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Vietnam  

Strung on a network of rivers between the mountains and the sea, Vietnam is a landscape of moody alpine fogs hovering over thatch-roofed villages nestled in forests of rain. Vast expanses of reflective paddy fields posturing rice stands through which gentle breezes eddy. Lacework deltas fretted with canals carrying fertile mud recently arrived from China, and boiling white beaches guarded by island sentinels.

Life forms evolved upon this land to husband the wealth of resources its nature provided. This social mirroring of the natural surroundings extended even into city life.

"Hanoi" means the "inside of the river" and the name "Saigon" may have been derived from "cay gon" which refers to the poles sunk in the alluvial mud upon which the houses were built.

Placed amongst a mosaic of lakes, Hanoi, the capital, still retains the red-tile-roofed French provincial ambience of years gone by amidst the surging urbane energy of a modern metropolis fused to a thousand-year history of Chinese cultural influence. A city to stroll in, to gawk at its market offerings, munch tropical fruits, sip delicate teas, Hanoi also has places to ponder ancient verities: the Temple of Literature, the One-Pillar Pagoda, the Lake of the Restored Sword.

Saigon, on the other hand, commercial hub of the south spun along mangrove riverbanks, threatens to become a financial lightning rod. Once an Asian Venice, its main thoroughfares are now boulevards of filled-in canals wiring between traffic rotaries to form interconnected molecules of enterprise.

From Chinese Cholon to very Vietnamese Dakao, each sector of the city sports its unique flavor, its characteristic foods, its particular pace -- all, however, displaying little school girls, office clerks, business women adorned in the traditional national dress, the "ao dai" of silk over-tunic and pantaloons, lending an air of unhurried grace to the frenetic activity.

The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells Vietnam offers may be diverse, but strung as these are between the mountains and the sea, they present a unified gestalt held together by the cultural landscape reflecting the soil upon which it is borne.

Capital City: Hanoi

Language Description: Vietnamese (official), French, English, Chinese.

Overview: The easiest way to obtain local currency is through ATMs, which are found throughout Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. If you need to change currency, you'll get the best rates at gold stores along Hang Gai Street in Hanoi. Banks and better hotels also offer exchange services (but the rates won't be as favorable). Avoid changing money on the street. Credit cards can be used in most locations, but travelers' checks are only accepted at banks.

Passport/Visa U.S.: Passports and visas are needed by citizens of Canada and the U.S. When leaving, expect to pay a US$14 departure tax at the airport and make sure you still have the yellow customs declaration form that was given to you when you arrived in the country. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.

Population: 83,245,175

Religion: Buddhist, Christian (Roman Catholic), Taoist.

Telephone Codes: 84, country code; 4, Hanoi city code; 8, Ho Chi Minh City code

Time Zone: 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+7 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed

Tipping Overview: Tipping is a relatively new thing in Vietnam, and to date, it's more commonly seen in the southern part of the country. Gratuities usually aren't necessary in inexpensive restaurants, but upscale places will often tack on a 5% service charge. Tips for taxi drivers are purely optional (and most appreciated, however small).

Voltage Requirements: 220 volts

 (Discovery Indochina Co, Ltd., International Travel  & Tour Operator
 License # 0404/05 -TCDL -GVLHQT  by Vietnam National Administration of Tourism )


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Discovery Indochina Co.,Ltd
63A Cuabac str., Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: (+844) 37 164 132, Fax: (+844) 37 164 133
Email:
info@discoveryindochina.com
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