Vietnam

General Information

30/05/2013 16:40



Vietnam is an utter assault on the senses; at once dizzying, frenetic and fascinating. Conical-hatted street vendors sell their wares on the pavements outside gleaming high-rises and exquisite temples are surrounded by streets buzzing with thousands of motorbikes.


Wherever you travel you can't fail to be intrigued by this frenetic, fascinating country. The capital Hanoi is the focus for arts in Vietnam and has been since its foundation in the year 1010 while in Ho Chi Minh City business is king. Hue is steeped in imperial history, Hoi An the place to soak up the atmosphere and the largely undeveloped coastline is the place to kick back.

Life in urban Vietnam is conducted on the streets. In bia hois (pavement pubs) men sup ice-cold beer and odours from makeshift food stalls fill the nostrils: see steaming pho, a noodle soup with various unidentifiable chunks of meat, or grilled chicken feet. Along nearly all the moped-clogged streets produce is sold. Tubs wriggle with live sturgeon, crabs and frogs (still a delicacy from French colonial days), baskets are top heavy with colourful and bizarre fruit, and every possible piece of a pig is on sale.

Rural Vietnam is entirely different. Just a short distance from the cities, water buffalo wallow in green rice paddies and elegant women wearing traditional conical headwear cycle along dusty paths.

Location: South East Asia
Language: Vietnamese 
Religion: Buddhist majority
Area: 331,689 sq km (128,066 sq miles).
Population: 89 million (2010).
Population density: 268 per sq km.
Capital: Hanoi
Government: Socialist republic since 1980. Gained independence from France in 1954.
Electricity: 220/110 volts AC, 50Hz; flat two-pin plugs are in use. Occasionally round two-pin plug sockets can be found, so it is worth having adaptors for both.
Geography

Vietnam is bounded by the Gulf of Tonkin and the Eastern Sea (South China Sea) on the east; on the west by the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos; on the north by China; and in the south by the confluence of the South China Sea and the Gulf of Siam.

The North

The flat Red River Delta dominates the northern part of the country which is surrounded by mountainous areas along the borders China and Laos. Rivers:

The Day, the Hong (or Red River) and the Da Rivers, all with headwaters in China, and all of which distribute into the Red River Valley.

The Ma River with headwaters in Laos which distributes south of the Red River Delta through Thanh Hoa.

The Ca with headwaters in Laos distributes to the South China Sea through Vinh.

The Central

A coastal littoral runs the length of the central part of the country, bounded by the Central Highlands (Truong Son Mountain Range) to the immediate west which proceed into Laos; smaller river valleys proceed inland at points along the coast.

Minor rivers with headwaters in Laos flow from the west to the east creating small fertile river valleys along the coast of central Vietnam.

The South

Rolling areas from Saigon north with some hills, gradually inclining into the Truong Son Mountain Range. From Saigon South the land becomes a vast flat plain, interlaced with vast distributary rivers of the Mekong.

Rivers

The Saigon River, with headwaters to the north and northwest of Saigon reaching into Cambodia, flows into the South China Sea at Vung Tau.

Vam Co Dong River (East River) with headwaters in Cambodia flows southeast to the south of Saigon.

Vam Co Tay River (West River) with headwaters in Cambodia flows to the southeast south of the Vam Co Dong River, before joining it and emptying into the South China Sea.

Tien River (the Mekong River) with headwaters in the Himalayas and in China the river laces its way through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, where it splits into the Mekong and Bassac; the Mekong proceeds into Vietnam and has five-major distributary rivers which empty into the South China Sea across the Mekong River Delta.

Hau (or Bassac) River parallels the Mekong to its south on its southeastern journey to the sea. 

Weather and Climate

Vietnam is an elongated country which reaches from the sub-tropics in the north to the tropics in the south. The weather differs greatly in Vietnam from the north to the south, from four-mild seasons in northern Vietnam to sub-equatorial warmth in the Mekong Delta.

Geography also plays a role in Vietnam's weather: approximately one-third of the country is above 500-meters in elevation and those areas enjoy a sub-tropical climate; the areas above 2,000 enjoy a temperate climate.

Vietnam's climate is moderated by two-monsoons which create a lower than average temperature compared to other countries located in the equatorial regions:

Northeast Monsoon

The Northeast-Asian Monsoon, from late October and March, brings wet and chilly weather from the northeast to all areas from Nha Trang north, and dry and warm temperatures to all areas south of Nha Trang (Saigon and the Mekong Delta).

Southwest Monsoon

The South-Western Monsoon, from April/May through October, laden with moisture from its northeast movement across the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Siam, brings warm and humid weather to the entire country except for the Red River Delta (the greater Hanoi area) and Vietnam's Central Coastal Littoral.

The Northern Climate

The areas from Hue north experience a two-season a year: the winter and the summer. August through November is the rainy season in the north. Winter is usually from November through April and is cool during the day and crisp, and sometimes quite chilly, during the evenings. February and March are noticeable for their persistent drizzling rain ("crachin") while hot summers dominate months May through October.

The Central Climate

The Central Coastal Littoral does not receive the rainfall from the Southwest Monsoon rains which are stopped by the Central Highlands which are affected by these seasonal rains. Most of the rainfall received along the Central Coastal Littoral is during the Northeast Monsoon, from October and March, but especially in the months of October-December; overland travel during October-December can be interrupted by flooding.

The Southern Climate

The sub-equatorial climate of the south has two-seasons: the wet and dry seasons. The wet season lasts from May to November with June and August being the wettest months which bring heavy, albeit short lasting, downpours usually in the mid-afternoons. The dry season begins in November and ends in April with late February to May being hot and humid. The average temperatures in the south are relatively constant year-around: 25-35 Celsius (76-95 Fahrenheit).

The food and Cuisine of Vietnam

No matter where you are in Asia, the local people will tell you that they have the best food on the continent -- perhaps in the world. The Vietnamese are no different...

Vietnam has three basic regional cuisines. The Northern Vietnamese food is not quite as rich or spicy as that of the country's South. Some would call it "subtle." It may be warm; but it is the warmth of black pepper, not red chilies. And North Vietnamese food looks much more like Chinese food than do the cuisines in other parts of the country.



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