Moving to Vietnam
Spending a few days, a week, or even a month in Vietnam can make an impression that lasts a lifetime.
The barrage of noise coming from motorcycle and scooters in the street is an endless cacophony of the sound in Vietnam. Its capital, Ho Chi Minh City, has been dubbed as Asia's newest tiger economy. On a quick glance, newly minted skyscrapers have started to sprout in the inner city, but when you look below, into streets, war relics are still scattered around the city.
The ravages of war painted a dark history on the Vietnamese people, but these are an extraordinary group of people with amazing resilience. The stigma of war is the last thing on their mind, as they march forward to rebuild and to aspire for a much brighter future.
The country is a long strip of mountainous land on the tip of Indochina facing the China Sea with a total surface of 331,114 square kilometers and a population that comprises 85% Vietnamese followed by Chinese at 3% and the remaining being minorities such as Muongs, Tais, Meos, Khmers, Mans, Chams, among others who dwell in the mountains and high plateaus. Vietnam's amazing ethnical diversity reflects the vast variety of religions: ancestral cults, Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, which is largely dominant.
Furthermore, the ancestral miscellany gave birth to a rich mix of flavors in Vietnam. Although it's very close to Chinese cuisines, distinct Vietnamese flavor comes from its ample use of fresh herbs and soup-based dishes.
The Vietnamese language (kinh) is also a blend of Khmer, Thai, and Chinese languages. Other widely spoken languages include Chinese, English, Russian and French. Don't be surprised that as one can encounter an elderly who can speak French fluently. But in the corporate world and business transaction, English is the preferred language.
The national currency, the dong, is not convertible, but the US Dollar is commonly used, it's even considered as the third currency in the country. Credit cards and travellers' cheques have slowly started to be accepted in local stores. Banks are open from Monday to Saturday, from 8am to 11am and from 1:30pm to 3:30pm. The climate varies from the sub-tropics in the North to the tropics in the South. In the city, humidity is high, with average ranging around 84% a year. Get ready for torrential rain during Monsoon Season from June to September.
One needs to apply for a Vietnamese visa in advance in order to gain entry. Take into account that the country is plagued with bureaucratic red tape, Vietnam's visa regulations undergo changes often. Thus, travelers are obliged to check the visa requirements before the trip and not rely on outdated information. A visa is required for all foreign nationals except citizens of Bulgaria, Cuba, Korea (Dem Rep) and Romania; nationals of Malaysia and Thailand can stay for 30 days and nationals of the Philippines for 21 days; and transit passengers continuing their journey within 72 hours, provided that a return ticket. Although a visa on arrival process has been introduced, it still requires a pre-arranged application to Hanoi Immigration Department; this mainly benefits nationals of countries without Vietnamese embassies. Vietnam's image has certainly changed from a country torn by war to a charming, quaint old city where one can just throw all worries into oblivion. What's more, there's always a hot steaming bowl of Pho, freshly baked bread and excellent Vietnamese coffee waiting for you.
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