The South-eastern Asian country of Vietnam is known officially as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with close neighbours Cambodia and Laos to the west and China to the north. A great deal of Vietnam’s history is composed of war, rebellion, and colonization, all of which echo through to modern times as the country is widely associated with the sixties and the Vietnam War (although Vietnamese call it the American War) which split the country temporarily into two separate regions and is considered to have been the most brutal war that Vietnam was ever engaged in.
Tourism in Vietnam has not yet developed although the country does have its own mystique and is able to draw in about 3.3 million tourists every year. A great deal of this is due to the poor infrastructure and rolling black outs that inconvenience tourists and inhibit return trips.
However, the country is worth visiting as it has a vast cultural history and is full of a diverse group of inhabitants offering many scenic beauties and gorgeous sites that can only be seen in during a holiday in Vietnam. Tourism is particularly high during the New Year period, which is the largest holiday in the country and worth observing especially given the fact that the Vietnamese are known for being hospitable and sometimes even welcome visitors to celebrate in their homes.
Westerners visiting Vietnam often attract attention due to the fact that they stand out and because the general age of the country is young with a large amount of citizens born after 1975. Therefore, there is a great deal of adoration for the Western way of life among locals and it is not uncommon to notice young children staring at you as you wonder through the markets and shopping areas.
Shopping in Vietnam is widely restricted to stalls and markets, although there are some department stores. Souvenir shops often sell communist items which can be strange to Western travellers, but there are other options so it is best to keep you opinion to yourself and indulge in more traditional souvenir options.
There are local markets that are worth passing through if you are prepared to haggle with dealers, as well as some great treats to snack on at these markets although beware fruits and meats as the sanitary measures of the Vietnamese are not on par with the Western world.
Internet access is available in almost all areas of Vietnam with a large amount of internet cafes built up in all of the major cities and tourist areas. There is a small amount of censorship on public internet and do not be surprised to find that sites such as Facebook are blocked. However, instead of worrying about these small matters it is much better to try out the local flavours and beers at the many nightclubs, bars, and pubs that line the tourist areas of Vietnam for a better look at the local culture of the land.