en.infoglobe.cz » Vietnam

Vietnam

Published: 7.11.2007
Further of Traveller´s Guides, this time about ommited Asian Pearl – Vietnam. Travellers´ recommandations and advice as well as original photos help you where spend your next summer.

Essential  facts

Area extend: 329 560 km² (65 th place of the world – as to the largeness similat to Norway or Malaysia ).

Population: 83 535 576 ( 84% is formed with ethnic Vietnamese and 2% with ethnic Chinese, the rest form Khmers, Cams and members of more than 50 ethnolinguistic groups)

this classifies on 13th place of the world – Germany has nearly the same number of population.

Population density: 235/ km2  (47th place of the world, the similar  have Great Britain or Jamaica)

Language: Vietnamese (official language), English ( extended as the second language), French, Chinese and Khmere,  mountain languages (mon-khmere), Malaisian

Capital: Hanoi

Highest point – peak : Fansipan (3143 m)

Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND) – approx. rate: Kč 1,20/1000 VND

Since 1975, when the South Vietnam was kept by communists, the country was practically cut off the outer world. Nevertheless, in 1989 the country was open to the foreign tourists as well as investors.

Vietnam, very popular country for tourists at present , offers unique culture and exceptional natural beauties.

NATURAL CONDITIONS

 

The coasts of Vietnam take 1600 kms of eastern Indo-China peninsula. The country, covering the surface of approx. 330 000 km2, is  a little bigger as Italy and a littler smaller in comparison to Japan. Two main Vietnamese fertile areas are – delta of Red River  (15000 km2) in the North and delta of Mekong ( 60000 km2) in the South.

Three quarters of  surface of a country are formed  with hills or mountains.

CLIMATE

Vietnam has, owing to great span of natural and climatic relations, very diverse climate.

The South is situated in a tropical zone , whereas in the North can be frosty winter.

South-west monsoon  arrives since April or May till October. It brings humid and warm weather – with the exception of areas, protected with mountains, which is the centre of coast belt and delta of Red River.

ECONOMY

Vietnam is a poor country, the year´s income makes appros. USD 200,-.

The burocracy as well as corruption are for long time period the most visible diseases of Vietnamese economic development. The  recent tide of money from foreign investors supported  paradoxically the state sector, which enlarged by this.  The burocracy still resists the privatisation , in spite of the fact that  the Vietnamese Stock Exchange was open in 2000.

In the same year, signed the former rivals, Vietnam and USA, the historical trade agreement.

CUSTOMS RULES

The standard international rules are valid.

Problematic items: limit of 2 litres of spirits or wine, 3 litres of beer, 400 pcs of cigarettes, 100 pcs of cigars, 500 grams of tobacco, 5 kgs of tea, 3 kgs of coffee and personal jewels.

Total value of all these objects could not exceed the value amounting to USD 300,-.

When buying all subjects, taken as antiquities , it is recommended to keep all bills for eventually customs control.

PAYMENT CARDS AND CHEQUES

In Vietnam you can find over 600 banking automats. The use of world-wide banking cards is limited for the time being. The cards are accepted in chosen hotels, shops or restaurants in the touristic centre of Hanoi or Saigon and other bigger towns. In other places zou meet the problems with cards. Nevertheless, we recommend you  to have some financial reserve..

Except of banking cards, you can use the travel cheques, too.

THE ELECTRICITY

The electric tension is ranging between 220-240 V. The plugs are nearly the same as in Czech Republic, but in rooms you can find several different types.  Anyway, in each room you find the plug  satisfying use of our simple twin-selector.

WHAT IS NECESSARY TO HAVE WITH ?

 

VISAS AND DOCUMENTS

A valid personal Travel Passport with entry visa to Socialist Republic of Vietnam  is the only document necessary for travelling to Vietnam. The respective visa is granted by Vietnam Embassy in Prague.  The visa fee is amounting to Kč 1500,- , provided you need a visa with several entries and  departures  you pay Kč 3000,-. Upon arrival  to the country you have to be asked for fullfilling of several questionnaires, regarding your health stage and duration of your stay in the country. As to driving licence: Both the Czech driving licence and the International driving licence are not valid on the territory of Vietnam.

MONEY

The Vietnamese currency is Dong (d).  In circulations  there are now the banconotes  of value 200, 500, 1000, 2000 , 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 100000 d. The coins are not used. American dollar is  practically the second local currency. The hotels, air-companies as well as travel offices quote currently their prices in USD. It is partially thanks to the fact that the Vietnamese prices are heavy ( USD 100 = over 1 million of Dong).

Vietnam is, in comparison to the  West-countries , very cheap country. If you pay the same as local people for instance for foodstuffs, it will be unbelievably cheap. Attention, please: the local people add the special tax – prices for foreigners  ( in hotels the foreigners pay double of the sum paid by Vietnamites).

Bargaining is standard, it is to be expected  by using the cycle- and moto taxis-rickshaws, in shops and also in hotels.

TRAVELLING THROUGHOUT VIETNAM

By air

All air- traffic in Vietnam is in hands of Vietnam Airlines and Pacific Airlines.

By bus

The vast bus-nest reaches practically to each corner of a country.  However, most of public

buses are not reliable and not comfortable at all. The prices are very low, but the foreigners have to pay more. The blessing for foreigners are minibuses They are more expensive, but quicker and more comfortable.

By train

The Vietnamese railway nest , 2600 kms long, leads along the coast , between Ho-Ci-Minh Town and Hanoi and connects the capital with Haiphong and northern areas.

The trains with not-even numbers go to the South, the trains with even numbers  go to the North.

In Vietnam there are 5 train classes: hard seats  soft seats, hard bed, soft bed and soft bed with climatisation.

By car or by motorcycle

The essential rule valid on Vietnamese roads traffic: small has to give way the big. The ride is effected on the right side of the road ( usually). The motorcycle of  a cubature of 50cm3 and smaller you can drive without driving licence, The Vietnamese labour is so cheap ,  that the foreigners lease the car with a driver. It is relating also to motorcycles and cars. The leasing of cars is USD 35,-/ day, with a driver.

By taxi

You easily meet the taxis with tax-calculator in Hanoi, Saigon, Danang and Hue. The taxi-fee costs Dong 12-15 thousands in these towns.

On bicycle

The bicycle leasing is cheap and interesting way of travelling through such places as hanoi, Saigon , Hoi An, Nha Trang, etc. Many hotels and travel agencies are calculating for leasing of a bicycle the fee amounting to USD 1,-/ day. Attention: you cannot expect the perfect machine for trekking !

TOWNS AND OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST

 

HANOI

A bit of history: The place where is situated the today´s town of Hanoi , was  colonized s from Neolite time. The emperor Ly Thai To placed here a capital  in 1010  and named it Thang Long ( Town of Gliding Dragons). Hanoi became a capital of dynasty Later Lee since its foundation in 1428 up 1788, when the representant of this dynasty – Le Loi  - was  thrown by Nguyen Hue, thed founder of dynasty Tay Son (1788-1802).

However, Hanoi became a regional town, on base of decision of emperor Gia Long, the founder of dynasty  Nguyen (1802-1945), the government was  directed from Hue.

The name of Hanoi ( the Town In River Bend) gave to the town the emperor Tu Duc in 1831.

Within 1902-1953 Hanoi was a capital of French Indo-China. Hanoi was declared as a capital after an August Revolution in 1945.

Hanoi, the capital of Socialist Republic of Vietnam, belongs to most  attractive destinations of South-East Asia. It is a town of lakes, shadow-boulevards, busy streets and  holy sanctuaries , dedicated to late Ho-Chi-Minh. Nearby the houses from French colonisation period are arising tall tenement houses.

It is a problem to cross some of main streets  in a chaotic traffic. You are troubled by many sellers of postcards, refreshment, spangles, etc.

What to see in Hanoi:

In the city centre you  cannot miss the lake Hoan Kiem, serving as a rest place with view to  Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) and a church Ngoc Son, where leads short wooden bridge.

St. Josef´s Cathedral

Immediately after the entrance to this cathedral ( consecrated in 1886) you will be transfered to Europe of Middle Ages. The cathedrale is worth to visit thanks to its quadrangular towers, the altar , working out in details and windows of coloured glass. The first catholic mission in Hanoi was founded in 1679.

Church of  Literature

This church offers a pleasant rest from the Hanoi´s streets. In 1070  it was established by emperor Ly Thanh Tong, consecrated to Confucius, in honour of  savants and people educated in a literature. The church is r a rare example of well preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture. It is worth to visit , we recommend it to you!

Mausoleunm of Ho-Chi-Minh

According to Lenin´s tradition i there is  as the place of last rest of Ho-Chi-Minh  the glassed sarcophaguss, put deeply in the entrails of this monumental construction, which became a shrine. Anyway, for three months within a year, the ,ausoleum is closed ( usually in period September-November). It is allowed to take the photos from the outside only, inside it is  strictly forbidden.

Sa Pa and Fansipan Mountain

Main destination of northtwestern Vietnam  situated in a beautiful valley not far from China-border. In surroundings of Sa Pa  occurs the opportunity of views on terrace-shaped fields of rice together with simple  houses , where the local people are living . You can admire also near tops being often  covered by fog . You will be very lucky when you , after a climb on some of them, you can enjoy a „pure“ view. The town of Sa Pa was let to its destiny in the past . It happened during the Second World War  as well as within a conflict with France , USA or China, when it was a dispute regarding border.

Today, the place is „discovered“ again. Especially the touristic boom helped Sa Pa a lot – you can see that the roads are repared, houses and hotels reconstructed, electricity is functioning reliable.

Sa Pa is suitable „camp“ for a trip to the highest peak of Vietnam – Fansipan (3143 m), distant approx. 20 kms. In spite of the distance, a tour to the top and back takes 3 or 4 days. Anyway,the experienced and  able  tourists can make it within 2 days. You do not need any special climbing  experience or ropes or something else, you need a resolution and steadiness.

You do not find the cottages or  hostels here , so you need to take all outfits with.

This means:waterproof tent, sleeping bag of the best quality (not necessary for frost), foodstuffs and drinks, reserve dressing. You will be moving, along the whole route, in a tropical virgin forest with extreme humidity. The protection of dry legs  and its regular treatment  is  a must . The use of  ankle-shoes of  best quality (Gore-tex) is  obvious.

You will be recommended to take the services of local guide to overcome the highest peak of Vietnam. The risk – to climb alone without him – it is not worth while – to loose your way in  impenetrable green jungle  is really a  useless  unpleasantness. If you wish, this  cross can be made from a camp in the altitude of 1945 m, here loads the road, so you can arrive here by car or by bus. So, you can make the climb with one lodge on way – i.e. within 2 days.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay is – together with its 3000 islands – in Tonkin Bay placed in order of Worlds´ Nature Heritage List and belongs to nature wonders of Vietnam. The islands are covered with vegetaces. There are many caves here, and the visitors are coming to investigate it. The islands and caves can be seen from the ship only. Anyway, it is worth while to reserve 2 days´ of journey on ship, including lodging. It costs  USD 15,- approx. and all this involves the cruise, meals, lodging and trips on boat to several caves. The beverages are to be paid extra.

Hue

The town of Hue was  within 1802-1945 the main political centre of Vietnam. The town was traditionally one of Vietnamese  cultural, faith and education centres.

Today, Hue is listed on a Survey of Worlds´ Heritage  UNESCO.  The most important places of interests are the tombs of emperors of dynasty Nguyen , several nice  pagods and rest of a citadel. The centre of Hue is situated along both banks of Song Huong River. On the northern part of the river, there is a citatel and several places where you can be lodged. Anyway, most of city centre and hotels you find in the southern side of town.

Hue citadel:

The emperor Gia Long started  in 1804 with building of citadel in a castel-moat of circumference of 10 kms. The  emperor´s official obligations  were effected in Emperor´s Citadel, with walls of 6 m  height and 2,5 kms of length. Inside the emperor´s citadel there is placed  a Prohibited Emperor´s Town, destinated for emperor´s private life only.

Hoi An

Hoi An is a picturesque town near to a river, 30 kms  distant from Danang.

It is taken for most marvelous place on coast, where it is worth while to stay for a couple of days.  In an important international port Hoi An there was established within 17th-19th century the first chinese community in south Vietnam. Some town quarters look like now as it was one and half century before. The town is destinated mainly for walks, the local Old Town (you have to visit it, it is worth while!) is closed for moto traffic. Nevertheless, the distance between the most important monuments  is not long. In Hoi An you see the classical markets with  fruit and vegetable, fish, shops with souvenirs, dresses or pictures.  One of most interesting monuments is those of Japanese Covered Bridge, built in 16th century.

In Old Town you see  old houses constructed by French from colonization time,  an Advisory Council Room of Kanton-Chinese-Congregation and a Church Quan Cong.

My Son

My Son is situated approx. 25 kms in south-west direction from Hoi An . You find here most historical monuments – the Campov Monumental Churches.

My Son became the religious centre during the government of King Bhadravarman at the end of 4th century up to 13thz century. Most of local churches is dedicated to Dukes of Cham of this dynasty. However, many of these monuments were destroyed  (bombarded) within America-Vietnam war conflicts. The members of Vietcong  were hidden there.

The archaelogists divided this vast area of monuments to 10 main groups – in alphabetical order from A to K.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang, a Vietnamese littoral town, takes an important place in arranging of  evening parties of tourists as well as local people. Here there are the best towns´s  beaches of the country , and this  invites to  festivities. The turquoise water round Nha Trang is nearly transaparent , so it a marvelous place for fishing, to dive  deeply under the water-level, or to make a ship- journey  to near coastal islands.

A natural  system of granite rocks – My Hon Chong – is situated 1,8 kms in north direction of the city centre – running to Southchinese sea.

Saigon – Ho Chi Minh Town

The metropolis with the most number of inhabitants takes a surface of 2056km2  and 90% is formed with  a countryside. „ The really town“  is District 1 , known as a Saigon . This name is taken by most of people for the whole town. Ho Chi Minh Town is divided into 16 town districts and 5 countryside districts. To the west direction of Saigon  and city centre you find District 5, a great Chinese colony named Cholon (= big market). Nevertheless, the are less Chinese as it was in past – the reason is anti-Chinese campaign during 1978-1979. Many of these inhabitans left the country with their companies and „know-how“. District 3  reminds a tint of French past, thanks to its architecture and street kiosks, selling classical French baggets and croissants.

The other most visited places of interest:

Palace of Union – built in 1966 as Presidential Palace of South Vietnam In 1975 rushed here the first communist tanks , when Saigon capitulated. The building was let in the same stage as on this day.

Cathedrale Notre Dam – built in 1877-1883, is situated in a heart of Saigon Government Quarter. Its Neo-Romanesque form with two 40 m high  quadrangular towers with iron smaller towers dominates to outskirts.

Museum of War´s  Rests -  earlier known as Museum of American War Crimes ( the name was changed , not to offent the American tourists) is placed in a building , where before was American Information  Service. This is a most popular museum in Vietnam.

If you have  more time, you can visit local ZOO and botanical garden, established by French in 1844.

River Mekong  Delta

The Coffee River, border by fresh green, is a rich agricultural area, especially  a „rice  larder“ of Vietnam. Delta is a  mixture of rice fields, marshes  and rests of forests cut with channels and rivers – the area  created for invewstigation on ship. Mekong delta war earlier a part of Khmer  Empire , in a province Tra Vinh there are more than 140 of Khmere pagods.

Phu Quoc Island

Mountaneous and  afforested island, situated in Thai Bay is 48 kms long and takes the surface of 1320 km2. The most beautiful beaches in Vietnam are surrounding it.

Owing to the fact that the island is 15 kms distant from Cambodian border only,  and there were strong disputes in the past , the Vietnamese built here vast military base, joined with forbidden military area, taking most of the island surface.

Local people mostly feed on fishing and production of local famous fish-sauce.

Phu Quoc  hids the enormous touristic potential , and the visitors start to discover it.

In 2001 the Phu Quoc National Park was declared , situated in the northern part of island.

The island offers several routes pro walks. If you are tired or you prefer some other way of movement, you can hire a moto-taxi in inhabited parts of the island. Attention: would you bargain a price in advance !

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