NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Hanoi
Population: 84 million
Area: 127,000 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 84
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Dec 30, 2008:
1 Vietnam Dong = $0.00 US Calculate Other Amounts
Vietnam requires visas for citizens of the United States. Go to www.vietnamembassy-usa.org for more information.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
Experiences of the Vietnam War dominate the books and movies about this land. The horrors of war come into full relief in films such as Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and Full Metal Jacket. Stanley Karnow provides an excellent literary overview in Vietnam: A History. For a more scholarly perspective, consult America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950–1975, by George Herring. The Vietnam of today is far removed from that period, however. Karin Muller's Hitchhiking Vietnam is a fascinating account of traversing 6,400 miles of this country in a period of seven months.
The cuisine of Vietnam—unlike that of its curry-heavy Southeast Asian neighbors—is centered around light, fresh ingredients. Heaps of rice are served at most meals, alongside seared pork or rare fish with lots of fresh herbs and seasonings like mint, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, chili pepper, and fish sauce. The most famous Vietnamese dish is summer rolls, variously known as cha gio, nem ran, or just plain nem. Another dish you'll find everywhere in Vietnam is pho, a clear noodle soup eaten throughout the day. The French colonists may be long gone, but the crusty French bread and espresso they brought remain on every street corner.
Vietnam is still a poor nation. This means that everything is cheap, but that there isn't much to buy. Local specialties like lacquer painting, reed mats, furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and hand-spun silk are exceptions, being both abundant and exquisite. For an inexpensive gift to amuse your friends or children, buy one of the ubiquitous conical straw hats. Or keep it for yourself—they're great for providing full-head shade, no matter how silly they look.
Most better restaurants and hotels now add a service charge of five to ten percent to their bills, but a further five percent will get you bows. Tipping is not generally expected in other settings, but any small change is always appreciated.
Did You Know?
Many Westerners don't realize that since the end of what we know as "The Vietnam War," this country has engaged in two other wars—one with Cambodia and another with China.
January: 1, New Year's Day
February: 3, Founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party
April: 30, Liberation of Saigon
May: 1, Labor Day; 19, Birthday of Ho Chi Minh
September: 2, National Day
December: 25, Christmas Day
Spring: Birthday of the Buddha