According to the World Bank, Vietnam is “a development success story”. Political and economic reforms launched in 1986 have transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world, to lower middle income status within a quarter of a century. The fraction of people living in extreme poverty dropped from over 50 percent in the early 1990s to 3 percent today.
However, there are constraints to Vietnam’s continued growth. Inequality is a continuing challenge for the country, with the gender pay gap widening over the last decade. Ethnic minorities have still not benefitted equally from economic growth, and businesses are constrained by the lack of a skilled workforce, alongside poor infrastructure and an uncertain policy environment.
Australia's aid program in Vietnam is focused on enabling and engaging the private sector for development, assisting the development and employment of a highly-skilled workforce and promoting women’s economic empowerment, including ethnic minorities.The majority of Australian volunteer assignments in Vietnam fall into the community development, health and natural science and environment sectors.
Da Nang is one of the major port cities in Vietnam, located between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, separated from Laos by the western Truong Son Mountains. Da Nang is the fifth most populated city in Vietnam and as the population has been growing significantly, new modernist hotels, apartments and restaurants are emerging.
Tourism sector is a vital component of Da Nang's economy and several World Heritage Sites, including the Imperial City of Hue, the Old Town of Hoi An and the My Son ruins are close by. Da Nang's has a typical tropical monsoon, temperate and equable climate.
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is the country's second largest city with an ever increasing population of 6.5 million people. Located in northern Vietnam, Hanoi serves as the political centre for the country. The city is a unique mix of East and West, with its tradition and modernity and its French colonial heritage and Confucian influences. The city is warm in summer and cooler in winter, with high humidity throughout the year.
Hanoi is a popular tourist location, with visitors drawn to the abundance of beautiful landscapes such as lakes, boulevards, lush public parks and French architecture. It is well serviced by comprehensive public bus lines which are clean, comfortable and cheap. Although both motorbikes and bicycles are available for rent, they are not recommended due to the challenges faced by inexperienced riders when navigating busy cities and the chaotic nature of the traffic.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is Vietnam's largest city with a population exceeding 7 million. After becoming part of Vietnam, the city served as the capital of South Vietnam under the name of Saigon until 1975, and was then renamed after the late communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Today, it is a city of commerce and culture, with everything from ancient pagodas, churches and temples, to busy markets, sleek skyscrapers, designer malls and gourmet restaurants. It offers the traditions and culture of Vietnam while still bearing the influences of French colonial rule.
The city is located on the banks of the Saigon River. Explosive growth has resulted in a sharp increase in traffic and pollution, earning Ho Chi Minh City the title of "the capital of motorbikes". Both pedestrians and drivers should be alert at all times. However, city buses are cheap and plentiful and metered taxis are also widely available. Ho Chi Minh City has a warm tropical climate with high humidity.
Hoi An is located in Quang Nam province on the south central coast of Vietnam. It was once a quiet riverside village used to harbour foreign traders, but is now a tourist town known for its hotels, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and popular tailors. The Old Town district is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in order to preserve the temples, pagodas, ancient homes and the combination of Vietnamese design with elements of Chinese, Japanese and European architecture. The climate is tropical and warm throughout the year, with a dry season followed by a long rainy season, during which flooding can be an issue.
Hoi An is one of the safest towns in Vietnam, and is relatively small with a population of about 85 000. It is easy to travel around the town on foot, so taxis and public transportation are generally not required, though both are available. To add to Hoi An's sense of history, the town hosts a 'Hoi An Legendary Night' every month on the full moon, where motorbikes are banned from the Old Town as it stages a night of silk lanterns, traditional food, song, dance and games in the streets.
Hue is the capital of Thua Thien-Hue province on the north central coast of Vietnam. It is situated on the banks of the Perfume River and has a population of over 1 million people. The weather is warm throughout the year, with a particularly hot dry season and a more humid wet season.
It is renowned for its art and architecture which is celebrated through festivals and events characterising its rich cultural tradition, and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its historic monuments. Specifically, the city is famous for its temples, tombs, palaces, and pagodas, as well as its degustation style Imperial cuisine. The Festival of Hue is celebrated biennially with local and international performers throughout the city.