Capital | Hanoi
Population | 88,576,758 (July 2010 est.)
Area | 329,560 SQ KM
Official Language | Vietnamese
Holidays | Independence Day, 2 September (1945 – from France)
Currency | dong (VND)
Time Zone | UTC +7
Best Time to Visit | Anytime
Connecting with the Culture | Riding a motorcycle through North Vietnam’s stunning high country and staying at remote hill-tribe villages. Climbing the top of little-visited Titop (Titop Island) for sweeping views of magnificent Halong Bay. Floating your feet along the Mekong. Selecting an outfit from the latest fashion catalogue and having it tailor-made in the delightful city of Hoi An. Riding a bicycle and taking the ride of your life through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
Read | The Sorrow of War by Vietnamese writer Bao Ninh. Flogged on every street corner on Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, this cynical tale on the Vietnam War won a literature prize in Vietnam in 1993.
Listen | to US-based Khanh Ly, a contemporary pop music icon.
Watch | The Quiet American, based on Graham Green’s 1954 novel and starring Michael Caine.
Eat | the staple pho (noodle soup) or banh cuon, delicious steamed rice rolls with minced pork and Vietnam’s famous nouc mam (fish sauce)
Drink | the cheap and widely available bia hoi (draught beer)
In a Word | Dep qua, phai khong! (beautiful, isn’t it!)
Characteristics | Postcard sellers; scooter gridlocks; drivers constantly honking their horns; silk shops; tailors; conical hats; rice patties; limestone cliffs.
Surprises | North Vietnam gets very cold in December and January. The latest fashions have replaced the elegant ao dai (traditional dress)