Vietnam is a small country but it's owned beautiful countryside, delicious food and fascinating culture in different regions; Northwest, Northeast, Red River Delta, North Central Coast, South Central Coast, Central Highlands, Southeast, and Mekong River Delta. Cycling is a new way of traveling in Vietnam; Ha Noi to Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh by bicycle, discover natural world wonder sites, Ha Long bay, Phong Nha, Son Doong Caves, Hue- Hoi An ancient towns, sandy beaches on beautiful coastal back roads before cycling to Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Located in the southeastern extremity of the Indochina peninsula and occupies about 331,688 square kilometers, of which about 25 percent was under cultivation in 1987. The S-shaped country has a north-to-south distance of 1,650 kilometers and is about 50 kilometers wide at the narrowest point. With a coastline of 3,260 kilometers, excluding islands, Vietnam claims 12 nautical miles as the limit of its territorial waters, an additional 12 nautical miles as a contiguous customs and security zone, and 200 nautical miles as an exclusive economic zone. Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries located in the South East Asia that travelers can see countryside by cycling tours. In the North, Vietnam shares the long borderline with China. In the East, Vietnam is bordered by the Gulf of Tonkin, inn the East and South by Pacific ocean, in the South West by the Gulf of Thailand, and in the West by Cambodia and Laos. Owning to stretching the length of the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam boasts a unique shape of an elongated S and a long coastline of 3,260km with a lot of wonderful sites.
Vietnamese cuisine is really delicious and very healthy but not oily food. Many of the most popular dishes can be made just as well on the side of the road as in a top-end restaurant. But it's precisely this simplicity, the subtle variations by region and the fresh ingredients, that keep us pulling up a plastic stool for more. Here are some dishes that travelers can't miss when coming to Vietnam;
1. Pho - beef noodle soup
What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without pho?
It's almost impossible to walk a block in Vietnam's major destinations without bumping into a crowd of hungry patrons slurping noodles at a makeshift pho stand. This simple staple consisting of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef, features predominately in the local diet -- and understandably so. It's cheap, tasty, and widely available at all hours. You could find them easy in city centers of Saigon and Hanoi.
2. Cha ca - grilled chopped fish
Hanoians consider cha ca to be so exceptional that there is a street in the capital dedicated to these fried morsels of fish. This namesake alley is home to Cha Ca La Vong, which serves sizzling chunks of fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric and dill on a hot pan tableside. Cha Ca La Vong may be the busiest but the service is a bit gruff and the food overpriced. Instead make your way to Duong Than in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem district, where you'll find plenty of more affordable but just as tasty options.
3. Banh xeo- pancakes
A good banh xeo is a crispy crepe bulging with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts, plus the garnish of fresh herbs that are characteristic of most authentic Vietnamese dishes. To enjoy one like a local, cut it into manageable slices, roll it up in rice paper or lettuce leaves and dunk it in whatever special sauce the chef has mixed up for you. The most well-know and popular is in Ho Chi Minh. 46A Dinh Cong Trang, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
4. Cao lau - Cao lau noodles are carefully made from local fresh rice.
This pork noodle dish from Hoi An is a bit like the various cultures that visited the trading port at its prime. The thicker noodles are similar to Japanese udon, the crispy won-ton crackers and pork are a Chinese touch, while the broth and herbs are clearly Vietnamese. Authentic cau lao is made only with water drawn from the local Ba Le well. The address is 106 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoi An
5. Rau muong - Water spinach
Some might call it river weed -- with good reason -- but that doesn't stop the masses from scarfing down platefuls of morning glory, usually stir-fried and seasoned with slithers of potent garlic. Rau muong is common at Vietnamese restaurants and beer gardens.
6. Nem ran/cha gio
Vietnam's bite-sized crunchy spring rolls might not enjoy the same popularity as their healthier fresh equivalent, but they deserve a special mention. The crispy shell with a soft veggie and meat filling dunked in a tangy sauce gets the gastronomic juices flowing before a main course. In the north these parcels go by the name nem ran while southerners call them cha gio.
Bun Cha, 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
7. Goi cuon - Fresh spring rolls
These light and healthy fresh spring rolls are a wholesome choice when you've been indulging in too much of the fried food in Vietnam. The translucent parcels are first packed with salad greens, a slither of meat or seafood and a layer of coriander, before being neatly rolled and dunked in Vietnam's favorite condiment -- fish sauce.
8. Bun bo Hue - Hue-style spicy noodle soup
Central Vietnam's take on noodles caters to carnivores with its meaty broth and piles of beef and pork. The thick slippery rice noodles also make for a heartier meal than noodles found in the north and south. You don't have to go to Hue to enjoy this dish; if in Ho Chi Minh City try Tib Express, 162 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, District 3, HCMC
9. Banh khot - Glorious Vietnamese srispy pancakes
This dainty variation of a Vietnamese pancake has all the same tasty ingredients but is a fraction of the size. Each banh knot can be scoffed in one ambitious but satisfying mouthful. The crunchy outside is made using coconut milk and the filling usually consists of shrimp, mung beans, and spring onions with a dusting of dried shrimp flakes on top. Co Ba Vung Tau, 59B Cao Thang, District 3, HCMC
The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, which is the mother tongue of the Vietnamese people who constitute 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. And it is the second language of the ethnic minority groups in the country. It is monosyllabic, with each syllable having six different tones that can change the meaning of the word. This makes it quite difficult for new learners. Beside the official language, each ethnic minority group has its own dialect that has been used and preserved in daily life. The Vietnamese writing system in use today is an adapted version of the Latin alphabet, with additional diacritics for tones and certain letters. The different tones are indicated by the use of accent marks. This system of writing, called Quoc Ngu, was created by a French Catholic missionary, Fr. Alexander De Rhodes, in the 17th century to translate the scriptures. When France invaded Vietnam in the late 19th century, French gradually replaced Chinese as the official language in education and government. In addition, many Sino-Vietnamese terms were devised for Western ideas imported through the French. However, the Romanized script did not come to predominate until the beginning of the 20th century, when education became widespread and a simpler writing system was found more expedient for teaching and communication with the general population.
Vietnam's traditional customs are very multiform and plentiful in each period of time from the past until now. Each of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam has its distinct custom with many different traditional costumes and liturgies. But, they all contribute to a diverse customs of a big family - Vietnamese nation. "Ao dai" which is considered as the traditional costume of Vietnam and makes deep impression for tourists coming to Vietnam was emerged in 18th century. Social relationships in Vietnam are very complicated and strict as Oriental culture originally and influences of Confucianism in Chinese domination period. They now are less strict than in the past but most of these cultural values have been maintained. Along historical period, languages used in Vietnam have been changed to suit with administration and times. After gained independence for the country in 1945, the National language - alphabet Vietnamese was recognized as official language of Vietnam.
Vietnam is the rich culture country and has variety of religions. The earliest established religions in Vietnam are Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Buddhism is the main religion as well as the most long-standing religion in Vietnam. First known in 16th century as missionary activities of Western missionaries, Christianity ranks the 2nd about the number of religious people. Founded in Tay Ninh Province in 1926, Caodaism is one of big religions in Vietnam which was formed on the base of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Beside Vietnam also has many other religious like Hinduism and Judaism.
Mahayana traditions: The overall doctrinal position of Vietnamese Buddhism is the inclusive system of Tiantai, with the higher metaphysics informed by the Huayan school (Vietnamese: Hoa Nghiem); however, the orientation of Vietnamese Buddhism is syncretic without making such distinctions. Therefore, modern practice of Vietnamese Buddhism can be very eclectic, including elements from Thiền (Chan Buddhism), Thiên Thai (Tiantai), Tịnh độ Pure Land Buddhism, and popular practices from Vajrayana. According to Charles Prebish, many English language sources contain misconceptions regarding the variety of doctrines and practices in traditional Vietnamese Buddhism
Theravada Buddhism: The central and southern part of present-day Vietnam were originally inhabited by the Chams and the Khmer people, respectively, who followed both a syncretic Śaiva-Mahayana (see History of Buddhism in Cambodia) and Theravada Buddhism. Dai Viet annexed the land occupied by the Cham during conquests in the 15th century and by the 18th century had also annexed the southern portion of the Khmer Empire, resulting in the current borders of Vietnam. From that time onward, the dominant Dai Viet (Vietnamese) followed the Mahayana tradition while the Khmer continued to practice Theravada.
Vietnam Christianity: In Vietnam, Christianity ranks the 2nd (just after Buddhism) about the number of religious people. As result of 2009 Population & Housing Census, there are around 5,677,000 people in Christianity and that figure is accounted for 6.62% of national population.
Climate of Vietnam
Climate of Vietnam is tropical in the north and subtropical in the center and south, and it's influenced by the monsoons: the south-west monsoon affects the country from May to October, and the northeast monsoon from October to April. The former brings heavy rainfall in the exposed areas, ie both the north and the south, while along the central part, protected by the mountains, it brings relatively little rain and leaves often space to the sun. The north-east monsoon is generally drier, but it brings heavy rains in the early months (October-December) along the coast exposed to the east, and light but frequent rains in the north. In inland areas, there are hills and mountains, which make the climate milder in the summer months, but even cold in winter in the north. The amount of rainfall is normally between 1,500 and 2,500 millimeters (60 and 98 inches) per year, but there's also a relatively small arid zone in the Phan Thiet area (north-east of Ho Chi Minh City), where it's slightly above 1,000 mm (40 in)