Vietnam travel guide overview
Country name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam Area: 329,566 sq. km (128, 527 Square miles)
Population: 84 million (Growth Rate 2.0%) Capital city: Hanoi (pop 3.5 million)
Electricity: Mainly 220V, 50 hz
85% ethnic Vietnamese, 3% ethnic Chinese, also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once great Indianised Champa Kingdom) and members of some 55 ethno-linguistic groups For a country that is only slightly larger than Italy, Vietnam possesses an immense geographical and cultural diversity. Its varied climate and landscape range from four seasons in the mountainous north to year-round tropical temperatures in the lush south. Vietnam's cultural mix stems from its intriguing history dating back more than 4,000 years. Its historical legacy includes a thousand years of Chinese occupation, which has left a very strong foreign cultural influence, evident in the pagodas, local cuisine, and continuing practice of Confucianism.
The Cham civilization, which blossomed in the central region in the 14th century, has left many ancient Hindu-like temples, which are still visited today. Vietnam's regal past can be revisited in the former capital city of Hue, where the Citadel and Royal Tombs represent an era of cultural renaissance. The French colonial legacy is still evident in many parts of Vietnam, as illustrated by the distinctive yellow pastel-colored architecture of its villas and administrative buildings.
In Vietnam you can discover unspoiled beaches along the coastline stretching 3,200km north to south and mountainous regions where hill tribe people continue to live isolated from mainstream society. Pastoral landscapes of lush rice paddies and fresh vegetation, offer ample opportunities to observe the agrarian lifestyle of eighty percent of Vietnam's population. Today, most of the country remains relatively unchanged although in major cities you will discover a modern infrastructure and technology. Today, visitors can choose to travel at various levels of comfort, staying in anything between budget to deluxe accommodation, using public or private transportation, and dining local style or in the finer Vietnamese and international restaurants. If you are interested in cultural exploration, picturesque landscapes, warm hospitality, or an adventure of a lifetime Vietnam is your destination!
GEOGRAPHY Vietnam borders Cambodia, Laos and China and stretches over 1600km along the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. The country's two main cultivated areas are the Red River Delta (15,000 sq. km) in the north and the Mekong Delta (40,000 sq. km) in the south. Three-quarters of the country is mountainous and hilly; the highest peak is the 3143m high Mount Fansipan in the country's north-west. Vietnam is made up of equatorial lowlands, high, temperate plateaus and alpine peaks. Although Vietnam's wildlife is rich, it is in precipitous decline because of the destruction of the natural habitat and illegal hunting. Less than 20% of the country remains forested, and what remains is under threat from slash and burn agriculture and excessive harvesting. Fauna includes elephants, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, black bear, snub-nosed monkey, crocodile and turtle. Vietnam has more than 10 national parks: The more popular ones being Cat Ba, Ba Be Lake and Cuc Phuong national parks in the north; Bach Ma National Park in the center; and Nam Cat Tien National Park in the south. In an attempt to prevent an ecological and hydrological catastrophe, the government has plans to set aside ten thousand sq. km of forest and create 87 national parks and nature reserves. Although Vietnam lies in the inter-tropical zone, local conditions vary from frosty winter in the far northern hills to the year-round subequatorial warmth of the Mekong Delta. At sea level, the mean annual temperature is about 27 degrees C in the south, falling to about 21 degrees C in the far north.
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