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VIETNAM

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Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, © Tinnakorn Nukul - Fotolia.com

Vietnam is officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.  It is located on the Indo China peninsula of southeast Asia and is bordered by Cambodia, Laos and China.  It has a population of over 90 million. Vietnam separated from China through battle in 938AD and was taken over by the French in the mid 19th century.  When the French were driven out in the mid 20th century during the First Indochina War, the country became divided into North and South Vietnam.  After the Vietnam War with the United States, the North Vietnamese took control of the country and consolidated it in 1974.  The influence of the Vietnam War is significant with evidence today of Agent Orange deformities and 3.5 million unexploded land mines and cluster bombs causing injury and amputations.  The ordinance is spread over 16 million acres and over 40,000 people have been killed since 1975.  Most ordinance is found at the De Militarized Zone that marked the boundary between North and South Vietnam.  For perspective, it's referred to in Vietnam as the American War.

Since the 1990s, Vietnam has become a major tourist attraction.  It's roughly a 17 hour flight from Seattle or Vancouver.  Visas are required.  The monsoon season runs from June to September while the typhoon season can extend into December.  November and December are good choices for a visit, with cooler temperatures (around 80F), low rainfall and high humidity.  Don't swim without shoes in the ocean due to stinging sea life and try not to show your ignorance by crossing your chopsticks, which symbolizes death.  Get ready for scooter and cyclo transportation, as there is very little infrastructure in Vietnam.  You can't beat the adventure of riding through traffic on a three wheeled cyclo, pedalled for you from behind while you lead feet first into the chaotic traffic of Vietnam.  One of the common tourist experiences in southeast Asia is to take half day cooking classes.  Another common tourist attraction is traditional water puppet shows - wooden puppets performing on a water surface.  Buying clothes made to measure is also a favorite tourist past time.

Visas:

Travel visas are required for the citizens of many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, the US and the UK.  The application can be completed with a Vietnamese embassy or online on the Vietnamese Minstry of Foreign Affairs web site.  A list of Vietnamese embassies can be found on their web site.  The process includes submitting a passport, an application, a photo and a fee.  For a listing of countries that are exempt from travel visa requirements for Vietnam, visit the Vietnamese Minstry of Foreign Affairs web site or check your specific country at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.  Some tour companies are able to arrange Vietnamese visas on arrival.

Currency:

 The Vietnamese currency is the Dong (VND).

Best Time to Visit Vietnam:

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

 Halong Bay

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 Hanoi

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 Hoi An

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 Hue

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 Nha Trang

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 Saigon

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