Vietnamese prefer to deal in cash, credit cards are increasingly used in hotels, restaurants, and shops in big cities. Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars can be exchanged at Vietcombank, the state bank. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) and Vietcombank have ATM machines that dispense only Dong. Most will accept foreign ATM cards, but travelers should check with the bank for special requirements. For cash advances, travelers can go to ANZ in Ho Chi Minh City (11 Me Linh Square., D.1, Ho Chi Minh City, Telephone: 829 9319) or in Hanoi (14 Ly Thai To Street, Hanoi, Telephone: 825 8190). Some traveler’s cafes will provide cash advances at higher rates. One should not accept torn or soiled bills, as they are difficult to spend.
Vietnam’s maritime claims along the eastern border are the following, in order of north to south: the Gulf of Tonkin, the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand for a coastline of 3,444 kilometers (2,138 miles) (excluding the islands). Vietnam has a 200-nautical-mile exclusive eco- nomic zone, 200-nautical-mile continental shelf, 24-nautical-mile con- tiguous zone and 12-nautical-miles of territorial waters.
Vietnam has many border disputes. The maritime boundaries with Cam- bodia and China are not defined. Land boundaries with Laos are still under discussion. The Paracel Islands are occupied by China but, claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The most serious border dispute is over the Spratly Islands. The islands are located in the South China Sea, which is one of the world’s busiest international sea lanes. They are part of a region that contains oil and gas resources. They are strategically located near large, energy-consuming countries. Six nations have com- peting claims for the territory in the South China Sea that could poten- tially threaten Southeast Asia’s long-term stability. China, Vietnam, and Taiwan all have claims based on history. Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei have claims based on international law. Without China’s cooper- ation, a solution is impossible, Beijing refuses to accept a multi-lateral solution. There appears to be no sign of resolution.
Bodies of Water
Vietnam’s two rivers, the Red River and the Mekong River, provide both water and transportation making them immensely important to the Viet- namese. The Mekong River, the tenth largest in the world, flows by 50 million people in 6 nations. The Mekong River begins in the forested mountains and uplands of southwestern China, and flows 4,200 kilome- ters (2,610 miles) to the South China Sea, passing through Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The river has a fresh water lake that acts as a reservoir during flood stages, greatly reducing the danger of dev- astating floods. The Red River, flowing for 1,200 kilometers (746 miles),may increase in size by more than 60 times at the peak of the rainy season. Extensive flood control, including dikes and canals has resulted in dense population and rice growing.
Vietnam is a land of contrasts. Mountains and hills cover 80 percent of Vietnam’s territory with the Truong Son range stretching more than 1,400 kilometers (870 miles). Mount Fan Si Pan, 3,144 meters (10,315 feet), is the highest peak in Southeast Asia. In the south, sea- level lowlands dominate Vietnam’s border with Cambodia. The Red River Delta in the north and the Mekong River Delta in the south are Vietnam’s most cultivated and populated areas. Ho Chi Minh City and the capital, Hanoi, both lie in these delta regions. A low-lying, narrow coastal plain connects the two deltas.An unspoiled coastline, a preserved Asian way of life, and spectacular areas of beauty have contributed to Vietnam initiating a tourist industry. While the government has made investments developing a tourist indus- try, poor transportation remains a problem.