Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by People's Republic of China (PRC) to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea, referred to as East Sea to the east. With a population of over 89 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.
The Vietnamese became independent from China in AD 938 after their victory at the battle of Bach Dang River. Successive dynasties flourished along with geographic and political expansion deeper into Southeast Asia, until it was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. Fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War, ending with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
Emerging from this prolonged military engagement, the war-ravaged nation was politically isolated. In 1986, the government instituted economic and political reforms and began a path towards international reintegration. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth has been among the highest in the world in the past decade. According to Citigroup the high growth will be continued and based on Global Growth Generators countries Index, Vietnam got the highest Index among 11 countries. These efforts resulted in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007. These economic reforms also introduced inequality in many spheres of life in Vietnam such as income distribution and women's rights.
Simply walking to the nearest intersection and merely watching the driving antics is amazing. Keep watching and you may see TV's and Fridges and other unlikely objects impossibly balanced and secured with string on the back of a motorcycle. Watch how other people and local cross the road.
You will need to observe the traffic etiquette, if you want to cross the road. Some suggest avoid crossing when trucks and lorry's are close by, as they are less agile than motorbikes.
If your timing coincides with the to/from school hours, this is the best time to observe a glimpse of pushbikes, traditional clothing and ao dai mixing it with 'normal' traffic, even in the heaviest of torrential downpours. Such motivated schoolchildren!
As you travel about, you will find there are clusters of shops all selling like goods - like 20 sewing machine shops together, then 30 hardware shops all together, 200 motorcycle repair shops in the same block. Prices are competitive!
Be wary of watch shops selling original authentic fakes. Other fake watches are available but not as cheap as other surrounding countries. Pirated software is oddly, very hard to find and not sold openly. However Movie DVD's of indifferent quality are widely available from US$1, although not all may have English on them. The local post office will strictly not allow them to be posted abroad.
Vietnam claims Health tourism is on the rise. Hygiene, infection control and proper sterilization is very important, as drug resistant 'bugs' are always a concern, anywhere.