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Welcome to Laos.


Welcome to Vietnam.

In general, rain falls between May and November in the South and between April and October in the North. Before the monsoons start in the North, there is a hot period caused by the winds blowing in from Laos. It can be cold between December, January and February in the North. The winter average temperature is about 16 degree Celsius. South central Vietnam and the delta wetlands have an annual average temperature of 27-30 degree Celsius. The warmest period is March to May.


In the North and Central: Warm clothes, gloves, shoes and woolen hats are advised in the cold period (December to February). The remaining of the year is hot and requires summer clothes, raincoat or umbrella.

In the South: Only light summer clothes, hat and sun glasses. The weather is rainy and humid from April to November or December. Raincoat or umbrella are advised.


Vietnamese is consisted of 56 ethnic groups with the majority of Viet race 85-90%, Chinese 3% and other minorities - Muong, Thai, Mee, Khmer, Cham, H'mong, and Dao.


The origin of the Vietnamese people is Mongoloid as its brethren in North and East Asia.

Due to its long history, they receive great influence from the ancient Chinese and India cultures.


The major religions in Vietnam are Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam Cao Dai, Hoa Hoa and other indigenous beliefs.


Buddhism entered Vietnam around 4 B.C. and reached its peak it Ly Dynasty in 11th century. With the domination of Chinese over 11 centuries, the teaching of Confucianism and Taoism was prevailed and many of its aspects were blended with that of Buddhism. This combined religious practice, called Tam Giao (Triple Religion) has great influenced on the social life and culture of the nation. Around 70% of the present day Vietnam are Buddhists.


Before the colonial period, Christianity entered Vietnam in 17 century with Roman Catholic at the lead. About 10% of population is Catholics. Protestant is also observed, but less than half a million.

Islam is observed by the Cham minority group with less than a hundred thousand followers.

Another two sects evolved at the beginning of 20th century - Cao Daism in 1926 and Hoa Haoism with about 2 million and 1 million followers, respectively.


Major languages are Vietnamese (official), Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese), French, English, Khmer and other minority tribal language.


A blend of Khmer-Mon and Chinese derived into the Vietnamese language. The Chinese language had been primarily used and written during the Chinese rule, and after its departure, a unique ancient written system called Chu Nom was developed from Chinese scripts around the 10th century. Chu Nom had been widely used for many centuries later in daily life and literatures before it vanquished

The arrival of Portuguese missionaries in early 17th century had a great influence on Vietnam written language. Attempting to spread the gospel, they incorporated the Roman scripts into Chu Nom for translation of the Bible and a new derivative called Quoc Ngu arise. Later on Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit, published Quoc Ngu dictionary which is the translation of Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin. Quoc Ngu was used mainly by missionaries and some Vietnamese scholars at that time and had undergone further development.


In 1867, the French colonialists introduced Quoc Ngu into the educational system of Vietnam, and not until early 20th century, Quoc Ngu became widely used among the Vietnamese.


Vietnam is still a poor, and densely populated country. After the end of Cold War, it had lose the financial support from the Soviet Bloc, which led to the structural reforms in economy and tourism. Many of its rigid rules and regulations were relaxed and there were influx of foreign capitals for investment. Over the past 10 years, Vietnam experienced a substantial growth, however the decline began when inflow of foreign investment is delayed by some legal barriers and administrative intervention. With the the economic downtown of the region in 1997, its growth slump from 8.5% in 1997 to 4% in 1998 with trade deficit of over US$ 3 billion. Moreover, Vietnam also faced tough competition and more advanced managements of its foreign competitors. The unemployment rate is expected to be over 20%.


    GDP: US$ 143.1 Billion (1999), and constitute of 26% Agriculture, 33% Industry and 41% from Services.
    Inflation Rate: 4% (1999)
    Agricultural Products - rice, corn, potatoes, rubber, soybean, coffee, tea, bananas, poultry, pigs, fish
    Industries - food processing, garments, shoes, machine building, mining, cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, coal, steel, papers
    Exports - Crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garment, shoes.


Vietnam currency is Dong comprising the following bank notes: 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2000d, 5000d, 10000d, 20000d, and 50000d.


Exchange rate in 1998 - 13,900 Dong / USD vs 11,100 Dong in 1995 and 8,100 in 1991.


Visitors may encounter difficulties exchanging other currencies. Traveler cheques and credit cards such as American Express, Visa and Master are not yet widely accepted but can be used with banks, hotels, major restaurants and shops.


Public Holidays

    1 January - Solar New Year's Day
    Vietnamese Traditional Lunar New Year's Festival or Tet Holidays. It is a 4-day holiday (the last day of the Lunar year and the first three days of the next). Tet is usually at the end of January or the beginning of February of the Solar Calendar.
    30 April - Anniversary of Saigon's Liberation Day
    1 May - International Labor Day
    2 September - National Day of Vietnam.


Business and Social Hints
Business is conducted fairly formally and lightweight clothes should be worn. It is advisable for French-speaking delegates to attend meeting as English may not be widely spoken. Social life is reasonably informal & conservative sportswear is recommended. Alcohol is available and smoking accepted.


Other useful tips

    A drive from Tan Son Nhat Airport to downtown Hochiminh costs about USD 10 by airport taxi.
    Fresh, unexposed film is available at cheap price in Saigon.
    Do not exchange money on streets
    Leave all valuables in hotel's safe box
    Tourists should check in at the airport 2 hours before taking an Vietnam international airport and 1 hour before domestic flight.


A 30-day tourist visa is obtainable at the Vietnamese Embassy or Vietnam diplomatic missions abroad, upon presentation of a passport with at least 6 months of validity remaining, however, as the cases may be visas can be obtained with passport validity remaining at least 30 days plus proposed visa duration. In order to facilitate obtaining a visa, travelers are encouraged to apply through their travel agency. We can take care for the formalities if the traveler provides us with his or her passport details, arrival date and point of entry at least seven days before the anticipated arrival date in Vietnam.


The local currency in Vietnam is the Dong. The official exchange rate as of May 2006 was approximately 15,978 VND/USD. US dollars are also widely accepted. Major credit cards such as VISA, American Express, Master Card and traveler’s cheques are accepted in hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and more up market establishment.


Although the entire country of Vietnam lies in the inter-tropical zone it has a remarkably diverse climate between north and south. In the north, there is a winter season from November to April, with frequent cold drizzle during February and March. Summer is from May to October. The annual average temperature in the north is 21°C. The southern part of the country enjoys, sub-equator warmth all year round, with an annual average temperature of 27°C, marked by two seasons, rainy from June to October and dry from November to May.


Airlines currently operating to and from Vietnam are Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, Air France, Aeroflot, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Eva Air, Emirates Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines, Lao Airlines, Lufthansa, Philippine Airlines, Qantas Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Royal Jordania, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Siem Reap Airways, Thai Airways and United Airways.


From April 2006, American Airlines and Vietnam Airlines have entered into a code sharing agreement for US-Vietnam services. Vietnam Airlines would place its “VN” designator code on American Airlines flights to Tokyo, Osaka, Paris and Frankfurt from the US, with the services continuing on to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by Vietnam Airlines. In a later phase, American Airlines will place its “AA” designator code on Vietnam Airlines’ services from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Tokyo, Osaka, Paris and Frankfurt.


The departure tax for international flight is US $14 at Tan Son Nhat airport (HCM city) & Noi Bai airport (Hanoi). Departure tax for domestic flights is included in the air fare.

The pre-historic era could be dated back to over 23,000 years ago in Paleolithic Age, as the relics of Homo Erectus were found in the caves of Lang Son and Nghe An province. Gradual evolution emerged to Bronze Age when inhabitants produced bronze tools, and arms with the raising of domestic farms of buffaloes, oxen and pigs. Three cultural groups developed during this age:

Pre-Dong Son Culture - lived in the North around Ma River, Ca River and Red River Delta

Pre-Sa Hyun - live in Southern area of Central Vietnam Those inhabited in Dong Nai River

During Iron Age, only Pre-Dong son culture developed into Dong Son culture.


Birth of Vietnam

The first nation of Vietnam being recorded is the Van Lang Nation, founded by the ancient Viet race in the North. The most famous king is Hung King.


In 3 B.C, another nation was found by Au Duong Vuong and named Au Lac Nation. The historical remain of Co Loa Citadel is the evidence.


In Central Vietnam, another kingdom of Champa emerged from Sa Hyun culture around 2 B.C.


Chinese Domination: (111 BC - 936 AD)

The Au Lac Nation was first lost to Nan Yue in 179 BC, who in turn was conquered by the mighty Chinese Han Empire. In 111 BC, the Han Empire dominates the Au Lac Nation. This domination lasted over a thousand years with successive Chinese dynasties such as Sui and Tang. The Chinese domination had left great influence on Vietnam philosophy, culture, religions and almost every aspect of Vietnamese life. Many rebellions did occur, but all were cracked down. Not until 936 AD, the Chinese troop was defeated at Bach Dang River and ends the Chinese rule.


Independence from China:

After the liberation from Chinese domination, successive dynasties followed by Ngo, Dinh and Pre-Le Dynasty with the period from 939-1009 AD. Over this time, Chinese Empire made many invasions, but repulsed.


1009-1400 AD - Ly Dynasty and Tran Dynasty.

During this period, Vietnam rose into a powerful nation with much development in various fields such as agricultures, trading, religions, and cultures with prevailing of Buddhism and Confucianism. They were able to resist the assaults from Chinese Sung Dynasty as well as Mongolians.


1400-1407 AD. Ho Dynasty and 1408-1428 AD Chinese Domination

The decline began since late Tran Dynasty which was overthrown by Ho Dynasty who took power during 1400-1407, but Ho did not last long. Vietnam once again was conquered by Chinese invasion under Ming Empire who ruled Vietnam from 1408-1428. The Chinese Ming Army met strong resistance from the Viet patriots and lose its conquests to Le Loi at the battle of Lam Son. This led to new era of Vietnam History.


1428 - 1788 AD - LE Dynasty

The Chinese rule over Vietnam completely ended with the establishment of Le Dynasty in 1428 AD which lasted until 18th century. Trades, industry, agriculture, cultures, and literatures flourished, however, in 16th century, the nation was divided into two feudal states under Le Dynasty - Trinh State in the North and Nguyen State in the South.


1788 - 1802 TAY SON DYNASTY

During the late 18th century, the 3 brothers of Nguyen led the famous Tay Son Revolution, and overthrew the two feudal states of Trinh and Nguyen, and then the Le Dynasty. The new dynasty of Tay Son lasted for 14 years and was subdued to Nguyen Anh Gia Long who was supported by the French army.



Nguyen Anh Gia Long succeeded the throne, and became the first monarch of Nguyen Dynasty. The country revived into a healthy state with expansion of economy. Trades, irrigation, agriculture, literatures and cultures again flourished. Vietnam began to open up new trades with western countries like France, England, and also Indonesia and India. Later on, gradual conflicts with its foreign counterparts piled up. In 1857, its rulers made a false move to closed-door polity and drove away oversea diplomats, which was a great turning point of Vietnam History and had its impact till present-day Vietnam. This led to French conquest and the establishment of the so-called Indochina.


French Domination (1887 - 1954)

After the breakup of diplomatic tie, the French military troops started to invade Vietnam. Although being more organized and having superior weapons, the French army took 30 years to overcome repetitive Viet patriotic resistance and had its final conquest. In 1887, French Royal Decree ordered the establishment of Indochina - an aggregated French colony consisted of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The Nguyen Dynasty did survive but became powerless under French domination.


Not until early 20th century, the French seriously activated the social and economic welfare of Vietnam. Mining industry and big plantations of coffee, tea and rubber were popped up and exploited on a large scale, bringing huge benefits to the French. This had also bear a strong negative effect over the Vietnam society with clear separation of Vietnamese elites and the low working class.


The hidden resentment of the Vietnamese people was ignited, when the French colonialists ordered a land structural reform in 1904 with high taxation over the farmers. This led to many resistant movements against the French rules and resulted in the death or imprisonment of its leaders. Having strong support from the farmer class, Nguyen Ai Quoc succeeded to establish the Vietnam Communist Party in 1930. The world knows him in the name of Ho Chi Minh.


Birth Of To-Day Vietnam & Seed Of Vietnam War

At the end of World War II, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam Independence on 2 September 1945. The last French troop was crushed in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, resulted in the half liberalization of the Vietnam. The Geneva Accord had divided the country into the North, ruled under communist system and the South under democratic one.


President Ho was half satisfied, and determined to re-unite the country by invading the South. Being the world democratic leader, Americans entered the scenario and attempted to stop the communist's expansion in Southeast Asia against the Domino Theory. This had led to the Vietnam War (the Vietnamese called it - the American War!). Unable to fight against the powerful military strength of the Americans, North Vietnam military, called Vietcong, used guerrillas tactics. This war had turned out to be too costly for the Americans in term of life, social welfare and economy. Receiving heavy pressure at home, the Americans decided to withdraw its troops, resulted in the fall of South Vietnam. Finally, Vietnam became re-unified once again on 30 April 1975 and the Communist regime rules until the present day.

Often associated with slim looking smiley women wearing conical hats, Vietnam is located along the eastern edge of Indochina. It has a surface area of 329,314 square kilometers. Vietnam is also known for its seemingly endless and fascinating 3,260 kilometer long coastline; some parts dotted with coconut palms casting their shade, while others appear to disappear in infinity of sand dunes and rugged mountains. Besides the white sandy beaches and tranquil water, Vietnam is also a country that boasts of a rich culture heritage. The old capital of Hue, for example, is a site included on the World Heritage list. It is an amazing country with 82 millions inhabitants including approximately 54 ethnic groups and the Vietnamese are very proud of their 4,000 years of history. The French established a colony in Vietnam that held for almost 100 years. The war with the Americans did much to turn the world’s attention to Vietnam, which remembers the event, either for its brutality or the failure of American power.


The Vietnamese people are not only very determined, but also warm and friendly. Vietnam today has reached new heights of prosperity and is open for visitors to visit country at peace.

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