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CLIMATE – When & Where to visit
Vietnam has a complex terrain. The S-shape country is typical for 3.260 kilometers of coastal line, stretching over 1,800km up the eastern coast of the Indochina peninsula and has various climates at the same time in different parts of the country. Three-quarters of the country is mountains and plateaus.
For each of Vietnam destinations and each season, you will have different exciting experiences. In other words, it is hard to say certainly the best time when to travel to Vietnam. Although it completely belongs to the tropical area, the Vietnam climate is divided into three separated areas of climate.
Despite of these facts, the months of November and December are constantly considered the peak period of incoming tourists. January and February are still cloudy and rainy occasionally.
The best time for a long tour from North to South Vietnam would be from January till April and for those who wish beach holidays can come to enjoy warm water and sunshine in the central coast during summer time, from May to October.
The official language is Vietnamese, however Chinese, Thai and Khmer are also spoken there. For historical reasons French is sometimes spoken, although English predominates in tourist areas.
The national currency is the dong (VND) 1 US$ # 23,000 VND
Vietnam Standard Time is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+7)
Vietnam does not operate Daylight Saving Time.
ELECTRICITY – Voltage & Sockets
The standard voltage is 110 / 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power plugs and sockets are of type A, C and D
Light clothing should be appropriate whatever the season in the south, but for the visit of temples and pagodas, it’s advised to wear short sleeves (shoulders should be covered) and skirts or shorts covering the knees, this for both women and men.
From November to March, as it is cooler in the North, you should bring more warm clothes in the evening and in the morning.
The dominant features of the Cambodian landscape are the large, almost generally located, Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the Bassac River Systems and the Mekong River, which crosses the country from North to South. Surrounding the Central Plains which covered three quarters of the country’s area are the more densely forested and sparsely populated highlands, comprising: the Elephant Mountains and Cardamom Mountain of the southwest and western regions; the Dangrek Mountains of the North adjoining of the Korat Plateau of Thailand; and Rattanakiri Plateau and Chhlong highlands on the east merging with the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.
The Tonle Sap Basin-Mekong Lowlands region consists mainly of plains with elevations generally of less than 100 meters.
The Cardamom Mountains in the southwest rise to more than 1,500 meters and is oriented generally in a northwest-southeast direction. The highest mountain in Cambodia –Phnom Aural, at 1.771meters – is in the eastern part of this range.
The Elephant Range, an extension of Cardamom Mountains, runs towards the south and the southeast and rises to elevations of between 500 and 1,000 meters. These two range are bordered on the west are narrow coastal plain facing the gulf of Thailand that contains Kampong Som Bay. The Dangrek Mountains at the northern rim of Tonle Sap Basin, consisting of a steep escarpment on the southern edge of the Korat Plateau in Thailand, marks the boundary between Thailand and Cambodia.
The Mekong River Cambodia’s largest river dominates the hydrology of the country. The river originates in mainland China, flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand before entering Cambodia. At Phnom Penh, with alternative arms, the Bassak River from the south, and the Tonle Sap River linking with the ” Great Lake ” itself –Tonle Sap – form northwest. It continues further southeastward to its lower delta in Viet Nam and to the South China Sea.
The role of Tonle Sap as a buffer of the Mekong River system floods and the source of beneficial dry season flows warrants explanation. The Mekong River swells with waters during the monsoon reaching a flood discharge of 40,000m3/s at Phnom Penh. By about mid-June, the flow of Mekong and the Bassak River fed by monsoon rains increases to a point where its outlets through the delta cannot handle the enormous volume of water, flooding extensive adjacent floodplains for 4-7 months. At this point, instead of overflowing its backs, its floodwaters reserve the flow of the Tonle Sap River (about 120 km in length), which then has the maximum inflow rate of 1.8m/s and enters the Grate Lake, the largest natural lake in Southeast Asia, increasing the size of the lake from about 2,600 km2 to 10,00 km2 and exceptionally to 13,000 km2 and raising the water level by and average 7m at the height of the flooding. This specificity of the Tonle Sap makes it the only “river with return ” in the world.
The climate can generally be described as tropical. As the country is affected by monsoon, it is hot and humid with an overage temperature around 27.C (80.F). There are two distinct seasons: the Rainy Season and the Dry Season. However, the Dry Season is divided into two sub-seasons, cool and hot. These seasons are:
The Dry season (cool):
From November till February 17-27.C (80-95.F)
The Dry season (Hot) :
From March till May 29-38.C (84-100.F)
VISA & PASSPORT
For most visitors to the Kingdom, visa are obtainable upon arrival at both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. At land crossing from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, visa can be obtained at International Check Point border.
Tourists also can get their visas prior to their arrival through a Cambodian Embassy or Consulate overseas. Tourists also can get eVisa through online E-visa before travelling.
Some nationalities are required to get visa in advance at Royal Embassy of Kingdom of Cambodia in their country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Nigeria.
A passport and visa are required. Tourists and business travelers may purchase a Cambodian visa valid for one month at the airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and borders. Both require a passport valid for at least six (6) months from the expiry date, 01 recent passport-sized photo. A departure tax is charged on all domestic and international flights.
The Cambodian language is Khmer, which is inherited itself – and advanced in education with application of Indic languages Pali and Sangkrit from India.
Also, the Khmer language is influenced by spoken and written Thai. Some technical languages are borrowed from French. However, English is commonly communicated in hotels and business compounds at present days.
English and French are popular second languages and Chinese is the third.
Cambodia’s national currency is the riel (KHR – Khmer Riel). The Cambodian riel comes in notes of the following denominations: 50 riels, 100 riels, 500 riels, 1000 riels, 2000 riels, 5000 riels, 10.000 riels, 20.000 riels, 50.000 riels and 100.000 riels.
Cambodia’s second currency is the US dollar, which is accepted everywhere and by everyone, though change may arrive in riel. There is a 90% level of dollarization in the country. What this means is that you don’t need to be concerned about getting riel when you arrive in Cambodia. The accepted exchange rate in Cambodia is USD1.00 = KHR4.000. Because they don’t use American coins in Cambodia, you’ll get change for your purchases in riel (1.000 riels is 25 cents). You can exchange money at any bank in Cambodia.
Cambodia follows UTC+ 07:00 which is 7 hours ahead of UTC. The local mean time in Phnom Penh was originally UTC+7:19. Cambodia used this local mean time until 1920, when it changed to Indochina Time, UTC+07:00; ICT is used all year round as Thailand does not observe daylight saving time. Cambodia shares the same time zone with Western Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Christmas Island and Laos.
Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel pins, plug type C is the plug which has two round pins and plug type G is the plug with three rectangular pins, in a triangular pattern. Cambodia operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
Please remember that Cambodia is the country of temples, so shorts or transparent clothes or too revealing are disrespectful in their temples. So this is more likely an advice for you to choose the appropriate clothes during your visits. It is maybe a small detail but it shows how you respect the culture of our friend’s country.
Dominating the landscape of Laos are its inhospitable forest-covered mountains, which in the north rise to a maximum elevation of 2,818 metres above sea level at Mount Bia and everywhere constitue an impediment to travel.
The principal range lies along a northwest-southeast axis and forms part of the Annamese Cordillera (Chaîne Annamitique), but secondary ranges abound. On the Xiangkhoang Plateau in north-central Laos, the Plain of Jars consists of extensive rolling grasslands rather than a true plain and provides a hub of communications. The karst landscapes of the central provinces of Bolikhamxay and Khammouan contain caverns and severely eroded limestone pinnacles. In the south the Bolovens Plateau, at an elevation of about 1,100 metres, is covered by open woodland and has generally fertile soil. The only extensive lowlands lie along the eastern bank of the Mekong River.
Laos can be considered to consist of three geographical areas: north, central, and south.
Laos has the typical tropical monsoon (wet-dry) climate of the region, though the mountains provide some variations in temperature.
Laos is divided into 17 provinces (khoueng) and one prefecture (kampheng nakhon), which includes the capital city Vientiane (Nakhon Louang Viangchan). A new province, Xaisomboun Province, was established on 13 December 2013. Provinces are further divided into districts (muang) and then villages (ban). An “urban” village is essentially a town.
PEOPLE: ETHNIC GROUPS AND LANGUAGES
Laos is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country. The official language of Laos is Lao, although various foreign languages have often been used by the elite. French was once the language of the Lao upper classes and of the cities, but by the 1970s English had begun to displace it. Under the leadership of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, Vietnamese became the third language of the elite.
Specialists are largely in agreement as to the ethnolinguistic classification of the ethnic groups of Laos. For the purposes of the 1995 census, the government of Laos recognized 149 ethnic groups within 47 main ethnicities whereas the Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC) recently revised the list to include 49 ethnicities consisting of over 160 ethnic groups.
The term ethnic minorities is used by some to classify the non-Lao ethnic groups, while the term indigenous peoples is not used by the Lao PDR. These 160 ethnic groups speak a total of 82 distinct living languages.
Lao 53.2%, Khmu 11%, Hmong 9.2%, and other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26.6% (2015 census).
The predominant religion of Laos is Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism was the state religion of the prerepublic kingdom of Laos, and the organization of the community of monks and novices, the clergy (sangha), paralleled the political hierarchy.
Similarly, some of the upland peoples, especially those who have migrated from southern China, mix Confucian ideas with Buddhism and local religions. The Vietnamese, who live both in the cities and in the northeastern rural areas, practice a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism and Confucianism.
Other smaller religious communities include Christians, Muslims, and followers of the Bahāʾī faith. Although the country’s constitution provides for freedom of religion in theory, the government restricts this right in practice, particularly with respect to the minority religions.
DAILY LIFE AND SOCIAL CUSTOMS
Most families in Laos are involved in farming. Members of households work the land together, with a division of labour by gender.
In wet rice cultivation, men plough and prepare the seedbed, control water flow to the fields, and thresh the crop. Women transplant the seedlings, weed the fields, and carry the sheaves of rice to the threshing place. Wet rice cultivation begins with the onset of the rains in April or May and ends with the harvest in October and November.
In upland rice cultivation, men cut and clear the swiddens, while women do the sowing and weeding. In upland areas, fields are burned and cleared at the end of the dry season in February and March, and harvesting takes place in November.
Cultivation of secondary crops is interspersed with rice cultivation; gardening on river banks, for example, follows the drop in water level at the end of the dry season.
In addition to strictly agricultural activities, the daily lives of rural people involve a number of other tasks, such as fetching water from wells, hunting for game, and gathering various forest products. Common forest products include small game, birds and eggs, fruit, honey, spices, medicines, resins, latexes, dyes, and wood for fuel and for making charcoal, as well as structural materials such as rattan, bamboo, wooden poles, and various fibres. The important tasks of gathering and processing of forest products are associated with women.
The ethnic Lao ritual of the baci, in which strings are tied around a person’s wrist to preserve good luck, has indeed been elevated in Laos to the place of a national custom. The baci is associated with transitions, namely, giving birth, getting married, entering the monkhood, going away, returning, beginning a new year, and welcoming or bidding farewell to foreign guests. The practice has retained an important place in state ceremonies of all kinds. A prominent ritual among the upland Hmong is the sacrifice of a chicken or pig to the household spirit at the new year.
VISA POLICY OF LAOS
Except for most Southeast Asian countries and a handful of European countries, almost everyone who enters Laos needs a visa. However, it’s easy to get one online or upon arrival. Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country gets plenty of visitor traffic from its overland crossings from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
The only people who don’t need a visa for Laos are travelers with passports from Japan, Russia, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Brunei, and Myanmar. American citizens are eligible to apply for an eVisa ahead of their trip or can obtain a visa on arrival. When applying for any kind of Laotian visa you will need your passport details, two passport-sized photographs, and your application fee.
OFFICIAL CURRENCY OF LAOS
The official currency of Laos is the Lao Kip, which is denoted on banknotes as “₭ “. However, this currency has only been used in Laos since 1952, and before that, the currency used was the French Indochinese Piastre, which had been introduced by the French in the colonial period from 1893–1952.
Today, the kip comes in denominations of notes only, as the economic downturn in Laos from 1991 caused chronic inflation. Banknotes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000 kip. In 2012, a 100,000 kip banknote was issued to encourage the use of the national currency, instead of the more popular US dollar for larger purchases.
While the official currency in Laos is the Kip, other currencies are also commonly used for spending in Laos, though not legally or with government approval. In reality, there are actually three national currencies, the Kip, the Thai Baht, and the US Dollar. It is also possible to use Chinese Yuan in some parts of Laos, though it is not as popularly accepted as the dollar.
In Laos the power plugs and sockets are of type A, B, C, E and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
LAOS TIME ZONE
Time in Laos is given by Indochina Time (ICT) (UTC+07:00). Laos does not currently observe daylight saving time. Laos shares the same time zone with Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Christmas Island and Western Indonesia.