Hanoi, Vietnam - population about 3.5 million - is the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV)

Background: France occupied all of Vietnam by 1884. Independence was declared after World War II, but the French continued to rule until 1954 when they were defeated by communist forces under Ho Chi MINH, who took control of the north. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later North Vietnamese forces overran the south. Economic reconstruction of the reunited country has proved difficult as aging Communist Party leaders have only grudgingly initiated reforms necessary for a free market.

Economy - overview: Vietnam is a poor, densely populated country that has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally planned economy. Substantial progress was achieved from 1986 to 1996 in moving forward from an extremely low starting point - growth averaged around 9% per year from 1993 to 1997. The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the problems existing in the Vietnamese economy but, rather than prompting reform, reaffirmed the government's belief that shifting to a market oriented economy leads to disaster. GDP growth of 8.5% in 1997 fell to 6% in 1998 and 5% in 1999. Growth continued at the moderately strong level of 5.5%, a level that should be matched in 2001.  These numbers mask some major difficulties in economic performance. Many domestic industries, including coal, cement, steel, and paper, have reported large stockpiles of inventory and tough competition from more efficient foreign producers; this problem apparently eased in 2000. Foreign direct investment fell dramatically, from $8.3 billion in 1996 to about $1.6 billion in 1999. Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities have moved slowly in implementing the structural reforms needed to revitalize the economy and produce more competitive, export-driven industries.

Interesting places and good stuff to know in no particular order or priority

  1. International Mission of Hope  (IMH)  31 Le Duan Street TEL: 9.422822
  2. Claudia Hotel 60 Hang Dao Street  TEL: 8.269314
  3. Somerset Grand Hanoi Hotel  49 Hai Ba Trung Street  TEL: 9.342342 (link)
  4. Good Thai place near the Somerset: Bangkok Hanoi Restaurant  52A Ly Thoung Keit.  TEL: 9.345598
  6. (pronounced "cow ziay?" - up accent on the end):
  7. The orphanage is on the way from Noibai Airport to the Somerset or Claudia hotel.  Just off of Nam Thang Long Road (the road from the airport), go across Xuan Thuy (big intersection with a roundabout) and take the first right (towards Hospital 19-8).  The orphanage is on the right.
  8. A VERY IMPORTANT thing you need to know about your Asian baby
  9. Hotel Info Link
  10. Good Italian joint near St. Joseph's Cathedral: Mediterraneo  23 Nha Tho St.  TEL: 8.266288
  11. Ice Cream (more like Gellato) near Hoan Kiem Lake: Fanny  48 Le Thai To  TEL: 8.285656
  12. Not bad place for inexpensive prints: Gallery Long (the one on the left side of the building - the one on the right is the competition)  14 Nha Chung St.  This shop is near the Italian place mentioned above.  TEL: 9.286014
  13. Kid stuff: newKids, 48 Ba Trieu St.  TEL: 9.348288  Large selection of clothes, some toys, strollers, etc.
  14. More Kid Stuff: Baby Shop  57 Tho nhuom St.  TEL: 9,348462  Good selection of clothes, toys and inexpensive strollers, etc.
  15. Good shopping in the area near St. Joseph's Cathedral.  A bit more up scale and different from the rest.
  16. Thai Airlines office is in the Melina Hotel - very near the Somerset.  This is a good thing to know if you are flying on Thai and want to confirm your reservations (highly recommended). They do not answer their phone so it is easiest to just go in person.
  17. Money Stuff: Travelers Checks, Currency Exchange, ATM (Master Card, Visa, Cirrus, PLUS) ANZ Bank, 14 Le Thi To Street (near Hoan Kiem Lake) TEL:  8.258188/9
  18. Emotion CyberNet Cafe, across the street from the shopping mall attached to the Somerset.  Cheap (but real slow) Internet access.
  19. Speaking of the net - I usually get a free email account when I travel internationally since it is nearly impossible to connect to my ISP.  In Vietnam in particular, telephone service is not very reliable and is noisy so even if your ISP offers a point of presence (POP) here, chances are it will not be very reliable or fast.  There are many Internet Cafe's in Hanoi - some even have air conditioning and bandwidth.  Free email is a pretty good price  but you get what you pay for.  I usually use mail.yahoo.com, but they are all pretty much the same.