Country name: The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Capital: Ha Noi
Largest city: Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon
Population: Over 85 million. Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world. Average people 253/km2
GDP (capita): $3,000 (USA is $44,000) est. 2005
Currency: Vietnam Dong (VNÐ/d)
Political system: One party system
Life expectancy: Male – 68 years, Female 72 years
Main exports: Rice, petrol, tea, coffee, clothing, rubber
It's very likely that the first thing Westerners think of when they hear the word "Vietnam" is the American - Vietnam war. The country today, with over 30 years of peace, offers a unique and rewarding experience to those who visit, with the war long forgotton, or at most a distant memory. The people are warm, the food is good and scenery is beautiful. The cities are teeming with people and the countryside is abundant with wildlife, especially so in the north. Chemical warfare has had a lasting, damaging affect on Vietnam's vegetation and wildlife but it is beginning to recover and there are still many exciting places to explore. Ironically, the war is one of the reasons why many people choose to visit Vietnam.
The North of Vietnam offers stunning mountain scenery and tranquil village life, with many places living unaffected by Western culture and continuing traditonal lifestyles. Central Vietnam has many white, sandy beaches as it occupies such a narrow strip of land, while the South of Vietnam is more Westernized and densely populated but also boasts rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs with crystal-clear water and is where the Mekong river meets the ocean.
Around 80% of Vietnam's population is ethnic Vietnamese, with the remaining 20% being made up by over 50 different ethnic groups, with many cultural and language differences. French and Chinese elements are visible throughout Vietnam due to colonisation but Vietnam is very much Vietnamese and are proud to be so.
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