World Travelling Guide
World Travelling Guide



Accommodation in Southern Africa and South Africa including accommodation in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo Province, North West Province, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga

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Map of South East Asia

Vietnam Travelling Guide
Vietnam Travelling Guide

General background: France occupied all of Vietnam by 1884. Independence was declared after World War II, but the French continued to rule until 1954 when they were defeated by Communist forces under Ho Chi MINH, who took control of the north. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later North Vietnamese forces overran the south. Economic reconstruction of the reunited country has proven difficult as aging Communist Party leaders have only grudgingly initiated reforms necessary for a free market.

Area comparative: Slightly larger than New Mexico.

Climate: Tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (mid-May to mid-September) and warm, dry season (mid-October to mid-March).

Terrain: Flat delta in south and north; central highlands; hilly north and northwest.

Population: 81,098,416 (July 2002 est.)

Ethnic groups: Vietnamese 85%-90%, Chinese, Hmong, Thai, Khmer, Cham, mountain groups

Religions: Buddhist, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, Christian (predominantly Roman Catholic, some Protestant), indigenous beliefs, Muslim

Language: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)

Government type: Communist state

Capital: Hanoi

Legal system: Based on communist legal theory and French civil law system.

Economic overview: Vietnam is a poor, densely populated country that has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally planned economy. Substantial progress was achieved from 1986 to 1996 in moving forward from an extremely low starting point - growth averaged around 9% per year from 1993 to 1997. The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the problems in the Vietnamese economy but, rather than prompting reform, reaffirmed the government's belief that shifting to a market oriented economy leads to disaster. GDP growth of 8.5% in 1997 fell to 6% in 1998 and 5% in 1999. Growth then rose to 6.8% in 2000 and dropped back to 4.7% in 2001 against the background of global recession. These numbers mask some major difficulties in economic performance. Many domestic industries, including coal, cement, steel, and paper, have reported large stockpiles of inventory and tough competition from more efficient foreign producers. Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities have moved slowly in implementing the structural reforms needed to revitalize the economy and produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement entered into force near the end of 2001 and is expected to significantly increase Vietnam's exports to the US. The US is assisting Vietnam with implementing the legal and structural reforms called for in the agreement.

Communication/Telephone system: Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system, but its performance continues to lag behind that of its more modern neighbors.

Places of interest: From the Red River Delta in the north, to the Mekong Delta in the south. Coastal strip is a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies.

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