Vietnam might have become known worldwide during the war with the United States. However, there's much more to this enthralling Southeast Asian country than a chapter of its history. With crystal clear waters, limestone islands, and exotic food, Vietnam has become a top travel destination for people everywhere.
Traveling to Vietnam can change your perspective about many things. It is a brave country with a fascinating history. From Vietnam's top attractions like Halong Bay to the Buddhist temples, from the pagodas to the islands and caves, from the chilled-out beaches to the widely known rice terraces, Vietnam does not disappoint.
A Glance at Vietnam's History
Over two thousand years ago, people in the northern region of Vietnam began growing rice, in the Red River Valley and eventually the kingdom of Van Lang was formed. The Chinese took over the region and ruled for more than a thousand years establishing a palpable influence in Vietnamese culture. While the north was under Chinese rule, the south was dominated by the Indians.
No culture on the planet has ever appreciated forced dominance and the Vietnamese to the north despised Chinese ruling. In 40 AD, the Trung sisters led a rebellion and claim independence. The Chinese killed the sisters and remained in power until the tenth century. At the end of the first millennium, Ngo Quyen fought the Chinese and set North Vietnam free.
During the 13th century, Vietnam was invaded by the Mongols on three occasions. Tran Hung defeated them in 1288 at Bach Dang River. China was not at ease and returned to the north of the country in the 14th century. Vietnam resisted and Le Loi managed to drive them out in 1428, he was made Emperor, making the state of Champa essential. The Le dynasty declined in the early 16th century and two major families fought with each other to keep control of the country. The Trinh ruled the north, while the south was under the Nguyen. After a series of battles and toward the end of the 17th century, Nguyen took over the Trinh's empire. Under Nguyen, Vietnam grew in strength and became a great kingdom.
Western invasion could not be avoided and the first Europeans to arrive were the Portuguese, in 1516. In the late 19th century, Vietnam was colonized by the French who started by taking over Saigon. Though the French built railways, roads, and bridges they had high taxation and the Vietnamese wanted independence. The communists spread that message throughout the country. Ho Chi Minh created the Revolutionary Youth League, which later became an official political party. During WWII Japanese troops occupied Indochina (some shared history can also be found in the Cambodia Travel Guide) but surrendered August on 1945.
Vietcong and the US
After WWII, Vietnam had a long struggle to get rid of the French and it was not until 1954 that they surrendered. The north was ruled by Ho Chi Minh while the south had Ngo Dinh Diem as a leader. In 1959 North Vietnamese started a guerrilla, Vietcong, with the purpose of unifying the country under a communist regime. The USA became involved in 1950, sending military advisers to the south of the country. In 1964 the US bombed the north and by the end of 67, there were almost half a million American soldiers on Vietnamese soil. The US military started withdrawing and they left fully by 1973 after a cease-fire agreement.
South Vietnam keep on fighting the Vietcong and in 1975 the guerrillas captured Saigon and the entire country was now under communist rule. At the end of the 70s, the Khmer Rouge attacked Vietnam and in returned, Vietnamese occupied Cambodia until 1989. The government introduced market reforms and its economy began to grow. The USA lifted their economic embargo in 1994.
Today, if you visit Vietnam you can head to the War Remnants Museum, a top attraction in Ho Chi Minh City, where you can learn more about the atrocities that occurred during the war and the impact it had on civilians. In any case, traveling to Vietnam offers great opportunities for discovery. What are you waiting for?
Vietnam Basic Information
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When to Go
Vietnam is a popular destination during westerner’s summer holidays. However, we’ve decided to break down Vietnam’s weather and share it with you below.
- Low Season: Between April and June and September through November. The low season might actually be the best season to go to Vietnam. Though, the central and northern coastal areas of Vietnam tend to be hit by typhoons in the second half of the year.
- Shoulder Season: From December to March, the shoulder season brings in a lot of people. The Tet Festival takes place and the whole country participates, increasing prices during this period. In the north, the weather is actually colder. The south features sunshine and its rain-free.
- High Season: as it is in many other Asian countries, high season is July and August. Prices rise up to 50 percent in coastal destinations. With the exception of the northern area, the entire country is hot and humid. Monsoons are expected too.
Vietnam is a good destination for:
Vietnam Entry Requirements
Traveling to Vietnam can be an incredible experience. But before you pack your bags and head to your nearest airport, there are a few things you should know about entry requirements in Vietnam. Crossing the border in Vietnam and Laos can take a long time.
If you enter Vietnam through an airport, the process tends to be smoother than when you enter by land, specifically isolated borders.
Your passport must be valid for sixth months from the date of arrival. Many nationalities must request an e-visa in advance to enter the country. For most nationalities, the standard tourist visa is for a 30-day period. Countries exempt from a visa get 15 days.
Customs allows you to enter with up to 400 cigarettes, 1.5 liters of spirit. You must declare your money if you are traveling with a large sum of foreign currency.
Vietnam Country Atractions
Visiting Vietnam might be a dream come true for many travelers. It is an alluring country with breathtaking sights, unique caves, and rich street food. Here, we list our top attractions in Vietnam.
- Tan Ky House: located in Hoi An, this gorgeous house was built by a Vietnamese family two centuries ago. The house has been preserved by seven generations and features Chinese and Japanese architectural influences. Visitors will be in awe of the details and poems that decorate this beautiful building.
- Halong Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage site, Halong Bay is made up of limestone islands spread throughout the Gulf of Tonkin. Take a boat to explore this area and head to some of the caves, like Hung Sung Sot with stalagmites and stalactites.
- Hang Song Doong: this cave is the world’s largest and it is located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Hands down, the most incredible sight in Southeast Asia. Bear in mind that there’s limited access and you must book a seven-day expedition with about sixteen stops. Once you get there you will witness stalagmites as 80 meters high, cave pearls and rimstone pools.
- Ho Chi Minh City: this is Vietnam’s commercial hub. Streets are crowded with motorbikes, cars, and people. You can eat at cosmopolitan restaurants or from street vendors, and more importantly, you can find a wide range of products and shop instantly.
- Hue: This ancient town sits along the banks of Perfume River. When visiting Hue you will be able to see the heritage left by the Nguyen emperors. There’s plenty to see, we recommend you enter the Thai Hoa Palace and the Dien Tho Residence, home to the queen mothers.
- Giac Lam Pagoda: surrounded by gardens, this temple was a gift from a Sri Lankan monk to the city in 1953. The Buddhist temple is a pilgrimage site for the sick and the elderly and when the temple’s bronze bell its rung, it is believed to answer a petitioner’s prayers.
We would like to share some travel wisdom that can help you when visiting Vietnam. The most important thing when you travel do is to be safe, open and respectful of the country’s tradition and people.
- Try the street food and save money while you’re at it. Vietnamese food is divine and you definitely can’t go wrong with the heavenly Bahn mi (meat sandwiches). There’s, of course, Vietnam’s traditional soup, the Pho. Give it a try!
- The tourist bus is your friend. Yes, the tourist bus around the country is a money saving tip we’d like you to take to heart. The bus is cheaper than taking public transportation and it will take you to the top attractions.
- Don’t be ashamed of bargaining. Though not ideal, it is possible that some tourists get charged more than locals for the same products or activities. Feel comfortable and bargain if you feel that the price is way too high.
- Check with your hotel or hostel staff on the prices of activities and museums in the area. This can give you an idea of how much things should cost and you will be prepared to negotiate a fairer price.
- While in some Asian countries it’s a smart move to get a SIM card to stay connected, you will not need this when you’re Vietnam. The country has WiFi everywhere: shops, restaurants, and hotels offer it for free.
- Flying is cheap. Vietnam’s VietJet and FlyVietnam are two great low-cost airlines that can help you move from one region to another. Check out their prices online.
- Make sure you visit the rice terraces, though it is a stereotype of Asian countries, they are genuinely worth seeing.