Located on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is a tropical enchanting landscape of over 3000 kilometers coastline, primitive and magnificent jungles, breathtaking caves, charming falls, dynamic cities, distinctive culture and exquisite cuisines. With over 4,000 year history, Vietnam has its own unique cultural identity along with world-famous ancient natural and architectural wonders.
Visitors are mesmerized by the majestic mountainous north with the charming villages of the ethnic minorities, the central coastline with stunning beaches, fresh seafood and a selection of water-based activities, the ancient beauty of Hoi An with its old quarters lined with colonial-era buildings and the imperial citadel of Hue by the charming Perfume River or the colorful floating markets and towns in the Mekong Delta. Vietnam is definitely an exciting blend of adventure and culture.
+ Socialist Republic of Vietnam
+ Population: 90.5 million
+ Capital City: Hanoi (6.5 million)
+ People: 53 ethnic minorities
+ Language: Vietnamese
+ Currency: Vietnam Dong (VND)
+ Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
+ International Dialing Code: +84
WHEATHER AND FESTIVAL WEATHER
Vietnam’s vast and lengthy terrain has a diverse regional climate, making it difficult to specify a ‘perfect’ time to visit. Instead, it provides good flexibility for any itinerary.
In the north of Vietnam, from April to Septemper, temperatures can reach up to 38°C with occasional bursts of heavy rain from July onwards during the rainy season. Winter is from December to March. The best time to visit sights of the North such as Sapa and Hanoi is from October of this year to March of next year.
Generally sunny year round, the climate in the central region is more consistent. Visiting Hue, Hoi An or Da Nang can be lovely any time of year. However, be wary of autumn as cooler temperatures do usher in from September till December, and occasional typhoons bring heavy rains.
In the south, it is generally hot year round, with the dry season running from December to June. The wet season lasts from July to November and is hot and humid with short, heavy bouts of rain. The ideal season to see Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta is from December of this year to March of next year when temperatures are more mild.
Vietnam’s weather can be unpredictable, so it may be a good idea to carry an umbrella or raincoat with you. You can purchase these from most supermarkets and general stores.
FESTIVALS AND NATIONAL HOLIDAYS
The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet, is the most important time of the year in Vietnam. To celebrate, most Vietnamese return to their hometowns to visit relatives, exchange gifts and li xi, or “lucky money”, take part in family feasts and hold traditional ceremonies. For visitors, the lead up to Tet is a visual collage of vibrant traditions, exotic foods and festive markets. Locals flock to banh chung stalls for cakes made of glutinous rice, pork, fermented bean paste rolled with banana leaf. Street markets overflow with elegant lanterns and calligraphy. Brave motorcyclists can also been seen balancing pots of bright peach blossoms or ornamental kumquat trees as they zip through the traffic. Tet generally lasts three days, taking place at the end of January or the beginning of February, and usually coincides with a public holiday.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is another exciting and bustling time to visit Vietnam. Generally considered a festival for Vietnam’s children, it also has ties to ancient myths and legends. Large swathes of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and popular areas in big cities throughout the country, become closed to traffic and are, instead, dedicated to lion dancing and night markets selling decorative masks and toys. Delicious moon cakes are sold in sweet and savoury varieties that can take up to 3 months to make. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on different dates every year in September.
Other important holidays include:
- Liberation of Saigon: 30 April
- International Worker’s Day: 1 May
- Hung King’s memorial day: 10 March (lunar calendar)
- Vietnamese National Day: 2 September
PLACES TO VISIT
Most popular sites of Vietnam
- Sapa & Mai Chau – visit the hill tribe villages and plantations
- Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam
- Halong Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Trang An Landscape Complex (located in Ninh Binh province) – a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys – called Halong Bay on land
- Hue – the ancient capital of Vietnam
- Hoi An – the kitchen of Vietnam and paradise on Earth
- Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon) – the economic heart of Vietnam
- The Cu Chi Tunnels – walk through the history of the Vietnam War
- Mekong Delta – see the floating markets