Vietnam “the true hell on earth,” this
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A trip to Vietnam would not be complete without visiting historical sites which reflect a dark side of the country heavily affected by war for centuries. This list picks up se
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Con Dao Prison Complex
For 42 years since the prisons of Con Dao were shut down, horrific memories still cast a forbidding shadow over this quiet town. Known as “the true hell on earth,” this used to be home to tens of thousands of Vietnamese prisoners who suffered and died at the hands of French colonials at first and later the US-backed South Vietnamese government between 1863 and 1975. Fettered and contorted mannequins bring the bone-chilling experience to reality.
Hoa Lo Prison
While historical museums in Hanoi are mostly rather propagandist and perhaps superficial, Hoa Lo Prison can be a good fit to catch up on the city’s back story. Despite many modern restorations, it offers a real sense of the past. Head to the gloomy rooms to see erstwhile prison cells which witnessed the incarceration of the US pilots, including Senator John McCain and more importantly, the ghastliness and barbarity that many Vietnamese nationalist leaders and revolutionaries suffered during the French colony.
Khai Dinh Tomb
Among plenty of royal tombs in Hu, the Vietnam’s former capital, Khai Dinh’s tomb sets itself apart from other Nguyen Dynasty tombs with an appealing fusion of Asian and European touches. Constructed over 11 years, the tomb is more like a monument of his excessive wealth which stayed true to his reputation as a puppet of the French colonial government.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels, a complex network of underground tunnels were firstly built in the late 1940s during the French colonial period and later were expanded in the early 1960s when the US escalated its military presence in South Vietnam to support a non-Communist regime. Read more about Cu Chi Tunnels here to understand their significant role in the country’s war history.
My Son Cham Ruins
My Son sanctuary which houses Vietnam’s most extensive Cham ruins once served as the religious and political centre of the kingdom of Champa for centuries. The fact that it is constantly compared with Angkor Wat of the Khmer kingdom may cause the misleading impression of the natural beauty of My Son Cham ruins. The temples were discovered by the French archaeologists in the late 19th century but later suffered from a heavy destruction from the US bombs.
War Remnants Museum
War Remnants Museum
It would be a crime to travel to Vietnam without visiting the War Remnants Museum which was formerly known as the Chinese and American War Crimes. Despite being heavily packed with one-sided information, it still reflects important stories about the gruesome effects of war on the country, some of which came from US sources.
War Remnants Museum | © trungydang/Wiki Commons | © trungydang / WikiCommonsMORE INFO
Long Tan Cross Memorial
The Long Tan Cross is a memorial site commemorating the battle of Long Tan where more than 500 Australian soldiers died during the Vietnam War. Australia’s wartime presence in Vietnam marked its longest, deadliest and most controversial war and a decisive victory over about 2000 Viet Cong soldiers and the Communist force. The Australia’s support for the Vietnam War also reflected its relationship with the US as an ally, troops sent upon the request from Ngo Dinh Diem, leader of the US-backed government in South Vietnam. This is one of the only two memorials to foreign military forces permitted in Vietnam.
The Memorial Cross in the Long Tan Rubber Plantation | © Tacintop/Wiki CommonsHue Imperial Citadel
Compared to Beijing’s Forbidden City, Hue Imperial Citadel was first constructed in 1804, home to the Nguyen Dynasty – Vietnam’s last royal dynasty for 143 years. The complex of the Emperor’s residence, gates, temples, and pagodas was severely damaged under the French rule and during the Vietnam War, and only 20 out of 148 buildings survived.
Cannon Fort was first installed by the Japanese in Cat Ba, its military outpost during the World War II, and later used by the French during the Indochina War and finally the Communist force during the Vietnam War to defend the city of Haiphong. The underground tunnels and trenches are well worth a visit not only because of its crucial role in the country’s war victory but also because of its amazing panoramic views overlooking the Cat Ba Island’s hill and sea landscape.
Vinh Moc Tunnels
While Cu Chi Tunnels mainly served the military purposes for Viet Cong guerrilla, the impressive network of Vinh Moc underground tunnels, built between 1966 and 1967, were used as bomb shelters for civilians. 300 people sought protection from the US bombing, living and working in the three-level tunnels for six years.
Main culture group
The Viet Ethnic Group
Vietnamese Ethnic GroupsOther name: KinhLanguage: The Viet have their own language and writing system. Vietnamese belongs to the Viet-Muong language group (of the Austroasiatic language family).History: Since ancient times, the ancestors of the Viet had settled in Northern and central Vietnam. Throughout their history, the Viet have played an important of drawing together and uniting all the other ethnic groups to build up and to protect the nation.Production activities: Viet agricultural is based on wet rice cultivation, and was developed very early. Through many, many generations of working in the rice fields, the Viet’s ancestors summarized all the experience of what needed for a crop to be successful in just couple of profound words” First water, second fertilizer, third hard work, fourth good seeds.” The grand system of dikes and dams which the Viet have today served as eloquent proof of their forefather’s persistent spirit in conquering hardships to live and to produce. Raising pigs, poultry, birds, and fishing are also fairly developed among the especially precious animal to the farmer. The Viet are renown in producing a wide variety of handicrafts. More than few handicraft villages have parted from the work of farming. Village markets, fairs, and district markets are very busy. Today, metropolitan areas and industrial sites are developing more and more as the nation industrialized and modernized.Diet: “Rice, green tea” are said to form the basic everyday food and drink of the Viet people. Sticky rice is only used in festivals occasions. Fish, vegetable or crab soups often appear as part of the daily meals. The Viet are especially fond of eating sauces made from shrimp, fish and crab, and pickles made from green onions, mustard greens, egg-plant, etc. Sweet soya sauce and other spices like chili, garlic, and ginger are popular. Alcohol is consumed at parties and festival occasions. In the past, eating betel nuts, and smoking tobacco by water pipes were popular, but were also part of Viet customs and rituals.Clothing: In the olden days, a Viet man used to wear chan que trousers ( a kind of wide-legged pants that looked like a skirt), with a brown shirt (in the North) or a black shirt (in the South). Traditionally, the Viet did not wear shoes. On special occasions white trousers, a long black shirt, pleated ready-to-wear turban, and wooden sandals were worn. Viet women traditionally black skirts and brown blouses. In the North, they wore black scarves. On festivals occasions, Viet women wore the traditional ao dai, which have remained popular today. In the winter, both men and women wore double layer cotton jackets. Dresses for different ages were distinguished not by style, but usually by different colors and sizes. The quality of textiles distinguished the clothing of the wealthy from those who were less affluent. Only the wealthy wore jewelry.At the beginning of the century, Viet men in rural areas were seen to wear only loincloths.Lifestyle: The Viet usually live in one story houses. Their houses were combinations of living quarters-yards-gardens-ponds. The main house used to have from three to five rooms with the middle one being the most important, where the ancestor’s altars were placed. Other areas were places where all family activities and relaxation took place. There were always little wings where the women slept and where foods and family possessions were kept. Kitchens were located nest to pigsties. In many Southern provinces, kitchens were built nest to the main living quarters. Yards, used for drying things, family activities, as well as for relaxing, are well suited to the region’s humid, tropical climate.Transportation: The Viet transport their goods by road and water, using a variety of methods: – By road: carrying a basket or things on the shoulder using different kinds of carrying poles, such as ganh quang, ganh cap, don ganh, don soc and don can, etc.; carrying items using a stick or don khieng; carrying by a stretcher of mat sacks and sackcloth, pack-saddling goods using bicycles, pull carts, buffalo and ox carts. – By water: using boats, rafts, floats, canoes and ships. Each of these means has different shapes, sizes, materials and devices.Social organization: The majority of the Viet live in villages. Several villages form a commute district. Many of these communes are actually part of one big village, and smaller villagers may just be split from the main village. There are different hamlets in a village, some are bigger than others. Before the Revolution system-fairly efficient self-ruled, the ruler’s group was called Phe Giap. They united the villagers to take care of all the village’s affairs from managing labors to matters of etiquette to worshiping village’s founders. Handcraft villages organized guilds for each profession. Within a village, the segregation between villagers and outsiders was outlined in its charter. A village’s traditions and customs were highly regarded and every one followed them conscientiously.Family: Viet families are mostly small, with two generations living together in a patriarchal system. Nevertheless, women still play an important role in managing the family’s economy.The Viet have numerous family names, and some of the most popular one are Nguyen, Tran, Le, Pham, Vu…, which can be seen everywhere. Each family clan has its own worshiping house. There are many of shoots in a family clan, and there are many branches in an offshoot. Each of these branches includes grandparents, parents, sisters, and brothers. Relations from the father’s side are well-kept from generation to generation. Relatives are close and loving to each other.Marriage: Loyalty in love is of utmost importance to the Viet. Under feudal rules, parents chose wives and husbands for their children. Nowadays, young men and women are free to choose their life partners. These are the traditional steps which a young Viet couples goes through to become husband and wife:– Proposing: The groom’s family asks a matchmaker to go to the future bride’s family to propose the marriage.– Engagement: The groom’s family buys offerings and gifts to bring the bride’s house for official talks with her parents and relatives.– Wedding: The ancestors are worshipped, gifted are presented to families, relatives and friends of both sides, and the groom comes to take the bride to his home.– Revisiting: The newly-wed couple revisits the bride’s family. It is only upon completion of all of the above elaborated rituals, and the legal registration, that the young couple then becomes husband and wife.Funerals: Viet funerals are very solemn, highly ritualized, and include all these steps: shrouding, putting the body in the coffin, saying farewell, lowering the coffin into a grave, food offerings, weekly ritual sacrifices, one hundred days’ ritual, exhumation, etc…Every “Pure Light” day, every Chinese New Year, and every death anniversary, each family visits their loved ones at the grave. The Viet regard exhumation as a very sacred ritual.New House: There is a popular sentence: “marry a kind wife, build your house facing south.” House that faces the South will be warm in the winter, cool in the summer. When building a new house, besides choosing the right direction, the owner’s age has to be examined to pick out a good date to start construction. Once construction is completed, a good date needs to be selected again to bringing ancestors to the new house, and to celebrate the new house.Beliefs: The worshipping of ancestors is the most important practice of the Viet. They usually place the ancestral altar in the grandest place in the house. Rituals are held for every festival occasion, every full moon, and the first day of the lunar month etc. The custom of worshipping the House God and Kitchen God are popular as well. More than a few families worship Buddha and the God of Wealth at home. In every village, there are temples for the founder; pagodas for Buddha, places to worship Confucius, etc…There are sections of the population in both rural and urban areas whom are Catholics, Christian, Caodist, etc…Festivals: The Chinese or lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year, followed by many spring festivals. There are other festival occasions, though, such as the first full moon of a year, day of “Pure Light”, double Five Festival (on 5th day of the 5th Lunar month), Autumn Festival, etc. Each of these has its own meanings and ceremonial rituals.Calendar: For a long time, the lunar calendar has been used in the Viet’s lives, customs, and religions. They use it to count age, count death anniversaries, count planning days for crops, count bag and good days for big occasions such as building a house, wedding, funeral, etc. Nevertheless, the Western calendar is the official one, which is used more regularly nowadays.Education: The Viet have moved from using Chinese and Vietnamese characters to the writing system used today. In the old kingdom of Thang Long (present-day Hanoi), the Ly dynasty had built the Temple of Literature, considered the first national university of Vietnam, to train intellectuals.Literature and arts: There are rich varieties of folktales and literature such as fairy-tales, folk songs, pop songs, proverb, etc, which reflect the people’s lives. They contribute profoundly to preserving the national character. Written literature had also reaped successes under the Ly and Tran Dynasties. The 15th century gave birth to talented writers such as Nguyen Trai, Nguyen Binh Khiem, House Xuan Huong, etc…Other arts like fine arts, music, and theatre are highly developed and professional.
Entertainment: The Viet have games for different ages, genders, seasons, individuals and groups. There are games that require refined enjoyment such as releasing birds, flying kites, playing chess. There are sporty and communal games like tug-of-war, swings, wrestling, and boat racing. Many games bear the nation’s history and characters such as rice cooking competitions. Children’s games are countless, and differ in each region. Spring festivals are where traditional games are most prominent
climateIn Vietnam the climate is tropical in the north, and subtropical in the centre and south, and is influenced by the monsoons: the south-west monsoon affects the country from May to October, and the northeast monsoon from October to April. The former brings heavy rains in exposed areas, therefore the north and the south, while along the central part, protected by the mountains, it brings relatively little rain and leaves often space to the sun. The north-east monsoon is generally drier, but it brings heavy rains in the early months (October-December) along the coast exposed to the east, and light but frequent rains in the north. In inland areas, there are hills and mountains, which make the climate milder in the summer months, but even cold in winter in the north. The rainfall amount is normally between 1,500 and 2,500 millimetres (60 and 98 inches) per year, while there’s a relatively small arid zone in the Phan Thiet area (north-east of Ho Chi Minh City), where it’s slightly above 1,000 mm (40 in).
In the north of Vietnam, in winter the climate is unusually cool for the latitude: we are just south of the Tropic of Cancer, yet the average temperature in January is below 20 °C (68 °F): in Hanoi the average is 17.5 °C (63.5 °F), in Vinh it’s 19 °C (64 °F), while it drops to around 14 °C (57 °F) in the northernmost areas of Tonkin, where at night the temperature can approach freezing (0 °C or 32 °F) between December and February (and sometimes in early March). Here are the average temperatures of Cao Bang, located in the north-east, a short distance from the border with China. Average temperatures – Cao Bang
Cao Bang J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 10 12 16 20 20 24 24 23 22 19 15 11
Max (°C) 18 19 23 28 31 32 32 32 31 28 24 21
Min (°F) 50 54 61 68 68 75 75 73 72 66 59 52
Max (°F) 64 66 73 82 88 90 90 90 88 82 75 70
The capital Hanoi is a little further to the south and about 90 km (55 mi) from the sea. Winter averages are a little higher, however, even here sometimes there can be very cool periods, with lows around 7/8 °C (45/46 °F), and highs around 15 °C (59 °F); more rarely, for a few days it can even be cold, with highs around 10 °C (50 °F). Here are the average temperatures. Average temperatures – Hanoi
Hanoi J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 15 16 19 22 25 27 27 26 26 23 20 16
Max (°C) 20 21 23 28 32 33 33 33 32 29 26 22
Min (°F) 59 61 66 72 77 81 81 79 79 73 68 61
Max (°F) 68 70 73 82 90 91 91 91 90 84 79 72
Although the winter monsoon is originally dry, because it comes from the Asian continent, the clash with the mild and moist air of the Gulf of Tonkin generates a compact cloudiness, and light but frequent rains. Therefore, during winter there is little sunshine in Hanoi, and although the temperature in itself would be spring-like, a stay is not so pleasant. Here are the sunshine hours per day in Hanoi: as you can see, it is a dull city, because even in summer the sun does not shine very often, due to the summer monsoon. There are about 1,450 hours of sunshine per year. Sunshine – Hanoi
Hanoi J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sun (hours) 2 2 1 3 5 5 6 5 5 5 4 4
In spring, in northern Vietnam the temperature gradually rises, and the sun comes out every so often in April, but then from May to October it’s the rainy season, and the weather becomes hot and humid, with downpours in the afternoon or evening. In Hanoi, the wettest months are July and August, with about 300 mm (12 in) of rain per month. The maximum temperature is around 33 °C (91 °F), but the humidity makes the heat annoying, and sometimes it can even reach 37/38 °C (99/100 °F), with peaks of 39/40 °C (102/104 °F) in May and June. In October and November, when the monsoon withdraws, there is another period which is quite pleasant, before the return of the cool and dull weather in December. Here is the average precipitation in Hanoi. Average precipitation – Hanoi
Hanoi J F M A M J J A S O N D Y
Prec. (mm) 20 25 45 90 190 240 290 320 265 130 45 25 1675
Prec.(in) 0.8 1 1.8 3.5 7.5 9.4 11.4 12.6 10.4 5.1 1.8 1 65.9
Days 8 11 15 13 14 15 16 17 14 9 7 6 145
In mountainous areas, the winter is quite cold: at 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) of altitude, the average temperature in January is around 8 °C (46.5 °F). The highest peak is Fansipan (or Phan Xi Pang), 3,143 metres (10,311 feet) high, which is covered with snow in winter. Here are the average temperatures of Sa Pa, located at 1,500 metres (5,000 feet), in the Hoàng Liên National Park, and at the base of the Fansipan. On the top of Fansipan the temperature is about 10 degrees Celsius (19 degrees Fahrenheit) less than at Sa Pa. Average temperatures – Sa Pa
Sa Pa J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 5 7 11 13 16 17 18 17 16 13 11 8
Max (°C) 11 12 18 21 23 23 23 23 22 19 17 14
Min (°F) 41 45 52 55 61 63 64 63 61 55 52 46
Max (°F) 52 54 64 70 73 73 73 73 72 66 63 57
In the northernmost part of the coast, near Hanoi, the sea is a bit cool from January to March, while it is very warm in the summer months. Anyway, in winter the cool and cloudy weather conditions which prevail in this season are not usually the best for swimming. Sea temperature – Haiphong
Haiphong J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 22 21 22 24 27 29 30 30 29 28 26 23
Sea (°F) 72 70 72 75 81 84 86 86 84 82 79 73
So the best time to visit North Vietnam and the capital Hanoi is spring, and in particular the month of April, along with autumn, between October and November, which, however, still presents the risk of typhoons (see below).
Along the coast of central Vietnam, the winter is warmer: the average temperature in January ranges from 20 °C (68 °F) in Hue, to 24 °C (75 °F) in Nha Trang. Here are the average temperatures in Da Nang. Average temperatures – Da Nang
Da Nang J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 19 20 22 23 25 26 25 26 24 23 22 19
Max (°C) 25 26 29 31 33 34 34 34 32 30 27 25
Min (°F) 66 68 72 73 77 79 77 79 75 73 72 66
Max (°F) 77 79 84 88 91 93 93 93 90 86 81 77
Besides, in the central part the summer monsoon has little effects, so that less than 100 mm (4 in) of rain per month fall until August, and the amount of sunshine remains acceptable. Here the rainy season is late, and runs from September to December, but also in January in the northern part (from Ha Tinh to Da Nang), with a maximum in October and November, when the rains can be torrential. These intense rains at the end of the year are due to the retreating monsoon, which particularly affects the part of the coast exposed to the north-east: in Hue, 500 mm (20 in) of rain fall in September, 900 mm (35 in) in October, 680 mm (26.5 in) in November, 350 mm (14 in) in December, and still 145 mm (5.5 in) in January. In Da Nang, the situation is slightly better, but the rains are still abundant from September to December. Here is the average precipitation in Da Nang. Average precipitation – Da Nang
Da Nang J F M A M J J A S O N D Y
Prec. (mm) 95 35 20 25 65 85 85 105 350 615 365 200 2045
Prec.(in) 3.7 1.4 0.8 1 2.6 3.3 3.3 4.1 13.8 24.2 14.4 7.9 80.5
Days 14 7 5 6 9 8 9 11 15 21 21 19 144
In Da Nang the sun shines more often than in Hanoi, both in winter (even though it does not go beyond 4/5 hours per day), and in summer, when it shines for a good number of hours (especially from May to July). Sunshine – Da Nang
Da Nang J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sun (hours) 4 5 6 7 8 8 8 7 6 5 5 4
In the central part of Vietnam, the sea is warm enough for swimming all year round, although it drops to 23 °C (73 °F) in February at Hue, and to 24 °C (75 °F) from January to March at Da Nang, while it never drops below 26 °C (79 °F) at Nha Trang. Sea temperature – Da Nang
Da Nang J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 24 24 24 26 28 29 30 30 29 28 27 25
Sea (°F) 75 75 75 79 82 84 86 86 84 82 81 77
Continuing south, the rainfall pattern remains more or less the same at Quang Ngai and Duc Pho, while further south precipitation drops below 2,000 mm (80 in) per year. In addition, winter temperatures gradually increase, and the likelihood of cold air coming from the north decreases. Here are the average temperatures of Qui Nhon. Average temperatures – Qui NhonQui NhonJ F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 21 21 22 24 25 25 26 26 25 24 23 20
Max (°C) 25 26 28 30 32 34 34 35 32 32 29 27
Min (°F) 70 70 72 75 77 77 79 79 77 75 73 68
Max (°F) 77 79 82 86 90 93 93 95 90 90 84 81
At Qui Nhon, 1.650 mm (65 in) of rain per year fall, and the only very rainy period goes from September to November. Here is the average precipitation of Qui Nhon. Average precipitation – Qui NhonQui NhonJ F M A M J J A S O N D Y
Prec. (mm) 55 40 40 25 55 55 70 55 245 435 435 140 1645
Prec.(in) 2.2 1.6 1.6 1 2.2 2.2 2.8 2.2 9.6 17.1 17.1 5.5 64.8
Days 4 2 2 3 4 6 6 6 12 16 17 7 85
Continuing further south, the winter temperatures become even higher, so that in fact it is warm even in this season. Here are the average temperatures of Nha Trang. Average temperatures – Nha TrangNha TrangJ F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 21 21 22 23 24 24 24 24 24 23 22 22
Max (°C) 28 29 30 32 33 33 33 33 32 30 29 28
Min (°F) 70 70 72 73 75 75 75 75 75 73 72 72
Max (°F) 82 84 86 90 91 91 91 91 90 86 84 82
In this area, where the coast begins to be exposed to the south-east, precipitation drops below 1,500 mm (60 in) per year. Here is the average precipitation in Nha Trang. Average precipitation – Nha TrangNha TrangJ F M A M J J A S O N D Y
Prec. (mm) 45 20 30 40 60 45 40 55 165 325 365 180 1365
Prec.(in) 1.8 0.8 1.2 1.6 2.4 1.8 1.6 2.2 6.5 12.8 14.4 7.1 53.7
Days 5 2 2 3 6 6 5 6 11 15 14 10 86
In Nha Trang the sun often shines for a long period, from February to August, and for a total of 2,500 hours a year. Sunshine – Nha TrangNha TrangJ F M A M J J A S O N D
Sun (hours) 6 8 8 9 8 8 8 7 7 6 5 5
To the south of this area, in the Binh Thuan province, the rains become even less abundant: in Phan Thiet just 1,150 mm (45 in) of rain per year fall, which are not very few, but they are concentrated in a few months, while for a long period it rains little, so the landscape becomes semi-arid, and in the Mui Ne area even sand dunes are found. The best time to visit this area of Vietnam, runs from February to March in the northern part, and from January to March in the southern part. April is still a dry month, but it begins to be hot, even though sea breezes blow along the coast. From May to August, the air is hot and humid, but the rains are not abundant and the sun often shines, so the situation is better than in the rest of Vietnam.
In the interior of central Vietnam, the presence of mountains makes the climate milder, in fact there are many cities located between 400 and 1,000 metres (1,300 and 3,300 feet) above sea level, which have nice and sunny winters, while summers are a bit less sultry than in the plains. Here are the average temperatures of Pleiku, located at 750 metres (2,450 ft) above sea level. Average temperatures – PleikuPleikuJ F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 15 17 19 20 21 20 21 20 20 19 18 16
Max (°C) 24 25 27 29 29 29 28 29 28 27 25 24
Min (°F) 59 63 66 68 70 68 70 68 68 66 64 61
Max (°F) 75 77 81 84 84 84 82 84 82 81 77 75
Here the monsoon rains occur in the canonical period, from May to November, with a maximum between August and October. Winter is dry, therefore you can visit this area from December to March, or even April at higher altitudes, where the heat is less intense. Here is the average precipitation. Average precipitation – PleikuPleikuJ F M A M J J A S O N D Y
Prec. (mm) 35 25 35 65 145 180 200 235 290 330 240 90 1870
Prec.(in) 1.4 1 1.4 2.6 5.7 7.1 7.9 9.3 11.4 13 9.4 3.5 73.6
Days 4 4 4 7 16 20 21 24 21 17 9 6 153
In the southern part of the country, and in the southern islands (Con Dao, Phu Quoc), the climate is hot all year round, while the rainy period returns to be, as in the north, the summer. Between November and mid-February, the maximum temperatures are around 30/32 °C (86/90 °F), then in mid-February the temperatures starts to rise, so that between March and May they reach the highest level of the year: 33/35 °C (91/95 °F) on average, but with peaks of 40 °C (104 °F), before the arrival of the monsoon. During the period of the summer monsoon, the heat is quite muggy. Here are the average temperatures of Ho Chi Minh City, near the Mekong Delta. Average temperatures – Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 21 23 24 26 25 25 24 24 24 24 23 21
Max (°C) 32 33 34 35 34 32 32 32 31 31 31 31
Min (°F) 70 73 75 79 77 77 75 75 75 75 73 70
Max (°F) 90 91 93 95 93 90 90 90 88 88 88 88
In Ho Chi Minh the rains are abundant from May to mid-November, with a maximum in September, and they amount to about 1,900 mm (76 in) per year. Here is the average precipitation. Average precipitation – Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh J F M A M J J A S O N D Y
Prec. (mm) 15 5 10 50 220 310 295 270 325 265 115 50 1930
Prec.(in) 0.6 0.2 0.4 2 8.7 12.2 11.6 10.6 12.8 10.4 4.5 2 76
Days 2 1 2 5 18 19 23 22 23 21 12 7 156
In Ho Chi Minh the amount of sunshine is good in the dry period, from December to April. Sunshine – Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sun (hours) 8 9 9 8 6 6 6 6 5 6 7 7
In southern Vietnam, the sea is warm all year round. Sea temperature – Vinh LoiVinh LoiJ F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 27 28 28 30 30 30 29 29 29 29 28 28
Sea (°F) 81 82 82 86 86 86 84 84 84 84 82 82
In southern Vietnam, the best time is from December to mid-February; March and April are still dry months, but they are uncomfortably hot; however, sea breezes blow along the coasts and in the islands.
Vietnam is located in the path of typhoons, the tropical cyclones of the western Pacific, which affect the country from the east, generally from May 20 to December 10. Vietnam, especially in the northern part, is one of the most affected countries of Southeast Asia, because cyclones hit directly the coast from the sea, when they are at their maximum strength. The area more often affected is the northern one, in particular the Gulf of Tonkin and the Red River delta. The typhoon that devastated Haiphong in early October 1881 was particularly destructive. In the north, typhoons generally occur from May 20 to mid-November, with a maximum from July to October. Typically, in July and August, typhoons only affect northern Vietnam. At the center they generally occur from the beginning of September to December 10, although in recent times, perhaps due to global warming, we had Tropical Storm Chanthu in the central part of the country in June 2004, and Tropical Storm Sonca in the north-central in July 2017. In the south they generally occur from October 15 to December 20, with a maximum in early November. In January, and again from March to mid-May, occasionally some tropical depressions can form, generally off the central-southern coast, which however almost never manage to reach the coast, but are dissipated on the sea; however, they can cause abnormal waves.
When to go
The best time to visit Vietnam as a whole is the first half of February, because it’s the only one which is neither very rainy nor very hot throughout the country, even though the north is cloudy and sometimes very cool. March and April are not bad as well, because in the north they are acceptable though not very sunny, while they are dry and sunny in the centre-south, but they are also hot in the south. December and January are dry and sunny in the centre and south, but not in the north. If you want to go in July and August, you can choose the south-central coast (from Da Nang and the Cham islands to Phan Thiet, including Nha Trang), because as we have seen it is sunny and not very rainy, and generally in this period it is also spared by typhoons.
What to pack
In winter: in the north (Hanoi), spring/autumn clothes, a jacket and a sweater, raincoat for the drizzle, hat and gloves for colder nights. In mountain peaks, warm clothes, down jacket, gloves, hat, hiking shoes. In the centre (Hue, Nha Trang), light clothes for the day, sweatshirt and scarf for the breeze, jacket and sweater for cooler evenings, raincoat or umbrella until January inclusive. For the inland south-central areas, light clothes for the day, a jacket and a sweater for the evening. For the south (Ho Chi Minh), light clothing, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening, possibly a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings. In summer: across the country, at low altitude, tropics-friendly, lightweight clothing of natural fibres, light raincoat or umbrella, a light sweatshirt for the evening; for hill altitude towns, you can add a sweatshirt and a light jacket; for the highest peaks, warm clothes, fleece, jacket, raincoat, hiking boots. For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes. Before entering pagodas, it is customary to take off shoes, dress neatly and cover a little.
Vietnam Airlines: The national flag carrier, operated 88 aircraft by the end of 2015, and plans to increase its fleet to 150 aircraft by 2020. Vietnam Airlines has ordered nineteen Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and received the first one in August 2015. Vietnam Airlines has also ordered fourteen Airbus A350-XWBs. The airline is hoping to be able to open routes to the United States and Australia with their Boeing 787-9s and A350-XWBs.After the IPO in November 2014 with 3.5 percent of stake sold to the public, Vietnam Airlines has operated as a stock company since April 2015. In January 2016, All Nippon Airways acquired 8.8 percent of Vietnam Airlines and became a strategic partner of VNA. This allowed VNA to implement an ambitious investment plan in expanding and upgrading its aircraft fleet, and in improving its service quality.VietJet: a low cost carrier (LCC) and a privately-owned airline in Vietnam, operates twenty six A320s and three A321s. In September 2013, VietJet placed an order for one hundred A320s with Airbus during the Prime Minister’s official visit to France, for delivery from December 2015 on. On the occasion of the President Barack Obama’s visit to the Vietnam in May 2016, VietJet signed an agreement with Boeing to buy one hundred 737MAX 200s valued at $11.3 billion, to be delivered from 2019 to 2023. By 2023, VietJet’s fleet will have more than 200 aircraft. VietJet opened international service in February 2013 to Bangkok and their current international destinations include Singapore, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Myanmar. The carrier is looking to other South East and North Asia destinations (Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Philippines and India) as well.Jetstar Pacific: was founded as Pacific Airlines on December 1990, and began operations on April 1991. They were the first low cost carrier in Vietnam and operate primarily domestically, with international service between Vietnam and Macau that began in March 2014. Jetstar Pacific is 70 percent owned by Vietnam Airlines and 30 percent owned by Quantas. Jetstar’s fleet currently consists of ten (10) A320-200s and two (2) A321-200s, and is expected to double by 2020.Vietnam Air Services Company (VASCO): owned by Vietnam airlines, commenced business in 1987 with aerial photography and geological survey flights. VASCO began providing passenger services in the south of Vietnam from 2004. VASCO currently operates two aircraft and plans to add three more to its fleet. VASCO has operated under their new name, SkyViet, since May 2016.Vietstar Airlines: is a business unit under the Ministry of Defense. In the last five years, Vietstar Airlines operated air taxi, tourism, terrain survey and photography, and rescue services among others. The airline is seeking an air transport license from the government to establish a low-cost airline. The company expects to operate a fleet of three Boeing 737s or A320s in the next two years. Airport DevelopmentVietnam will need continued investment in new terminals, longer runways and upgraded equipment to meet the increased passenger air transport, which will grow at 14.2 percent a year for the period between 2015 and 2020, as estimated by CAAV. Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) – a state-owned entity, established in February 2012 after the merger of the Northern, Central and Southern Airports Corporations, currently manages and operates a network of 21 airports throughout the country, of which eight are international and 13 are domestic. ACV plans to equip the airports with necessary equipment to ensure safety, security and efficient operations, including instrument landing systems, lighting systems, X-ray machines, firefighting vehicles, ambulance vehicles, lifting vehicles, power vehicles, etc. In addition, ACV is calling for investment in more airports to increase the number of airports in the country to 23 by 2020 and 25 by 2030.To achieve this ambitious plan, ACV is sourcing investment through various means, including the equitization of ACV; and the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) investment model. In November 2015, ACV launched an IPO to sell a five percent stake to the public and become a stock company. ACV is planning to sign a strategic partnership with Aéroports de Paris (ADP) in 2016, with ADP owing 7.4 percent of the firm. Recently, ACV has moved away from using ODA (official development assistance) to using the PPP model as a source of investment capital to develop airports. This will allow ACV to exploit the best technologies and services from many countries in its airport development projects, and thus provide more opportunities for U.S. aviation companies in supplying airport technologies and services.Major ProjectsLong Thanh International Airport ProjectLong Thanh International Airport Project: The most significant new airport project, approved in June 2015 by the National Assembly, with a total investment of US$15.6 billion. Once completed, Long Thanh will be able to accommodate 100 million passengers and five million tons of cargo a year. This facility is supposed to serve as a new international airport for Ho Chi Minh City, eventually taking over the international traffic from the existing Tan Son Nhat Airport.Early in 2015, Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) approved the use of a public-private partnership investment structure for this project. It will be built in three phases with phase 1 having an estimated investment capital of US$5.45 billion, and being able to accommodate 25 million passengers and one million tons of cargo a year. Construction is expected to commence in 2019 and the airport (Phase 1) may be operational by 2025. Japan Airport Consulting Company (JAC) conducted a pre-feasibility and a concept design for the airport in 2010. In June 2015 the National Assembly approved a plan for ACV to go ahead with Long Thanh airport but they were asked to submit a new feasibility study and a financial plan. An RFP for the feasibility study of phase 1 is expected to be released in June 2016 in the form of an international open bid. The consultant is expected to be selected by the end of 2016, and the consultant will have 18 months to complete the feasibility study.Other airports that will be developed or upgraded before 2030 include:
Tan Son Nhat Airport (Ho Chi Minh City): will be expanded from 25 million to 40 million passenger per year
Noi Bai Airport: will be expanded from 25 million to 50 million passenger per year
Danang Airport: 10-15 million passengers per year and 250,000 – 300,000 tons of cargo per year (US$160 million required and expected to be completed by September 2017 for the APEC 2017)
Quang Ninh Airport: The airport will be built in Van Don Island, Quang Ninh province, with an estimated investment capital of US$331.7 million, in the form of BOT and can serve two million passengers per year when it goes into operation.
Phu Quoc Airport: will become a center for tourism and trade and will be suitable for Boeing 747 aircraft with a capacity of 6 million passengers per year and 300,000 tons of cargo per year.
Chu Lai Airport (Quang Ngai): will be expanded to become an air cargo transport hub with a capacity of 4 million passengers per year, 5 million tons of cargo per year. The estimated investment is US$1 billion in BOT format.
Lao Cai Airport: a US$261 million project implemented into two phases in the form of BT.
Air Traffic ManagementVietnam is served by more than 52 international airlines from 28 countries and has experienced a steady growth rate of 14.9 percent per year on average in air traffic volume between 2010 and 2015. In 2015, Vietnam Air Traffic Management (VATM) handled more than 640,000 flights. Looking forward to 2020, VATM will provide air traffic control (ATC) services for between 800,000 and 1 million flights (double the figure for 2010), and by 2030, will handle from 1.2 million to 1.5 million flights. Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation (VATM) is expected to spend about US$500 million on its new and ongoing air traffic management projects from 2014 to 2020.
Vietnam’s answer to “Budweiser” or “Carling” (not quite), snake wine is the sort of gift likely to send your grandmother into a coronary (great if you want her will money for extra travel!) There’s not much “wine” to it – the snake is infused in grain alcohol – but at least it’s novel to look at. Believed to increase virility by the Ancient Chinese, having a bottle of this on your bedside table is probably more likely to kill the mood rather than reinvigorate it.
Yes it’s obvious but you know what? I love conical hats. Owning one and popping down to your local Wal-Mart or Tesco is always going to raise a few eyebrows. Get one from the markets in Vietnam’s old capital of Hue and you can even get a little poem inscribed inside. It’ll be in Vietnamese of course. “I wandered lonely as a cone” and all that. A dollar well spent
Do you know Vietnam and America were once at war? Who’d of thunk that eh? Especially given the good ol’ US of A’s pacifistic record (note the sarcasm there). But jokes aside, as America has done their best to forget about that little blip on their record, Vietnam, on the other hand, has turned it into a fully blown tourism business. Just as well though because the Zippo lighters you can pick up, replete with platoon philosophy like “Though I Walk Through The Valley Shadow of Death I will fear no Evil For I’m the Evilest Son of a Bitch”, make sparking up a spliff back home look even cooler.
What western girl wouldn’t want a tight-fitting little silk number to take home and wow the boys? The Ao Dai, Vietnam’s traditional national dress, isn’t just for girls though. Guys can pimp themselves up too with their own tidy tunic and pantaloon get-up. Pull this off in corporate America and I’ll personally come over there and high five you.
Who would have thought that drinking iced coffee out of a bag could be so good? Known as cafe da to the locals, it’s a beverage best savoured in Bin Thanh, Saigon’s huge indoor market in the centre of the city. Supping on one always had me buzzing for hours.
o Chi Minh T-shirt
The image of lovable Uncle Ho, despite the fella being dead for well over 40 years, is everywhere in Vietnam. Enter into a market and you’ll notice swathes of T-shirts with the good man himself emblazoned across them. Ho goes really well in pink. Any hipster worth their Smiths vinyl will tell you that.
Whether you love or hate the staple beef noodle broth, there’s no better place to get pho than in the middle of a busy Vietnamese market. Head to Hanoi’s labyrinthine Dong Xuan for some of the best in the country. I’ve seen many a backpacker go mad for a dish of pho cuon (beef wound in long thin strips of rice vermicelli, with aromatic herbs and spicy fish sauce).
If I told you that chon is made by a group of weasels chucking up coffee beans you probably wouldn’t want some would you? But bring a bag home for mum and she’d never need to know until after the point she’d had a nice big warm cup of weasel puke
From pig’s tails to trotter to even snouts, Vietnam’s markets are the place to go for piggy produce. A stern vegetarian myself I couldn’t quite stomach the sight yet I knew many a meat-eater who would go ga-ga over the chasing of a good bit of tail.
Everybody’s got a soft spot for a nice little mantelpiece watercolour. Picking up a painting of a pastoral scene of Vietnam’s stunning countryside is well worth doing. The artists here, the great copy masters that they are, do their own thing really well too.
For hundreds of years, the Mekong River has been a vital passageway for people and goods. Today, the Mekong is still an essential means of transportation for many of the people living in the region and plays an increasingly important role in international trade and tourism. For example in Viet Nam, roughly 73% of cargo tonnage and about 27% of passengers travel by water annually.
Within the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB), the Mekong River and its major tributaries are navigable during the high-water season (about eight months of the year), with the exception of a 14-km section just north of the border between Cambodia and the Lao PDR – the impassable Khone Falls.
The river in the fast lane
North of the Khone Falls, narrow and turbulent sections of the river as well as large annual water level variations present a challenge to the development of trade and transportation. Despite these difficulties, the river provides an important link between China and lower Mekong countries. Port infrastructure is being expanded to accommodate expected growth, with new facilities planned for the Chiang Saen port, located in the “Golden Triangle” where the borders of Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam converge.
In the Lower Mekong Basin, river-based trade in Viet Nam and Cambodia has grown significantly in recent years. In 2009, Mekong trade received a significant boost with the opening of a new deep-water port at Cai Mep in Viet Nam. The Cai Mep container terminals can accommodate some of the largest container ships in the world. These vessels sail directly to Europe and the United States.
Safer, environmentally friendlier navigation
A number of efforts are underway to improve navigation safety. Some of the initiatives include the installation of safety aids along the least navigable areas of the river and updated modelling. The MRC has also facilitated a number of cross-border agreements, making regional trade more effective.
In 2009, Cambodia and Viet Nam signed a bilateral Treaty on Waterway Transportation to reduce cross-border navigation restrictions and improve efficiency and safety standards on the Mekong. Improved regulations, monitoring, coordination, and control of navigation activities contribute towards a healthier riverine environment by reducing shipping accidents that result in oil spills and other dangerous substances. For example, specialised port facilities can eliminate the risks involved in the beach landings of petroleum tanker barges.
Role of the MRC
The MRC is the only regional organisation with a clear mandate to manage, assist in developing, and monitor cross-border waterborne transport. Article 9 of the 1995 MRC Agreement states: “Freedom of navigation shall be accorded throughout the mainstream of the Mekong River without regard to the territorial boundaries, for transportation and communication to promote regional cooperation.”
The MRC plays a key role in supporting the development and improved use of Mekong waterways – a complex task as the river is a political border between some of the countries in the regions.