At A Glance: Vietnam

Also known as: Socialist Republic of Vietnam, ’Nam

Government: Vietnam is one of the world’s five remaining single-party socialist states. That’s right, ladies and gents, it’s Communist! The Communist Party of Vietnam works in all facets of government, politics, and society. Only sub-parties that are endorsed by the government are allowed to participate in elections. Publicly the state’s official creed is socialism, however their economy has become increasingly capitalist. The Economist classifies Vietnam as “ardently capitalist communists.”

Median household income: Income in Vietnam varies widely by profession and by urban/rural areas. In rural areas, household incomes are around 2,400,000 VND (or dong). This is the equivalent of $150 USD per year. In urban areas it is 3,120,000 dong or $197 USD per year. Conversely, pharmacist and textile workers make around 7,000,000 dong and a CEO of a major company could make 17-20 million in a year. Wide, wide gaps.

Weather: Because Vietnam is a long and narrow country, climate also varies widely based on the region. In the southern regions near Ho Chi Minh City the temperature is more tropical (70-85 degrees Fahrenheit) year round. In the north, especially in the mountainous areas, it can range drastically from 41 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 98 degrees in July and August. Monsoon season is October through early December.

Our favorite places:`

-The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. A very rough day, especially as an American, but a fascinating alternative narrative of the Vietnam War that you will not find in any American museum (that we know of).

-Glow Bar. This bar/club is on top of one of the highest skyscrapers in Ho Chi Minh City, complete with house music, dark dance rooms, and New York priced drinks.

-La Mancha Restaurant in Nha Trang. This restaurant also moonlights as a dance school at night. You have can have a lovely meal, a drink at the bar, and a Russian to teach you the Cha Cha.

-Hoi An on the whole. This is a WONDERFUL city. Find a good tailor, have some clothes made. Eat some delicious regional food. Go have a night out at Why Not Bar. We love it here; a must-see destination in Vietnam.

-Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel, Hanoi. Really, REALLY nice by hostel standards and a great staff and crowd.

– Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex. For a nice day of historical site-seeing.

Fun facts:

-In Vietnam you can eat dog, snake and take shots of snake blood (we didn’t do any of these things).

-Most locals still call Ho Chi Minh City by its original name, Saigon.

-Nha Trang is overrun with Russians, apparently because they can get a direct flight in.

-Women in Vietnam are more responsible for their households than men, financially and otherwise.