VIETNAM - ABOUT
Vietnam long has been associated in America’s political tumult of the 1960s. Since the end of the war, however, Vietnam has rebuilt its tourism industry and today is a popular travel destination. Reflecting its ancient past and modernized present, Vietnam’s image has shifted to a land of abundant scenery and cultural attractions.
Many visitors first visit Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s largest city, located near the Mekong River Delta. Once a tiny hamlet in Cambodia, Ho Chi Minh was annexed by the Vietnamese in the 16th century and became known as Saigon. After the Vietnam war, it merged with the surrounding province and adopted its new name.
A multitude of museums feature fine art and memories of the revolution, southern women and the Ben Duoc Relic of Underground Tunnels. Attractions just outside the city include the several cultural parks and the Can Gio Eco beach resorts.
Hanoi also has worked to create an accessible environment for tourists. Slower paced than Ho Chi Minh, it personifies the spirit of historic Vietnam, featured in its many temples, monuments and the ancient winding streets of the Old Quarter. Here you’ll see the most visible influences of the French occupation, dating from 1874 to 1954. In addition to its colonial architecture, the French left their mark on the country’s religion, language and food.
Travel even further back in time with a visit to the ancient imperialistic capital of Hué, some 400 milies from Saigon. Founded in the 17th century, Hué reflects the long-gone days of concubines and eunichs.
Must-see sites include the ancient Citadel, a replica of Beijing’s Forbidden City, as well as the Khai Dinh and Tu Duc Emperors’ tombs.
Perhaps Hué’s greatest treasure is the 19th century, seven-story Thien Mu Pagoda. The oldest pagoda in Hué encompasses three temples and a tower overlooking the Perfume River.
Outside the cities, the soaring mountains of the north serve as protectors to the tiny villages that dot the countryside. Here you’ll find life has remained little changed throughout the centuries.
Vietnam also offers a wealth of natural beauty, from the Red River Delta in the North to the Mekong Delta in the south. Dazzling green rice paddies are dotted by women in conical hats, bending to harvest Vietnam’s major crop.
VIETNAM - FACTS
Full country name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Area: 329,560 sq km (204 779 sq. mi.); slightly larger than New Mexico
Population: 84 million (July 2006 est.)
Time difference: 12 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time
Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin,and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
Climate: Tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March). Occasional typhoons (May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River Delta
Terrain: Low, flat delta in south and north; central highlands; hilly, mountainous in far north and northwest
Reference map: http://www.asiatravel.com/vietmap.html
Currency: Nu Dong
Exchange rate: $1 = 16,470.2 Dong or One Dong = $0.00006072 (January 2007)
International calling code: 84
Ethnic groups: 84% ethnic Vietnamese; 2% ethnic Chinese; also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once-great Indianised Champa Kingdom) and members of over 50 ethno-linguistic groups (also known as Montagnards, 'highlanders' in French)
Languages: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language); some French, Chinese and Khmer; and mountain-area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
Religions: Buddhism is the principal religion but there also are sizeable Taoist, Confucian, Hoa Hao, Caodaists, Muslim and Christian minorities
Government: Communist People's Republic
Capital city: Hanoi
GDP: $235.2 billion (2005 est.)
GDP per capita: $2,800 (2005 est.)
Agricultural products: Paddy rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas; poultry, fish and seafood
Major products/Industries: Food processing, garments, shoes, machine-building, mining, coal, steel, cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil and paper
Recommended vaccinations: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/seasia.htm
Environmental issues: Logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and over-fishing threaten marine-life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
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