Vietnam is a Southeastern Asia country on the Indochina Peninsula approximately the size of Germany. It borders China, Laos, and Cambodia as well as the South China Sea on its long eastern coast. Temperatures vary greatly depending on the region. Almost half the country is covered by tropical forests and the majority of the land is hilly or mountainous. While the north is mostly mountainous and contains the Red River Delta, the southern-most area of the country is made up of lowlands. In the mountains, temperatures can range from 41 degrees in the winter to 100 degrees in the summer. Temperatures in the southern lowlands vary less, sometimes only fluctuation 10 or 20 degrees during a whole year.
Vietnam first became an independent country in AD 938 when they fought the Chinese for their autonomy. At the time, Vietnam was smaller than it is today, but it quickly expanded its borders under the rule of many successful dynasties. In the mid 1880s, France colonized Vietnam but the Vietnamese never fully submitted to French rule and regained their independence as a country a century later. In 1980, the constitution the Vietnamese still live under today was signed and instated.
This history of colonization and the politically divided country it left behind led to further fighting between northern and southern Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until the early 2000s when Vietnam began to fully recover. During the last decade, Vietnam’s economy has been one of the fastest growing among developing countries. Today, it has established relations with countries around the world and joined the World Trade Organization in 2007.
Tourism is a rising source of income for Vietnam, with its long, beautiful coast a popular attraction. Guides and hotel staff in tourist areas tend to speak good English and are very welcoming of visitors. Over the last decade, hotels have been built to accommodate the increase in tourism and the service at these hotels is known to be good quality.
Trips to Vietnam should begin with the capitol city of Hanoi. Because Hanoi is turning 1000 years old in October 2010, it has been named one of the Top Destinations of 2010. Located on the bank of the Red River, it has been the capital city for most of Vietnam’s history. With 6.5 million people, it is the country’s second largest city. It offers excellent dining both on street and in sit down cuisine restaurants. Because of the French colonization during the early 20th century, Hanoi still offers a French colonial feel. The Old Quarter is a must see for nightlife, discos, bars and even jazz clubs.
Hue, a central Vietnamese city of 340,000 people, is best known for its historic monuments. During the only period in Vietnamese history when Hanoi was not the capital, emperors of the Nguyen dynasty held court in Hue. The Nguyen royalty lived within the walled Citadel on the north side of the Song Huong river. The citadel contained a forbidden city where only concubines and statesmen closest to the emperors were allowed. Trespassing this forbidden city was punished by death. Outside of Hue are other monuments documenting Vietnamese history; for instance, the tomb of emperors from the Minh Mang, Dinh and other dynasties are located near Hue. Another must see in Hue is the Thien Mu Pagoda which is the official city symbol and the largest pagoda in Hue.
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