Recently, Vietnam is well-known as a wonderful destination in Southeast Asia with stable security and reasonable cost. Moreover, this is also a peaceful land with various beautiful sites and time-honored tradition.
Vietnam is located in the Southeast of Indochinese peninsula and covers an area of more than 330,000 square kilometers (128,000 square miles). Vietnam’s topography is very diverse with mountains, hills, plains, coasts and continental shelf. Vietnam’s climate is typical for the tropics: the Weatherall around the years in high temperatures and humidity. Although Vietnam’s territory just covers an area of more than 330,000 square kilometers, there are several ecosystems that can be found in Vietnam including terrestrial ecosystems, wetland ecosystems, and marine ecosystems.
According to the State of World Population Report 2010, Vietnam’s population is about 89 million people, ranks 14th in the list of the most populous nations in the world. Among them, ethnic Kinh (Viet) has the highest population (makes up 86.2% of the national population). Residence of ethnic Kinh covers all the country but mainly concentrates in the plains, cities, and areas nearby rivers. Ethnic minorities (ethnic Tay, ethnic Nung, ethnic Thai, ethnic Hmong, ethnic Chinese, etc.) contribute only 13.8% of the national population. Vietnam customs are very complicated and strict as Oriental culture originally and influences of Confucianism in Chinese domination period.
As the favor of the Creator and a long-lasting culture, Vietnam is proudly to be the location of 7 World Heritage Sites and many Intangible Cultural Heritages recognized by UNESCO. Besides, there are several beautiful landscapes and unique cultural values from the North to the South which contribute to an amazing and mysterious Vietnam.
DOS AND DON'TS IN VIETNAM
Although Vietnam is well-known as a friendly and safe destination for travelers, you should see some dos & don'ts bellow to have a joyful and trouble-free journey in Vietnam.
– Show your respect to the old and religious beliefs.
– Ask for permission before taking photographs at the sights.
– Put off your shoes outside before entering the temples
– Wear long and body covering clothes when visiting the temples.
– Hand things to the others and take things from the others by both hands.
– Bring a map and a hotel business card by your side.
– Keep valuable things (like visa, cash, credit cards, etc.) in the safety box at the hotel.
– Touch someone at the head or point at someone by your finger (or feet).
– Show extreme actions at the public area (e.g. kiss at the public area).
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN VIETNAM
Vietnam has a special place in my heart. There are definitely more than 10 things to do in Vietnam, closer to 100 but unless you have 4 months, I twiddled the list down to 10.
Vietnam has some of the best food I have eaten, some of the warmest people, and the most amazing natural scenery.
(1) Cruise among thousands of limestone islands on Halong Bay.
(2) Enjoy sunbathing and swimming on beautiful beaches of Vietnam (such as Da Nang, Nha Trang, Nui Ne, etc.).
(3) Explore Hoi An’s ancient streets, which are filled with historic building, tailors and boutiques; and delectable cuisine.
(4) Have a bowl of steaming hot noodle (so-called “pho”) in Hanoi or Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
(5) Have a cyclo drive around the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
(6) Head for Dalat – the paradise of honeymooners with old French colonial villas, cool weather and romantic setting of lakes and hills.
(7) Relish some fresh fruits at the orchards or floating markets of Mekong River Delta.
(8) Take part in the bustling ambiance of traditional Tet holiday (Lunar New Year Festival).
(9) Visit the cool mountainous area of Sapa and interact with local ethnic minorities.
(10)Visit Hue’s Imperial City with ancient monuments.
Recently in Vietnam, transportation has been rapidly developed with many kinds of transports and it's continuously easier to travel from a country to Vietnam and vice versa, as well as travel from a place to another one in Vietnam.
During the time of your journey, traveling by local vehicles will bring you authentic experiences about daily life and reduce the cost of transfer.
– Taxis: For medium distance like from the airport to the hotel or vice verse, taxi is a good idea as its flexible time and reasonable cost. You can ask the hotel’s staves at reception to help you order a taxi.
– Motorbikes: Motorbike is a very interesting way to have your own journey of discovering a place. However, Vietnam still ranks high in the list of countries having high rates of accidents. Thus, you should drive carefully; bring a driving license and local map with you. Motorbike rental service is available at almost hotel in Vietnam.
– Cyclos: Cyclo is a special type of transport in Vietnam which is the most ideal for exploring a city. At low speed, it will give you an insight into the daily life of local people and make sure that you won’t miss any interesting thing on the way.
– Trains: For a long transfer, especially overnight transfer, you ought to get a train and spend time gazing charming scenery passing by you. This is a really romantic kind of transport although the facilities are quite basic.
– Airplanes: To save time for your journey, a flight will be ideal in case you depart from a country to Vietnam or move from a city in Vietnam to another one. At present, Vietnam has totally 21civil airports in use and 8 international airports among them. Moreover, international and internal flights occur regularly to ensure numerous demand for transfer.
– Sampan boats: Sampan boat is a unique kind of transport that can be seen at floating villages, floating markets on Mekong River Delta. If you have a journey to that beautiful land, let take a sampan boat ride on small canals of Mekong Delta and enjoy a peaceful life there.
SHOPPING IN VIETNAM
Vietnam isn't a paradise of shopping with expensive products of famous brands but there, surely you will find several interesting things to buy. Let hire a driver and depart for a shopping session! Tailoring: A traditional "Ao Dai" or styled clothes from silks can be made upon your order at local tailors (in Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon, etc.).
Art and handicrafts: Those could be meaningful souvenirs for your family and friends, or nice decorations for your home. It can be very simple and popular like a “non la” (leaf hat) or much more sophisticated like the lacquerware, ceramics, and brocades.
Ask the hotel’s staves or your tour guide for the best shops: the Hotel’s staves and tour guide know much more about the local area than you. Thus, ask them for the best shops where you can buy high-quality products and get a reasonable price.
Ask for delivery: In case you bought some big items like a picture, big pottery, etc., don’t be shy to ask the sellers for a delivery. At such shops, delivery is usually free of charge and it will help your hands-free to continue shopping adventure. However, make sure that you give them the right address and don’t pay in full till you have the items in your hotel room.
Beware of pickpockets: Markets and shopping center in Vietnam is usually crowded and no one can make sure that you can’t become the target of a pickpocket. Thus, you should keep valuable things (like visa, cash, credit cards, etc.) in the safety box at the hotel and bring just enough money for shopping. Moreover, you should hold the handbag in your sight.
Go shopping with a guide: You should go shopping with a guide to avoid getting lost and scams. Besides, they can be a translator for you while you go shopping.
Make a bargain: Remember to ask the price before you buy a thing. You ought to know that the sellers never give a reasonable price for an item first. Thus, you can walk around and do comparative shopping at other shops. Then, go back to the shop and make an offer that is about 40% of the first offered price, keep on until you reach the price you want (usually with a 20% discount).
Prepare to pay everything in cash: In Vietnam, credit cards are accepted for payments at supermarkets and shopping centers. However, it’s not at the markets so you ought to prepare to pay everything in cash. Currency exchange service is available at almost a hotel in Vietnam. And even if it’s not available, the US dollar is okay.
Restrain from buying things sold by peddlers: They might be annoying or pathetic but don’t buy things you don’t need for that. Just keep going and pass them by!
WHAT TO EAT IN VIETNAM?
In Vietnam, travelers will find plenty of dishes which are very simple in appearance but very impressive. Vietnamese cuisine definitely excites you all and shows you many things about Vietnamese culture.
Please keep in mind some tips below while eating Vietnamese food:
– Lunch and dinner are started earlier than in the West. In Vietnam, people have lunch at around 11.00 am and eat their dinner at around 7.00pm.
– Let see travel guide book or consult your tour guide to have the best choices of dishes.
– Big first! In Vietnam, the oldest will start to eat first and letting the big eat first is a way to show respect to them.
– Chopsticks are always a big challenge to every foreigner coming to Vietnam. Thus, you can choose to try using them (It’s really interesting!) or ask for a fork.
– You should care about hygiene, especially while eating at small restaurants on the sidewalk. Small restaurants on the sidewalk are preferred by original taste but you should eat freshly prepared food only. Even for packaged food, you’d rather check its expired date before eating it.
– Before paying for a bill, you should do review it once, just in case!
MONEY & CARDS IN VIETNAM
All payments in Vietnam must be done in the Vietnamese currency unit - Vietnam dong (VND). Thus, if you expect to pay for an item or service in cash, you ought to change it into Vietnam dong. You can use the currency exchange service at your hotel or do a transaction at the banks.
Payment: At present, the most common international banks in Vietnam are ANZ and HSBC. Moreover, the banking system and ATM service in Vietnam are very developed and almost banks have associated with the others that you will find it easy to do a banking transaction there. In case of having no Vietnam dong, US dollar is sometimes accepted for payment.
Payments by credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers in Vietnam. Visa and MasterCard are the most common there.
Cost & tipping: In general, the cost of traveling in Vietnam is quite cheap in comparison with other destinations in the world. Tipping is not a popular habit in Vietnam but you completely can give hotel or restaurant’s staves some tips to have services served with more attentive.