Vietnam in Brief
Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Its neighboring countries are China to the north 1,281 kilometers, Laos 2,130 kilometers and Cambodia to the west 1,228 kilometers. With a total area of 329,560 square kilometers, excluding the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands. The combined length of the country's land boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi), and its coastline is 3,444 km (2,140 mi) long. The land is mostly hilly and densely forested, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the country's land area, and tropical forests cover around 42%.
The time in Vietnam is +7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +7). Please view the time in Vietnam as the link provided. http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/city.html?n=218
The South has three somewhat distinct seasons: hot and dry from March to May/June; rainy from June/July to November; and cool and dry from December to February. April is the hottest month, with mid-day temperatures of 33°C (91°F) or most days. During the rainy season, downpours can happen every afternoon, and occasional street flooding occurs. Temperatures range from stifling hot before a rainstorm to pleasantly cool afterward. Mosquitoes are most numerous in the rainy season. December to February is the most pleasant time to visit, with cool evenings down to around 20°C (68°F).
The North has four distinct seasons, with a comparatively chilly winter (temperatures can dip below 15°C/59°F in Hanoi), a hot and wet summer and pleasant spring (March-April) and autumn (October-December) seasons. However, in the Highlands both extremes are amplified, with occasional snow in the winter and temperatures hitting 40°C (104°F) in the summer.
In the Central regions, the Hai Van pass separates two different weather patterns of the North starting in Langco (which is hotter in summer and cooler in winter) from the milder conditions South starting in Danang. North East Monsoon conditions September - February with often strong winds, large sea swells and rain make this a miserable and difficult time to travel through Central Vietnam. Normally summers are hot and dry.
The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Independence was declared after World War II, but the French continued to rule until 1954 when they were defeated by Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh, who took control of the North. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South. Despite the return of peace, for over two decades the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies. Since 2001, Vietnamese authorities have committed to economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The country continues to experience protests from the Montagnard ethnic minority population of the Central Highlands over loss of land to Vietnamese settlers and religious persecution.
The population of Vietnam as standing at approximately 85.8 million, of which the Viet or Kinh, though there is a sizable ethnic Chinese community in Ho Chi Minh City, most who are descended from migrants from Guangdong province and are hence bilingual in Cantonese or other Chinese dialects and Vietnamese. There are also numerous other ethnic groups who occupy the mountainous parts of the country, such as the Hmong, Muong and Dao people. There’s also a minority ethnic group in the lowlands near the border with Cambodia known as the Khmer Krom. Estimate the percent of Kinh (Viet) 85.7%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.8%, Muong 1.5%, Khmer 1.5%, Mong 1.2%, Nung 1.1%, others 5.3%.
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of Vietnamese people (Kinh), and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language or a first language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam. Much of Vietnamese vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese, and it was formerly written using the Chinese writing system, albeit in a modified format and was given vernacular pronunciation. As a byproduct of French colonial rule, the language displays some influence from French, and the Vietnamese writing system in use today is an adapted version of the Latin alphabet, with additional diacritics for tones and certain letters.
Buddhism is the single largest religion in Vietnam, with over 85% of Vietnamese people identifying themselves as Buddhist. Catholicism is the second largest religion with 8%, followed by the local Cao Dai religion. Other Christian denominations, Islam, and local religions also share small followings throughout the southern and central areas.
The unit of Vietnamese currency is the Dong (VND). The most common bills available are the 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, and 500,000 notes. There are no coins. One US dollar equals 20,935.00 dong (Present Exchange Rate). Banks accept travellers' checks with a 1% bank fee and credit cards with a 3% -4% bank charges.
Vietnam is a country full of photographic opportunities. The landscape is diverse and includes a very long and beautiful coastline, karstic rock formations, and mountains. Because Vietnam is just doing its first steps in the modern world.
Do not photograph anything which might be military sensitive, or police doing their duty if you don't want to risk your film confiscated. Once in the mountains I was photographing scenery, and a plain clothes policeman came and harassed me, claiming that I was photographing a bridge.