imperial capital, and they ruled from there until the last Vietnamese emperor, Bao Dai, abdicated to a delegation representing Ho Chi Minh in 1945.

Vietnam’s contacts with the West began as early as A.D. 166, when Roman travelers passed through the Red River Delta. it wasn’t until much later, however, that there was any sustained Western contact. By 1516, a number of Portuguese adventurers had arrived, followed by missionaries and soldiers. Over the next century a trading center and mission were established in the port of Faifo, just south of present day Danang.  The Portuguese were followed by missionaries from Spain, italy, and France. Everyone seemed intent on converting the Vietnamese, and in the process, cultivating stronger trading ties, but no one had much luck in making a profit from trade with the Vietnamese. The Dutch tried and failed, as did the English.

The early French trading efforts foundered as well, but the French never gave up. Off and on for nearly two centuries, the French kept lurking around Indochina. From about 1850s on, French abandoned diplomatic overtures and settled on a policy of conquest. It would take them several decades, but by 1893 they had carved out an Indochinese empire that included Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The French then set about plundering the immense wealth of those holdings.

The exploitation visited on the Vietnamese by their French masters created fertile conditions for the resistance movements that sprang up over the years. Most of the resistance efforts were successfully put down, but in 1925 a new movement was established by a man calling himself Nguyen Ai Quoc, who in later years would take the name Ho Chi Minh the bringer of light. Ho’s Vietnam Revolutionary Youth League became the nucleus of the Vietnamese Communist Party. In World War II, Ho formed the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, which during its resistance to the Japanese occupation of Vietnam, received money and arms from the United States through the O.S.S.

The American support of the Viet Minh led Ho to believe that the United States would back his bid for an independent Vietnam. But after the war, the Allies allowed France to reoccupy Indochina, setting the stage for the protracted guerrilla campaign that resulted in France’s ouster in 1954 and the subsequent partitioning of Vietnam into North and South. The recognition and support of South Vietnam by the United States would lead to the bloody conflict that ended in 1975 when the Communists overran Saigon, proclaiming an independent Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Currency

The currency of Vietnam is the Dong.  Symbol: ₫
Coins: ₫200, ₫500, ₫1000, ₫2000, ₫5000
Banknotes: ₫100, ₫200, ₫500, ₫1000, ₫2000, ₫5000, ₫10000, ₫20000, ₫500000

Best Time to Travel

When it comes to weather, it’s a tough call, as Vietnam’s climate is so diverse. Think frosts and occasional snow in the mountains of the north, and temperatures soaring to 110°F in the south during the dry season.
Vietnam’s weather is dictated by two monsoons. The winter monsoon comes from the northeast between October and March, bringing damp and chilly winters to all areas north of Nha Trang, and dry and warm temperatures to the south. From April or May to October, the summer monsoon brings hot, humid weather to the whole country except for those areas sheltered by mountains. For the best balance, travel in April, May or October. For those sticking to the south, November to February is dry and a touch cooler. From July to November, violent and unpredictable typhoons hit central and northern Vietnam.

Health Requirements

No medications are required for entry to Vietnam. Please check with your travel clinic for their recommendation based on your personal health history.

Visa Requirements

To apply for e-visas, foreign citizens can visit the e-visa page of Vietnam Immigration’s website.
https://www.vietnam-immigration.org/vietnam-visa-application-online
Applicants will receive an application code and will be asked to pay a non-refundable, US$25/pax fee online.  Guests need to upload their passport plus 1 photo (looking directly at the camera, without glasses).
It will take three (3) business days for applicants to find out if their applications have been approved or not, so we suggest applying at least 2 weeks prior to departure.
Alternatively, the Vietnamese Embassy in the US can issue a full visa in advance. This is generally the more expensive way to go, but may save time on arrival in Vietnam, and is the only option for travelers arriving overland.  http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/consular/visa-application-process.
All travelers will be required to have a passport valid for at least 6 months from date of return and at least 2 blank visa pages.  This is subject to change without notice.

Tipping & Porterage

Tipping is expected and appreciated.

Credit Cards

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express less so.  Cash is needed for shopping at street markets.

Electrical Appliances

Vietnam operates on 220 volts and the plug type is A, C or D.  For information on plugs and voltage, please visit http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/

Water

Bottled water is available inexpensively and highly recommended.  Avoid drinking tap water.


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Vietnam

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