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Home Page / Travel Guides / Vietnam Travel Guides / General Introduction
- General information on Vietnam
Shaped like a giant ‘S’, Vietnam covers an area of over 330,000sq km stretching south from the Chinese border along the east coast of the Indochina Peninsula. The country comprises a complex geography with soaring mountains, fertile delta plains, ancient forests filled with exotic fauna, winding rivers and long sandy tropical beaches. Although entirely within the tropics, the diversity of the geography of Vietnam produces enormous climatic variations with the north of the country having cold, humid winters and warm, wet summers, whilst the south is generally warm all year with a monsoon season from May to November.

Many years have passed since the end of the American War in Vietnam and yet this is often the first image that people still have of this small southeast Asian country. But in reality Vietnam is a country of outstanding natural beauty, with many small peaceful villages and people going about their daily lives in peace and tranquility. Despite the damage wrought by many years of war, the highlands and rainforest regions of Vietnam continue to yield new species and they are filled with exotic wildlife. Some of the best beaches and most tranquil islands in southeast Asia can be found along the coastline of Vietnam and because of the proximity of the whole country to the sea, seafood is always on the menu and the cuisine is possibly the most delicious you will find. The larger towns and cities are emerging into the 21st Century with many modern buildings as in all Asian countries and yet they have retained much of the colonial charm and beauty in the buildings, parks and boulevards left behind by the French.

The people of Vietnam are gentle, happy and welcoming to visitors with the richness of their origins evident in the daily way of life. Spiritual life in Vietnam is a kaleidoscope of beliefs from Confucianism to Christianity, with a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Animism and Tam Giao (triple religion) thrown in for good measure. The most important festival each year is Tet, a week long celebration in late January or early February that welcomes the New Year with festivities ranging from noisy street parties to quiet family gatherings.

The broad diversity of Vietnam; its geography, people and history, provide the visitor with a wide variety of opportunities. Whilst many people choose to see as much of the country as they can on one extended visit, there are many others – both first and second time visitors – who prefer to take more time to visit one specific part of the country. With so many beach resorts located all along the stunning coastline, historical cities and towns in the north and centre of the country and vibrant rural communities all around the Mekong Delta, Vietnam will surely hold something of interest for you.

Time – GMT + 7.

Language - Official language is Vietnamese. English is widely spoken as is French by the older generation.

Entry Requirements - Passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the length of stay. Visas will depend greatly on what nationality you are. If you are in this exempted list then you do not need a visa then a valid passport is fine, no problem. In case of not, then you need a visa, please email to us info@asiafirsttravel.com

Asian Countries (10)

1.         Thailand (exempt validity: 30 days)

2.         Indonesia (30 days)

3.         Singapore (30 days)

4.         Malaysia (30 days)

5.         The Philippines (30 days)

6.         Laos (30 days)

7.         Kingdom of Brunei Darussalam (30 days)

8.         Japan (15 days)

9.         South Korea (15 days)

10.     Cambodia (14 days)

European Countries (5)

1.        Sweden (exempt validity: 15 days)

2.        Denmark (15 days)

3.        Finland (15 days)

4.        Norway (15 days)

5.        Russia (15 days)

Destinations in Vietnam

BA BE LAKE: (240 km from Hanoi) Ba Be Lakes, lie in the middle of a vast limestone mountain range, north-west of Ha Noi - dubbed a "precious jade of Viet Nam" and one of 500 lakes recognized as worthy of attention. Ba Be itself is actually three smaller lakes joined together - Pe Lam, Pe Lu and Pe Leng. The climate is cool with an average temperature of 22°C. This area has a lot to offer, including waterfalls, rivers, valleys, lakes, and caves all set amidst picturesque landscapes.

BUON MA THUOT: (489 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

Located in the central Highlands, Buon Ma Thuot is Vietnam’s largest coffee growing area and home to the Ede ethnic minority. Discovering scenic Lak Lake in a typical dugout canoe and the forests on the back of an elephant are among the most popular activities in the area.

CAN THO: (169 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

Can Tho is located in the center of the 11 provinces of the Mekong Delta. 170 km from Ho Chi Minh City. Taking a boat along Hau River as well as visiting the daily floating markets provides ample photo opportunities. A speciality of the region is eel, which is served in floating restaurants along the river banks. Thot Not Stork is worth a visit in the late afternoon when the birds return to their nets.

CAT BA ISLAND: (one hour by boat from Hai Phong)

Cat Ba National Park is located on Cat Ba Island, 150 km east of Hanoi. The park covers approximately 200 km2, two thirds of which consists of a forested zone and one third, a marine zone.

The island is home to over 600 kinds of plants including Bang, Goi Nep, Sang Le, and Kim Giao trees. The fauna living on the island is also diverse; the island is home to rare wild white-headed langurs, deer, and macaques, to name a few. Cat Ba marine reserves comprise sea turtles, lobster, coral, oysters, and dolphins.

CHAU DOC: (285 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

Located west of the Mekong Delta between Tien Giang and Hau Giang Rivers and shares a 95-km border with Cambodia. It is next to Cuu Long River and is constituted of a few midland areas and low mountains.

The main ethnic groups are the Kinh, Khmer, Cham, and Hoa. Famous sites and attractions are Ba Chua Xu Temple, Tay an Pagoda, Clay Pagoda, Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb, Tao Ngo Garden, Sam Mountain, and Bang Lang stork sanctuary.

CU CHI: (65 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

Located in the northwest of Ho Chi Minh, Cu Chi district is now famous around the world as the base for the Vietnamese operation known as the TET Offensive in 1968. There are more than 200 km of underground tunnels. The tunnel networks provided sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, hospitals and social centers and are between 0.5 to 1 m wide, with just enough space for a person to walk along by bending or crawling. Nowadays a small part of the tunnels has been modified to accommodate visitors. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels provides a fascinating glimpse into the prolonged resistance war that the Vietnamese people endured, and also highlights the national characteristics of perseverance and ingenuity.

DA LAT: (310 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

At 1,500 m altitude, Dalat has an appearance of an old French City, founded in 1897; Dalat has many natural and artificial lakes, bordered by row of pine trees. A trip to Dalat is not complete without a visit to the Flower Gardens, Bao Dai Summer residence and the valley of Love, Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery, known as Crazy House or a ride on a new cable car. A visit of one of the numerous waterfalls in the area should not be misses either.

DANANG: (763 km from Hanoi)

Known under the French as Tourane, it succeeded Hoi an (Faifo) as the most important port in central Vietnam during the19th century. This coastal city lies on a river and is surrounded by mountains, with a busy port and splendid beaches suches Non Nuoc (China Beach), My Khe and Tien SA Beach.

DIEN BIEN PHU (474 km from Hanoi)

Dien Bien Phu is surrounded by mountains and lies in the Muong Thanh valley, northwest of Hanoi. The battle of Dien Bien Phu was a world-famous historical event. The struggle of the Vietnamese army against the French expeditionary corps in 1954 lasted 56 days. A museum, bunkers, battle grounds and the expansive cemetery commemorate the battle.

HAI PHONG: (105 km from Hanoi)

Hai Phong is north Vietnam’s largest sea port city, about 105 km east of Hanoi and definitely deserves a 2 nights stay during which to explore Cat Ba National park and adjoining Halong Bay as well as the rural villages surrounding the city on bicycle.

The town itself consists of wide, tree-lines avenues, parks, French colonial-style building as well as narrow winding streets with open air fresh markets selling fruits, vegetables, flowers and household goods. Hai Phong also to offer several interesting cultural highlights: picturesque Du Hang Pagoda (also known under the name of Phuc Lam Pagoda) and Hang Kenh Communal House with exquisite woodcarvings. Roughly 22 km southeast of Haiphong lies Doson Beach and the former summer residence of the last ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty, Bao Dai. The nicely restored villa is built on a hill and offers great views of the sea and wooded hill. Close by there is the one and only casino in Vietnam, a joint-venture between Hong Kong and Vietnam.

HALONG BAY: (165 km from Hanoi)

Located in the North of Vietnam’s East Sea, 165 km east from Hanoi. Halong Bay is one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions and was listed by UNESCO a World Natural Heritage, an area of outstanding nature beauty.

Halong Bay covers an area of 1.500 square kilometers. Among many pleasant beaches, along its winding coast line is Bai Chay in Halong City and the peaceful coves of Cat Ba Island. The marine reserve in the bay is flourishing and offers great potential for kayaking.

The bay is the filled with thousands of islets of all shapes and sizes. A wide variety of birds and animals including bantams, monkeys and iguanas live on the islands. Pearl and coral is also exploited in some areas. With its spectacular beauty, Halong Bay is a wonderful destination. Tourists who visit Halong Bay at any time of the year are always enthralled.

HANOI: (The capital of Vietnam)

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is located in the Red River Delta in the center of North Vietnam. It is the political, economic, cultural, commercial, and tourist center of the country. It was founded in 1010 AD during the reign of King Ly Cong Uan.

Many ancient architectural features are still preserved in Hanoi, particularly in the fascinating warren of streets know as the Old Quarter. There are over 600 pagodas, numerous lakes and parks, where local tend together on weekends and in the evenings. The most notable lakes are fabled Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of the City, and the vast expanse of West Lake. Popular sights include Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One-Pillar Pagoda, Ngoc Son Temple and Vietnam’s first University, the Temple of Literature

HO CHI MINH CITY: (1,724 km from Hanoi)

Formerly known as Saigon, todays Ho Chi Minh City is the bustling and vibrating economic center of the South. Over the past few centuries, Saigon was called the “Pearl of the Far East” and was an important trading center for the Chinese, Japanese and Western Merchants who traveled the Saigon River.

HOA BINH: (74km from Hanoi)

Hoa Binh is a mountainous province located in the North, the culture of Hoa Binh combines six minorities with their own languages, traditional literature, and festivals. Tourists especially enjoy the minority specialty dishes including rice cooked in bamboo and grilled meat, also enjoy watching traditional dancing, music performances (bronze, drums, gongs), and Thai minority singing and dancing.

HOI AN: (30 km from Danang)

The ancient town of Hoi An, lies on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Hoi An was one of the major trading centers of Southeast Asia in the 16th Century, and was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. Hoi an has a distinctive Chinese atmosphere with low, tired-roof houses and narrow streets. The house were constructed of rare timbers and decorated with lacquer panels engraved with Chinese characters. Visitors enjoy the beautiful scenery of the romantic Thu Bon River, Cua Dai Beach, and Cham Islands.

HUE: (658 km from Hanoi)

Founded as a Royal City in 1687, the original citadel city of Phu Xuan was built on the site of present day Hue, the gateway to the treasures of Vietnam’s royal past. The city served as Vietnam’s political capital from1802 to 1945 under the 13 emperor of the Nguyen dynasty and was a major center of Vietnamese culture, region and education. This small and quiet city is justly famed for the magnificent architecture of its citadels palaces royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen dynasty in an elegant verdant setting on the banks of perfume River. UNESCO has labeled Hue “a beautiful architectural poem”.

LONG HAI: (125 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

It is only 2 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Be there, you will have time and opportunity to enjoy the best beach resort concept in Vietnam with its character, courtesy, calm, charm and cuisine, its unrivalled environment and its micro climate. You may be amazed by palm trees, white sand at east end of Long Hai.

MAI CHAU: (150 km from Hanoi)

Located in Hoa Binh Province, 70 km from Hoa Binh town. From the top of Mountain there is a superb panorama of the stilt house of Mai Chau sitting in a fertile green valley. The area is home to several ethnic minorities, particularly the White Thai ethnic group. Their traditional stilt houses are large structures with palm leaf roofs and polished bamboo floors. The Sunday market brings lots of people into town. People from different minorities is living in the mountains nearby come to sell such products as honey, bananas, corn and tho cam weaving.

MY SON: (70 km from Danang)

My Son has been the imperial city of the Champa Empire from the 4th to the 12th centuries. It is the large complex of religious ruins comprising more than 70 architectural remains, including temples and towers with distinctive red brick designs. UNESCO labeled the Cham architecture in My Son as a World Cultural Heritage Site in1999.

NHA TRANG: (447 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

The 7 km long white sandy beach of Nha Trang is known as Vietnam’s Mediterranean coast. It is sunny all year round, with an average temperature of 20oC. Nha Trang has less rainfall than any where else in the country as the Truong Son Mountains Ca Pass protects it from storms. The magnificent storms. The magnificent coral seabed in Nha Trang makes it ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling from March to September.

NINH BINH: (100km from Hanoi)

Ninh Binh is a small town about 100km south of Hanoi, which is surrounded by a number of most interesting sites. Hoa Lu was the first capital of the independent Vietnam, under the Dinh dynasty and the early Le Dynasty (968-1009). There are two sanctuaries, each of them devoted to the emperors of one of these two dynasties. They are set into a landscape of Limestone Mountains reminiscent of some the better known sites of South China. In Tam Coc or better known as Dry Halong Bay, you can take a boat tour on a river which tunnels several times into the same type of mountains. The river is actually used by local villagers to access their rice fields. The nearby Ken Ga canal provides the opportunity to observe river life in the North, and contrast it with what one can see in the Mekong Delta. The whole area was an important center of Catholicism, and you will be surprised to see churches among the rice fields. Phat Diem has a vast cathedral which has a unique Sino-Vietnamese architecture.

PHAN THIET: (197 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

Phan Thiet is built along both banks of the Phan Thiet River and the Muong Man River. Mui Ne beach, famous for its sand dunes, is 20 km east of Phan Thiet fishing at the tip of Mui Ne Peninsula. In addition a18-hole golf course is nearby which is considered by pros as one of the best in Vietnam.

PHU QUOC: (1hr. flight from Ho Chi Minh City)

This 16-island archipelago lies around 40 kilometers west of Ha Tien in the Gulf of Thailand. The major island, Phu Quoc, is 48 kilometers long and covers an area of 1,320 square kilometers. Phu Quoc Island boasts lush tropical forest and mountain zones. The island is perfect for tourists with its unspoiled beaches. There are many activities to take advantage of including swimming, snorkeling, and fishing.

QUI NHON: (250 km from Danang)

Qui Nhon is located on the East Sea coast and a growing commercial and industrial center that produces textiles, processed food, and seafood. Its small fishing port was dredged and improved by the United States military in 1965 and again by the Vietnamese government in 1977. Ruins of the ancient Cham center of Cha Ban are nearby. Qui Nhon is getting more popular as beach break destination with daily flight from/to Ho Chi Minh City.

SAPA: (380 km from Hanoi)

Located 1,500 m above sea level, Sapa lies in Hoang Lien Son Mountains northwest of Hanoi. Sapa has an amazing diversity of flora and fruits. Mount Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina at 3,134 m, is covered with clouds all year round and temperatures often drop below zero, especially at high elevation for tourists are the various ethnic minorities in their colorful customs, who visit the local weekend markets on foot or on horseback.

VINH LONG: (120 km from Ho Chi Minh City)

Vinh Long is the riverside town located in the Mekong Delta. Visitors can view the area with a boat ride on the Co Chien River, which flows through this provincial capital of explore the central market, “Cho Vinh Long”, as well as the nearby Khmer temple of Chau Thanh. The beautiful Bonsai Garden is another nature site not to be missed.

VUNG TAU: (110 km from Ho Chi Minh)

Vung Tau is an old port town 115 kilometers southeast of Ho Chi Minh City developed under the French as a seaside resort called Cap Saint Jacques. It served as a recreation center for French officers, and later for Australian and American troops on R & R during the Vietnam War. Today it is a popular seaside resort town for wealthy Vietnamese.

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