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Vietnam - The Internet Travel Guide (FAQ) (part 4/5)

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Archive-name: travel/vietnam-guide/part4
Url: http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam
Posting-Frequency: quarterly

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Located in South East Asia, Vietnam starts to emerge as a major
tourist attraction. Vietnam has two main cities, the political
capital Hanoi and the economic capital Ho Chi Minh City (also
known as Saigon). Apart from these cities, Vietnam's countryside
also offers many beautiful attractions.


Places
 An Khe
 Buon Ma Thuot
 Cantho
 Cat Ba Island
 Central Highland
 Chau Doc
 Cholon
 Chua Huong
 Con Dao
 Cu Chi
 Cuc Phuong National Parc
 Dakto / Tanh Canh
 Dalat
 Danang
 Do Son
 Dong Ha
 Haiphong
 Halong Bay
 Hanoi
 Ho Chi Minh City
 Hoa Lu
 Hoi An
 Hue
 Kontum
 Lao Bao
 Long Xuyen
 Mekong Delta
 Myson
 Mytho
 Nha Trang
 Ninh Binh
 Phan Rang
 Phan Thiet
 Phong Nha Caves
 Phu Quoc
 Pleiku
 Quang Ngai
 Rach Gia
 Saigon
 Sapa
 Tay Ninh
 Vat Sat Tourist Parc
 Vinh Long
 Vinh Moc
 Vung Tau


General Information
 Geography
 Map of Vietnam
 Climate
 People
 Events
 Visa
 Embassies
 Border Crossing
 Money
 Mail
 Telephone
 Internet Access
 Hotels
 Food
 Diving
 Health


Transportation
 Flying
 Train
 Roads
 Bus
 Minibus
 Car
 Motorcycle
 Bicycles
 Cyclos
 Tours
 Travel Guides
 Boats

**************************************************************************

VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser

http://www.pmgeiser.ch
http://www.pmgeiser.com
http://www.mineralwaters.org
http://www.dussy.ch

**************************************************************************

INTERNET HOTEL AND TRAVEL GUIDES

New series by Peter M. Geiser and Sibylle Dussy, with many photos:
 HONG KONG        http://www.pmgeiser.ch/hongkong
 JAPAN            http://www.pmgeiser.ch/japan
 MACAU            http://www.pmgeiser.ch/macau
 SWITZERLAND      http://www.pmgeiser.ch/switzerland

"Classics", FAQ of rec.travel.asia
 CAMBODIA         http://www.pmgeiser.ch/cambodia
 CHINA            http://www.pmgeiser.ch/china
 LAOS             http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos
 MYANMAR (BURMA)  http://www.pmgeiser.ch/myanmar
 TIBET            http://www.pmgeiser.ch/tibet
 VIETNAM          http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam

Hotel guides
 INDIA            http://www.pmgeiser.ch/india
 INDONESIA        http://www.pmgeiser.ch/indonesia
 MALAYSIA         http://www.pmgeiser.ch/malaysia
 NEPAL            http://www.pmgeiser.ch/nepal
 SINGAPORE        http://www.pmgeiser.ch/singapore
 THAILAND         http://www.pmgeiser.ch/thailand

**************************************************************************

BOOKS

For books, please have a look at the online version at
http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam

**************************************************************************

GEOGRAPHY

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/geography.htm


Area          329'566 km²
Capital       Hanoi
Borders       China (1281 km), Laos (1555 km) and Cambodia (982 km)
              coastline 3444 km (without islands)
              Vietnam is divided into 61 provinces
              (An Giang, Bac Can, Bac Giang, Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Baria
	      Vung Tau, Ben Tre, Binh Dinh, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc,
	      Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Can Tho, Cao Bang, Dac Lac, Dong
	      Nai, Dong Thap, Gia Lai, Ha Giang, Ha Nam, Ha Tay, Ha
	      Tinh, Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoa
	      Binh, Hung Yen, Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Lai Chau, Lam Dong,
	      Lang Son, Lao Cai, Long An, Nam Dinh, Nghe An, Ninh
	      Binh, Ninh Thuan, Phu Tho, Phu Yen, Quang Bing, Quang
	      Ngai, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Soc Trang, Son La, Tay
	      Ninh, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, Thua Thien Hue,
	      Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Tuyen Quang, Vinh Long, Vinh Phuc,
	      Yen Bai)
Highest point Fansipan (near Sapa), 3143 m

Time          GMT plus seven hours

Measures      Metric
Electricity   mostly 220 V, 50 Hz, some 110 V, 50 Hz

Office Hours  Offices: Mo-Sa 7:30 - 16:30
              Banks: Mo-Sa 8:00 - 15:00

In the Web-version of the Internet Travel Guide at
http://www.pmgeiser.ch there would be a map right here.

**************************************************************************

CLIMATE

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/climate.htm


In the north, the rainy season is from August until November. Typhoons are
frequent, but not too much of a problem.

The north can be quite chilly in winter (Dec. - Feb.)

The climate in the Delta is sub-equatorial with two main seasons. The wet
season lasts from May to October with short downpours occurring almost
every day. The dry season lasts from November to April with the last three
months of this period being very hot and humid.

Annual rainfall for the South is approximately 80 inches (2,000
millimeters) while temperatures remain relatively constant - on average
between 77 and 95 F (25-35 C). Between July and November, Vietnam is
hit by random, violent typhoons that develop off the coast in the
South China Sea. They typically hit the central and north coasts and
have been with increasing frequency over the past few years.

So, given a choice, when would you go to the Mekong Delta? There isn't
a time that is clearly preferred by travelers. For those who want to
avoid excessive heat, the rainy season would be your better choice.
The air is cooler and it is not as dusty as the dry season. However,
if you do choose this season, it would be best to go at the beginning.
The Delta, being an area of very low relief, often suffers from
flooding at this time. In 1994 flooding was severe. Over 180 people
died, 1 million people were displaced, and a large percentage of the
rice harvest was also wiped out. In cases of flooding, sanitation can
also be a problem.

To see some teperature and rainfall charts, have a look at the climate
sections for the following cities:
Danang
Hanoi
Nha Trang
Ho Chi Minh City

**************************************************************************

PEOPLE

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/people.htm


Population     77.3 mio (est. July 1999) (annual growth rate 1.37%)
               85% Vietnamese, 3% Chinese, and members of 54 ethnic
               minority groups (Ba Na, BoY, Brau, Bru-Van Kieu, Cham,
               Cho Ro, Chu Ru, Chut, Co, Co Ho, Co Lao, Cong, Co Tu,
               Dao, E De, Gia Rai, Giay, Gie-Trieng, Hmong, Ha Nhi,
               Hoa, Hre, Khang, Khmer, Kho Mu, Kinh, La Chi, La Ha, La
	       Hu, Lao, Lo Lo, Lu, Ma, Mang, M'Nong, Muong, Ngai,
	       Nung, O Du, Pa Then, Phu La, Pu Peo, Ra Glai, Ro Mam,
	       San Chay, San Diu, Si La, To Oi, Tay, Thai, Tho, Xinh
	       Mun, Xo Dang, Xtieng).
               More than 60% are under 25.
               Life expectancy at birth is 68 years.
Languages      Official language is Vietnamese, a mix derived mostly of
               Mon-Khmer elements with some Tai and Chinese. The
               language is monosyllabic. Most minorities retain their
               language, like Chinese, and many Mon-Khmer and
               Malayo-Polynesian dialects. 
               Today's main foreign language, especially among the young,
               is English. Especially in the north, French and Russian is
               spoken.
Script         Based on Latin with accents. The script was developed by
               Alexander De Rhodes in the 19th century.
Literacy       93.7%
Religion       Mainly Buddhism, also Taoism, Confucianism, Hoa Hao,
               Caodaism, Islam and Christianity.

(Doug)
Most people in Vietnam, especially outside of the main cities, are very
poor. There is no doubt that travellers are seen as a potential source of
money, and Vietnamese are tenacious negotiators.

You will be frustrated at times in negotiating prices. You will feel like
you are being ripped off.

A couple of hints:

Bargain very agressively but keep it friendly. A smile in the middle
of a negotiation goes a long way. In some situations, gently touching
the person you are negotiating with (on the arm or hand) also helps to
keep it friendly. Accept that you are going to end up paying too much
for some things and try not to take it personally, it is not intended
that way. For these people, selling things is the way (and a hard and
insecure one too) to make a living.

Some people will also grab your arm to get your attention. Screaming
and raging does not help, instead try to point out to them that this
is by most foreigners considered as extermely rude.

If the bargaining and rip-offs are starting to really get you down and you
are beginning to think that Vietnamese people are just are plain greedy,
try the following:

When negotiating the price of something, bargain very very agressively to
get the absolute lowest price possible, then when you are paying, give
them more than the agreed on price, smile and say thank you. Using this
technique I have had some wonderful conversations, been given gifts,
been invited to peoples homes for tea, made some very good friends, and
discovered that Vietnamese people are actually very generous.

(Anna, Feb 96) Last year while travelling, I had some unpleasant
experiences with 'greedy' Vietnamese, so I stopped moving around, learned
a couple of sentences of Vietnamese, had a wonderful time in Dalat and
made some really good Vietnamese friends who I came back to visit again
this year. Think twice before planning to travel all the way from Saigon
to Hanoi - you risk meeting only the unpleasant side of Vietnamese
tenacity and becoming one of those all-too-common travellers who didn't
have a good time in Vietnam. Vietnam is not the easiest country to visit,
but I found it very rewarding.

**************************************************************************

EVENTS

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/events.htm


Vietnam has a huge number of festivals. Listing all of them is just
not possible. Below you will find some of the more important ones,
sorted by date that they occur. Note: Some events are linked to the
Western calendar, but others follow the lunar calendar.

Festivals are also a place to learn about various crafts. The Master
Pagoda Festival (HaTay) has puppet shows, the Hung Temple Festivah
(Vinh Phu) features Xoan folk songs, the Phu Giay Festival has Chau
Van folk songs and the Lim Festival has Quan Ho folk songs.

Other festivals feature games and contests, such as rowing, rope
pulling or climbing, wrestling, rice cooking or chess. There are also
competitions between animals, buffalo and cock fights, or pigeon
races.

January 1: Solar New Year. In Haoit, this is a family oriented holiday
and the streets are very quiet.

Late January/early February: Tet Nguyen Dan, Lunar New Year (three
days). The last couple and the next few lunar New Years are:
 5 February 2000  Saturday
24 January  2001  Wednesday
12 February 2002  Tuesday
 1 February 2003  Saturday
22 January  2004  Thursday
 9 February 2005  Wednesday
29 January  2006  Sunday
18 February 2007  Sunday
 7 February 2008  Thursday
26 January  2009  Monday
14 February 2010  Sunday
 3 February 2011  Thursday
23 January  2012  Monday
10 February 2013  Sunday
31 January  2014  Friday
19 February 2015  Thursday
 8 February 2016  Monday

Tet is the highest and most widely held festival in Vietnam. Although
officially, Tet lasts a week, but the festivities go on much longer.
Preparations include clay trees to ward off evil spirits and lime dust
spread around the house to gain additional protection from Buddha.
People prepare food, a robe and boots to appease the Tao Quan, the
gods of the hearth. (Pants are not included, since they were burned
when they got too close to the fire.) On the evening of New Year,
fireworks, drums and gongs frighten away the devil Na A and his wife.
Among all thay mayhem, people try to recognise the first sound of the
new year. A good sign is a barking dog, signifying confidence and
trust. A buffalo means hard work, while a hooting owl is outright bad,
a sign for sickness.
If you are successful or charming, you will receive man invitations,
since the first person visitng a houshold after Tet is said to be an
indicator of the luck the family can expect for the rest of the year.

February 3: Founding of the Communist Party (Ngy thanh lap Dang Cong San
Viet Nam)

Between April 5 and 20: Thanh Minh (worship and renovation of the
dwellings of the dead)

April 30: Liberation of Saigon (Ngay Giai phong Sai Gon)

May 1: Labour Day (Ngay Quoc Te Lao Dong)

May 19: Ho Chi Minh's birthday (Ngay sinh Chu Tich Ho Chi Minh)

August/September (Full-moon of the seventh lunar month): Trung Nguyen
(Feast of the Wandering Souls and Hungry Ghosts), Vietnamese
All-Souls' Day. Food is laid out in temples to feed the hungry ghosts
that wander the earth for one day. Burining paper money supports the
praying for absolution.

September 2: Day of the Nation: (Ngay Quoc Khanh); Ho Chi Minh's
declaration of freedom for Vietnam (Ngay Bac Ho Doc Ban Tuyen Ngon Doc
Lap); Ho Chi Minh Memorial Day (Ngay mat cua Bac Ho)

September/October (15th day of the eighth lunar month): Mid-Autumn
Festival. This festival is especially dedicated to children, but
adults also take part. The children sing, dance and parade with
lanterns shaped as stars, the moon or animals.

**************************************************************************

VISA

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/visa.htm


To enter Vietnam you will need a visum.

Visa application forms now have the remark "All international border
crossings of Vietnam". This simplifies the application process since
tourists no longer have to specify exactly where they are entering or
leaving.

You can extend your visa for USD 10.

There are multiple entry visa that are more expensive (USD 40 to
USD 100). Extending will cost USD 16. They is especially useful if you
would like to make a sidetrip to, say, Laos or Cambodia.

Having a valid visa seems not necessarily guarantee you swift entry
into the coutry. I had reports that some foreigners had to go back and
fill in another immigration form and attach another photograph. If you
have no spare photograph, they will charge you USD 2 to take one.

**************************************************************************

EMBASSIES

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/_embassy.htm

**************************************************************************

BORDER CROSSING

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/border.htm


The easiest way to cross the border is to fly. Currently there are two
entrance points, the airports Noi Bai in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat in Ho
Chi Minh City. There is a USD 8 departure tax on international
flights.

However, it is possible to enter and leave Vietnam by land. Cambodia,
Laos, Vietnam and Thailand have now an agreement about border crossing
for tourists.


Cambodia
If you already have a Cambodian visa, entering the country from Vietnam by
bus is easily the cheapest (US$10.00) way to get to Phnom Penh. For buses
to Cambodia, look at the section on buses).

Tourists crossing the border have had difficulties, so make sure your visa
allows you to exit Vietnam overland and you also have a Cambodian visa to
do the same; you can have your exit port changed to Moc Bai at the
immigration office in Saigon. Be prepared for at least an hour wait on
each side of the border. The bus arrives in Phnom Penh around 4:00 or
5:00 pm.


Laos
There are several roads leading into Laos The most usual (and for a
long time the only one open) is at Lao Bao. From the border to the bus
station get on a motorbike. It should cost around VND 4000. The ride
takes only a couple of minutes.


China
It is possible to cross from / into China.

The two main border crossing points are Dong Dang (20 km north of Lang
Son) and Lao Cai.

Dong Dang is on the main line between Hanoi and Nanning (Gunagxi, China).
After you have taken the train to Dong Dang, take a motorbike to the
border (USD 2), cross the border, take a taxi to Ping Xiang (USD 5), and
from there the train to Nanning. If you don't have Dong Dang as exit
point, you'll have to pay USD 10.

Lao Cai is on the railway line between Hanoi and Kunming (Yunnan, China).
Take a motorcycle to the town.

**************************************************************************

MONEY

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/money.htm


The currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). The New Dong equals 10 Hao
or 100 Xu. Notes are available in denominations of VND 100'000 (since
2001), 50'000, 20'000, 10'000, 5'000, 2'000, 1'000, 500, 200 and 100.
Coins are no longer used.

Exchange rate: 1 USD is 14800 (Jan 2003)
Historical development: 15070 VND (Dec 2001), 14050 (Jan 2000), 13830
(Feb 1999), 12983 (22 Jun 1998), 12290 (11 Dec 1997), 11500 (Sep
1997), 11000 (1996), 11000 (1995), 10900 (1994), 10800 (Nov 1993),
10792 (Oct 1991), 8100 (Jul 1991), 7280 (Dec 1990), 6193 (Oct 1990),
3996 (Mar 1990), 4505 (Oct 1989)

To get a nice small conversion table that you can put in you pocket,
look at the Currency Cheat Sheet at
http://www.oanda.com/convert/cheatsheet?user=pmgitg

Travellers Cheques are easily changeable at banks and money changers
all over the country. However I'm not sure about denominations other
than USD. Commissions are USD 1 for a USD 100 TC at Vietcom Bank, USD
2 at ANZ Bank and USD 2 service charge at the Tan Son Nhut
Airport. Other bank have similar rates up to 4%.


Many shops, restaurants and hotels now accept Visa, Eurocard/
Mastercard and American Express. While a credit card is essential to
travelling, it is often the case that you get better prices for cash,
especially VND.

You can get a cash advance on your credit card at many banks. Of
course, you will have to pay commission for cash advances. The
Hongkong Bank in Ho Chi Minh City (just west of the New World Hotel,
on Nguyen Thai Hoc street) also has an ATM.

There is a Visa office in Ho Chi Minh City.

While it is illegal to import or export VND, you can change back your
surplus of VND when leaving the country by plane at the international
airports.

Currencies other than VND up to the amount of USD 3'000 are free from
declaration. Above that, you'll have to declare it.

Bring clean bank notes for the north (Hanoi), dirty ones might be
refused.


**************************************************************************

MAIL

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/mail.htm


Post offices are usually open from 8 am to 8 or 9 pm.

Postcards cost about VND 7000 to 8000 for a booklet of ten, obtainable at
the post office. Children also sell them, but more expensive. Don't be too
annoyed by them, if it saves you the trip to the post office it's probably
worth paying a couple dongs more.

A postcard to Europe/USA costs VND 5400, a letter VND 8400 (or more,
depending on the weight). They take about 2 weeks.

Parcel rates: (as of mid-October 1994)

up to 1 kg:   VND  95523
 1 -  3 kg:   VND 131070
 3 -  5 kg:   VND 170357
 5 - 10 kg:   VND 238258
10 - 15 kg:   VND 328829
15 - 20 kg:   VND 404544


Every letter sent from abroad into Vietnam is opened and read. This
means, don't write anything that is politically sensitive and don't
include any money, since it will be taken out.

**************************************************************************

TELEPHONE

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/telephone.htm


It is very easy to phone inside Vietnam. Most hotels will let you make
local phone calls, many don't even charge you (don't exploit that, as a
polite person always offer them to pay the few Dongs!).

International phone calls are possible from many post offices.
Typically, you give the number to the operator who will type the
number for you and direct you to a phone booth. It's in fact direct
dialling with somebody else doing the dialling for you. Normally you
have to give them a deposit.

At some places, international direct dialling (IDD) has become common
place. The international prefix is 00.

Vietnams international dial code is 84.

(Matthew) You can only use USA direct from Saigon and Hanoi.  The post
office in Saigon has one phone, cabin 12, available for such use.  You
must fill out a form at the window before dialing USA direct.  In
Hanoi, there are two phone booths that are available.  Note that in
Hanoi, the place to make international calls is located in the
building next to the post office.  There was never any deposit
required for a direct call.  In Hanoi, however, they did make me show
them my AT&T calling card.

There is a telephone card, the UniphoneKad.

Many post offices and hotels nowadays have a fax.

Some area codes (to dial you need the prefix 01):
Bai Chay              33
Buon Ma Thuot         50
Camau                 78
Cantho                71
Chau Doc              76
Dalat                 63
Danang                51
Dien Bien Phu         23
Dong Ha               53
Dong Hoi              52
Ha Tien               77
Haiphong              31
Halong                33
Hanamninh             35
Hanoi                  4
Ho Chi Minh City       8
Hoi An                51
Hue                   54
Khanh Hoa             58
Kontum                59
Lam Dong              63
Long Xuyen            76
Mytho                 73
Nghe Tinh             38
Nha Trang             58
Phan Rang             62
Phan Thiet            62
Pleiku                59
Quang Ngai             5
Quang Ninh            33
Qui Nhon              56
Rach Gia               7
Tay Ninh               6
Thai Binh             38
Vinh                  38
Vinh Phu              21
Vinh Long             74
Vung Tau              64

Important phone numbers:


Police                                                             113
Fire Brigade                                                       114
Ambulance                                                          115
Long Distance Domestic telephone service                           101
Directory assistance for long distant domestic telephone service   102
Operator-assistedlong distance domestic telephone service          103
International telephone service                                    110
International telephone service rate                               112
Phone number inquires                                              116
Time inquires                                                      117
Ring back test                                                     118
Advice on telephone repairs                                        119
General inquires                                                   108


**************************************************************************

INTERNET ACCESS

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/internet.htm


Although internet access is allowed in Vietnam since 1 December 1997,
it is not excatly hassle free. Your best choice is to get an
independent provider that lets you access the internet all over the
world for the price of a local phone call.



**************************************************************************

HOTELS

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/hotels.htm


All over Vietnam the standard accommodation is the hotel. The prices
range from 3 or 4 USD for a room or a bed to several hundred dollars
for a suite in a luxury hotel. A typical hotel with a fan should cost
about USD 10 to 20.

Statistics state that the hotel occupancy for Hanoi and Saigon is a
very low 20% - 50%. This should eventually lower the prices.

Generally, smaller hotels or mini hotels offer better rooms for much
the same price (or even cheaper) as bigger ones (that profit from tour
groups dropping by irrespective of the service.) And because people
are running their own business service is generally much better. You
may get anything at any time of the day (or the night). But remember:
even though the people are around 24 hours a day (they live in their
working place) doesn't mean that they don't enjoy a good night's rest.
So don't disturb them unnecessarily.

Of course, there is also an increasing number of hotels with
international standard (in some cases only claimed, but not
delivered), and international prices. Most of the time they are rather
impersonal, and I personally do not recommend them.

Make sure you agree upon the price for a room in advance. Oftentimes
somebody at a busstop tells you there is a cheap hotel that has rooms
for USD 6 and when you get to the hotel they give you a room.
Unfortunately the room that you get need not be the same USD 6 room,
but a more expensive one (which normally is actually better, so the
price difference is justified, it's just that they didn't tell you.)

Some hotels ask for your passport to register with the police, others
just write down the necessary data. Even if the hotel insists, it is
not necessary to leave the passport, and the second option is
preferred. Holding the passport gives the hotels a grip on you, you
won't leave without paying. On the other hand, if you "forgot" to pay
(i.e. the hotel hasn't written down you paid), you'll have to pay
again. Generally, it is best if you carry photocopies of your passport
and leave them with the hotel, instead of the original one.

It is also possible to stay with Vietnamese privatly. In this case, it
is essential that you go to the police and do the registration
yourself. It is only a formality and no cause for troubles. The
troubles only arrive when you forget to register. It can take a day to
sort this out and you may have to pay a fee between VND 40'000 and VND
2'000'000.

It is possible to bargain down the price on the hotel. I heard of
somone that was able to get a room listed for USD 55 for USD 25.
Vietnamese are eager making money, and they try everything possible.
Especially in the hotel market where tourists (mainly the Americans)
are used to pay quite a lot of money they try to rip-off travellers
with exorbitant rates. But since competition is very stiff, they
rather agree upon half the listed rate (or even less) than have
nothing at all. Of course, the price you may negotiate depends very
much on the vacancy level.

There are government travel agencies like Vietnamtourist or
Saigontourist that book hotels all over Vietnam. This may help the
more insecure traveller since they know that they will get a room once
they arrive at a place. Of course, this service costs; only hotels of
the upper price level are offered, and of course you pay more for a
hotel booked with these travel agencies (in one extreme instance it
was USD 49 instead of USD 15!)

**************************************************************************

FOOD

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/general/food.htm


Eating in Vietnam ranges from the cheap noodle soup for a quarter of a
dollar eaten on the street to a banquet in one of the luxury hotels.
It seems that restaurants (except the ones in big hotels) have to close
at 23:30.

Pho: The most typical Vietnamese food is Pho, the noodle soup with
meat in it. It is very cheap (you can get a bowl for about VND 2000 -
3000) and usually well spiced. The main pho are: Pho Bo, with beefs,
Pho Bo Tai, with rare fillet and Pho Ga, with chicken.

Com: Boiled rice is eaten for lunch and for dinner. There are many
different kinds of rice. Typically, fragrant rice is used, like
Tam Thom or Nahg Huong.
Grilled rice is served in autumn. It is eaten with eggs, bananas, and
sapodillas.

Banh Chung: The traditional sticky rice cakes are made of glutinous
rice, pork and green bean paste, and sometimes with onion, wrapped in
bamboo (or sometimes in banana) leaves. They are made by soaking the
rice in water for an entire day. The pork meat includes skin and fat
and the beans are about the same size. Wrapped in the fresh bamboo
leaves, the rice turns slightly green.
Vietnamese families must include the banh chung among the offerings at
the family altar and the cakes are also traditional during Tet meals.
There is a legend attached to the creation of this traditional dish:
Prince Lang Lieu created and presented the rice cakes to his father,
winning high acclaim and thus securing the throne.

Nuoc mam: The fermented fish sauce is used to spice anything.

Baguettes: A legacy of the French are the small white bread leaves,
resembling baguettes. You can get them for as little as VND 500.
Sometimes they are combined with well spiced meat, vegetables and
salad to form an excellent sandwich.

Seafood: Along the coast you get excellent fresh seafood.

Cha ca: The fried fish slices are a speciality of the north. There is even
a restaurant devoted entirely to this dish. The dish has been invented
by the Doan family in the Cha Ca Street in Hanoi more than 100 years
ago.

Snakes: In the Mekong delta you are able to get cheap snake. We bought
two snakes (one kilogram) and let them be prepared by the restaurant
for 70000 VND. There were four of us eating, but it would have served
five as well.

Beer: There is bottled local beer as well as foreign beer. Some brands
are: Hanoi, Saigon (as well as some other cities), Tiger, Heinecken,
Guinness, one Laotian brand, as well as a variety of Chinese beer.
Prices vary, of course, but to give an idea, a bottle (0.5 l
Vietnamese beer or 0.68 l Chines beer) costs between VND 5000 to VND
10000, while draft beer (or rather tap beer) directly from the barrel
is VND 2500 for half a litre. The draft, bia hoi, is a speciality
of Northern Vietnam, sold in big kegs. It is tapped by a thin hose,
with the waiter sucking it to make the beer flow into the glasses. Bia
hoi is part of the life style. Foreign breweries were only successful
after the offered their own version of bia hoi.

Duck eggs: A speciality is definitely the duck egg. Instead of the
yolk it has an already partly developped foetus, complete with
feathers, limbs and beak.

Some typical prices (Jan 96):

cup of black coffee         VND  2000
coke                        VND  5000
bottle of beer (BGI/0.65l)  VND  9000
bottle of water             VND  8000
plate fried rice veg.       VND  4000
fried eggs with bread       VND  5000
pineapple, peeled           VND  2000
bananas (1 kg)              VND  2000
plate fried prawns          VND 20000
Vietnamese soup (Pho)       VND  5000
Spring rolls                VND  5000
coffee (100g)               VND  6000
tea (100g)                  VND  3000
local cigarettes (filter)   VND  2000
local cigarettes (no filter)VND   800

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HEALTH

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/general/health.htm


This section intends to give some advice on health issues in South
East Asia. It does not cover all possibilities and in case of problems
you certainly still should visit a qualified medical doctor. This is
especially true for vaccinations.

Depending on the country you are travelling, medical facilities may
not be widely available. This is true especially for Cambodia, Laos
and Myanmar. China and Vietnam does have a wide variety of medicines,
but you may not be familiar with them. In case of serious troubles
consider leaving the country and going to a place with good facilites
(e.g. Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.)

Chinese people are very aware of health problems. The Chinese medicine
is world famous and obtainable even in the smallest villages and also
many of the surrounding countries (e.g. Vietnam). However, Western
medicine is not very widely available. 

Doctors and hospitals normally expect immediate cash payment.

If you regularly need some medicine, bring enough of it with you since
chances are that you will not get the same or a replacement for it. It
is also recommended to bring one or two clean needles in case of an
emergency.

Be carful not to drink water directly from the tap. Although it is not
a problem anymore in big cities like Shanghai, depending on your
resistance it is better to be safe than sorry. Especially in China,
even the smallest guest houses in the remotest villages there are
thermos bottles with boiled water. It is used to drink tea. However,
if you follow the rule of "cook it , boil it, peel it, or forget it",
you can eat and drink from any restaurant or street stall and
ridiculous things (at least for people with an average stomach) like
bringing your own chopsticks is really not necessary.


AIDS

AIDS is a serious threat in many countries.

According to recent figures by UNAIDS, the United Nations program,
about half of Cambodia's prostitutes are HIV positive. The total
figure of the population with the disease is estimated at 120'000,
with the most explosive growth in Asia. Aids iis also increasing
rapidly in other countries.


Malaria

The four essential steps when dealing with malaria are:
Awareness: know about the risk of malaria.
Bites by mosquitoes: prevent or avoid.
Compliance with appropriate chemoprophylaxis.
Diagnose breakthrough malaria swiftly and obtain treatment promptly.

Malaria (from Italian 'mala aira', bad air) is a life-threatening
disease and a major health risk for travelers visiting tropical
countries. It occurs when small parasites are passed from one person
to another by the bites of certain mosquitoes (Anopheles). The
parasites use red blood cells to breed and finally cause their
decay. This decay causes fever and eventually a lack of oxygen which
can, in case of a malaria cerebral, cause brain damage. Depending on
the type of malaria these fever shocks appear every three (malaria
tertiana) or four (malaria quartana) days. Death rate of malaria can
be up to 2%.

There have been many discussions on how to best deal with it and even
the doctors have not yet agreed on a single opinion.

Probably the best paper describing malaria and its prevention and cure
is from the PHLS Malaria Reference Laboratory of the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and can be found at:
http://www.phls.co.uk/publications/CDRreview/cdrr1097.pdf

Dr. Arlene Goldman published an excellent guide to the various drugs
used in malaria treatment and lists region with malaria resistance.
The URL is
http://www.publinet.it/pol/malaria.htm


Bilharzia

The parasitic infection bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is caught by
contact with river water. You do not have to drink the water or swim
in the river, just getting wet may be enough. The microscopic
parasites in the water burrow into your skin and cause a damage to the
liver and other organs. It is a chronic debilitation disease. The most
dangerous region is in south Laos (south of Pakse) and in Cambodia.


**************************************************************************

VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser

http://www.pmgeiser.ch
http://www.pmgeiser.com
http://www.mineralwaters.org
http://www.dussy.ch

**************************************************************************

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