THE SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
(Vietnam flag) (Vietnam emblem)
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Government: Socialist Republic
Currency: VND (Đong)
Area: total 331,690 km2
Land: 325,360 km2
Water: 4,200 km2
Population: 90,549,390 (2011 est.)
Language: Vietnamese (official), minority languages
Religion: Buddhism (mainly Mahayana, with smaller numbers of Theravada), Taoism, Confucianism, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, Christian (predominantly Roman Catholic, some Protestant), indigenous beliefs, Muslim
Electricity: 220V/50Hz (American plug in south, European plug in north)
Calling Code: +84
Time zone: GMT +7
Although many westerners still imagine Vietnam through the lens of war, it is in reality’s a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life. Its highlands and rainforest regions, far from being devastated, continue to yield new species and team with exotic wildlife. Its islands and beaches are among the finest in all of Southeast Asia, and its cuisine is very possibly the most delicious you will ever find. Over two decades have passed since Vietnam was officially united, and in that time it has done a remarkable job of healing its wounds. Today, this gracious and graceful country is an outstanding travel destination.
Location, Geography & Climate
Shaped like an elongated S, Vietnam stretches the length of the Indochinese Peninsula and covers a surface area of 128,000 square miles–making it roughly the size of Italy or, in the U.S., New Mexico. China lies to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, and the South China Sea to the east.
Topographically, Vietnam is a verdant tapestry of soaring mountains, fertile deltas, primeval forests inhabited by exotic fauna, sinuous rivers, mysterious caves, otherworldly rock formations, and heavenly waterfalls and beaches. Beyond nature, the curious and open-minded visitor will find in Vietnam a feast of culture and history.
For convenience, the country can be thought of as comprising three unique areas: north, central, and south. The north is known for its alpine peaks, the Red River Delta, the plains of Cao Bang and Vinh Yen, enchanting Halong Bay, and historic Hanoi, as well as for the diversity of its ethnolinguistic minorities.
Central Vietnam, also home to many ethnic minorities, is characterized by high temperate plateaus rich in volcanic soil and by spectacular beaches, dunes, and lagoons. It is also the location of the ancient imperial city of Hue. In the South, visitors encounter modern life in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and the fertile alluvial delta of the Mekong River. Vietnam’s territory also encompasses a large continental shelf and thousands of archipelagic islands.
Vietnam’s climate is as complex as its topography. Although the country lies entirely within the tropics, its diverse range of latitude, altitude, and weather patterns produces enormous climatic variation. North Vietnam, like China, has two basic seasons: a cold, humid winter from November to April, and a warm, wet summer for the remainder of the year. Summer temperatures average around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (about 22 C), with occasional typhoons to keep things exciting. The northern provinces of Central Vietnam share the climate of the North, while the southern provinces share the tropical weather of the South. South Vietnam is generally warm, the hottest months being March through May, when temperatures rise into the mid-90’s (low-30’s C). This is also the dry season in the south, followed by the April-October monsoon season.
LAOS PEOPLE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
(Laos flag) Laos Emblem
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Latitudes 14° and 23°N (a small area is south of 14°), and longitudes 100° and 108°E.
Currency: Lao kip
Population: 6,288,037 (2011) World Bank
Official language: Lao Language
Laos is the only landlocked country in South East Asia. Its thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rugged mountains, the highest of which is Phou Bia at 2,818 meters (9,245 ft), with some plains and plateaus. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand, whereas the mountains of the Annamite Range form most of the eastern border with Vietnam and the Luang Prabang Range the northwestern border with the Thai highlands. There are two plateaux, the Xiangkhoang in the north and the Bolaven Plateau at the southern end. The climate is tropical and influenced by the monsoon pattern.
There is a distinct rainy season from May to November, followed by a dry season from December to April. Local tradition holds that there are three seasons (rainy, cold and hot) as the latter two months of the climatologically defined dry season are noticeably hotter than the earlier four months. The capital and largest city of Laos is Vientiane and other major cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse.
In 1993, the Laos government set aside 21% of the nation’s land area for habitat conservation preservation. The country is one of four in the opium poppy growing region known as the “Golden Triangle”. According to the October 2007 UNODC fact book “Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia,” the poppy cultivation area was 15 square kilometers (5.8 sq mi), down from 18 square kilometers (6.9 sq mi) in 2006.
Laos can be considered to consist of three geographical areas: north, central, and south.
REPUBLIC ON THE UNION OF MYANMAR
Flag of Myanmar (Burma) Myanmar Emblem
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Government: unitary presidential republic
Currency: kyat (MMK)
Area: total: 678,500 km2
land: 657,740 km2
water: 20,760 km2
Population: 60,280,000 (2010 estimate)
Language: Burmese (official), English, Shan dialects, Kayin, Mon, Chinese dialects (Hokkien, Cantonese), Hindi, Tamil
Religion: Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2% (mostly Hindu)
Electricity: 220V/50Hz (American and/or Central Europe plug)
Calling Code: +95
Myanmar sits at the crossroads of Asia’s great civilizations of India and China, and looks out onto the vast Indian Ocean next to Thailand. One of South East Asia’s largest and most diverse countries, Myanmar stretches from the sparkling islands of the Andaman Sea in the south right up into the Eastern Himalayan mountain range.
To this day Myanmar remains one of the most mysterious and undiscovered destinations in the world. A land of breathtaking beauty and charm yet only recently emerging into the modern world. What can the casual visitor, therefore expect upon arrival, and why should one embark on such a journey in the first place?
Myanmar offers all the traditional delights of Asia in one fascinating country. Virgin jungles, snow-capped mountains and pristine beaches, combined with a rich and glorious heritage spanning more than two thousand years. Spectacular monuments and ancient cities attest to a vibrant culture that is still home to 135 different ethnic groups.
The countryâ€™s tourism infrastructure boasts five-star properties, intimate boutique hotels and family guest houses in all the major centers, as well as stunning mountain and beach resorts. Myanmar also boasts one of the lowest tourist crime records in the world, so visitors can rest assured their holiday will be carefree from start to finish.
Wherever you go in Myanmar, whether it be cruising down the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River in style, drifting over the ancient city of Bagan by hot air balloon, or searching for that elusive tiger on the back of an elephant, there is always a feeling of adventure. With two modern internal airlines upgrading and expanding their networks, new and exciting destinations off the beaten track are gradually being opened. From mountain trekking and rafting in the far north to world class diving in the Mergui Archipelago. But above all, Myanmar offers the warmest welcome in Asia.