Vietnam Overview

 

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Mainland Territory: 331,211.6 sq. km
Population: 85,789.600 inhabitants (figures in Apr. 2009)
National Capital: Hanoi

Lying on the eastern part of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is a strip of land shaped like the letter “S”. China borders it to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the East Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the east and south.
The country’s total length from north to south is 1,650km. Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600km at the widest point in the north, 400km in the south, and 50km at the narrowest part, in the center, in Quang Binh Province. The coastline is 3,260km long and the inland border is 4,510km.

Latitude: 102º 08′ – 109º 28′  east
Longitude:  8º 02′ – 23º 23′  north

Vietnam is also a transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Climate: Vietnam lies in the tropics and monsoon (detail)
Topography: Three quarters of Vietnam’s territory consist of mountains and hills (detail)
Administrative Units: Vietnam is divided into 63 provinces and cities

Nature has blessed Vietnam with a bountiful harvest of soaring mountains, a killer coastline and radiant rice fields, Vietnam is a cracker. Inland, peasant women in conical hats still tend to their fields, children ride buffaloes along country paths and minority people scratch out a living from impossible gradients.

Vietnam is a nation of determined optimists who have weathered war after war, survived colonialism and communism, and are now getting to grips with the wheeler-dealer world of capitalism. Fiercely protective of their independence and sovereignty, the Vietnamese are graciously welcoming of foreigners who come as guests not conquerors.

Don’t believe the hype. Or the propagandist party billboards that are as common as statues of ‘Uncle Ho’. Believe your senses, as you discover one of the most enriching, enlivening and exotic countries on earth.

To escape the buzz of millions of motorbikes, head west to the watery landscape of green fields and sleepy villages in the Mekong Delta. There’s adventure galore to be had on Phu Quoc Island and stunning white-sand beaches to relax on. Back on the east coast at Mui Ne Beach, you’ll be faced with a similar dilemma: action or inertia?

Hoi An might weigh you down – but in a good way – you’re bound to add kilos of made-to-order clothing to your luggage. With an estimated 300 to 500 tailors working in this beautiful city, this is the fashionist heaven.

To feel the intellectual, cultural and spiritual heartbeat of Vietnam, make a stop in the old imperial capital, Hué. Home to palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, and host of the biennial arts festival, the Festival of Hué (www.huefestival.com), it’s the place to go for historical, cultural and culinary stimulation.

In Hanoi, the country’s captivating capital, rise early to watch the city exercise by Hoan Kiem Lake, then pay your respects in person to Uncle Ho at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (a truly surreal experience). See if you can locate ‘pickled fish street’ in the Old Quarter (it’s somewhere near ‘wooden bowls street’), and cool off with fraught beer at ‘bia hoi junction’ (a truly rewarding experience).

Eventually you’ll be enticed out of the city by the stunning offerings of the country’s northern provinces. Nothing can prepare you for the beauty of Halong Bay and its 2000 limestone karsts, nor the experience of trekking around mountainous Sapa.

Vietnam has it all. Go expecting the unexpected, be ready for an adventure as much as a holiday, and Vietnam will deliver.

(source: vietnamtourism.com & lonelyplanet.com)

 

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