Vietnam Introduction

Although many westerners still imagine Vietnam through the lens of war, it is in reality a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life. Its highlands and rain forest regions, far from being devastated, continue to yield new species and team with exotic wildlife. Its islands and beaches are among the finest in all of Southeast Asia, and its cuisine is very possibly the most delicious you will ever find. Over two decades have passed since Vietnam was officially united, and in that time it has done a remarkable job of healing its wounds. Today, this gracious and peaceful country is an outstanding travel destination.

Vietnam’s Name
Vietnam is officially known in English as the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam“, sometimes abbreviated as SRV. The full name in Vietnamese is Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam.

Vietnam’s Flag
Vietnam’s flag is bright red with a yellow star. The red represents blood spill during the country’s fight for independence. The star represents Vietnam’s unity and the points on the star represent the union of the people working together in building socialism

Located in the center of Southeast Asia. Vietnam borders China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, and the East Sea and the Gulf of Thailand to the east and the south. The main land of Vietnam covers over 331,211 square kilometers with a total length of 1,650km. The territory also includes thousands of islands and islets scattered along the coast. Among these are Truong Sa (Spratley Islands) and Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) Vietnam’s coastline measures more than 3,260km in length and its inland border is 4,510 km long.

Vietnam lies in the tropical and temperate zones, so its climate is influenced by two monsoons. In the North, these are four seasons, with average temperatures of around 17°C in winter and 34°C in summer. In the South, the climate undergoes less variation with an annual average temperature of around 27°C in Ho Chi Minh City.

Around three-quarters of Vietnam’s territory consists of mountains and hills. Vietnam has two major deltas, the Red River Delta and the Mekong Delta, as well as four mountainous zones. They are the North-East, the North West, the Truong Son Mountain Range, and the Central Highlands. Each of them possesses its own unique feature.

The Vietnamese population exceeded 90 million in 2012 and consists of 54 ethnic group. The largest ethic group is the Viet (Kinh), concentrated mainly in the delta regions. Most of minority groups live in the highlands and mountainous areas.

Vietnam is a nation with thousand years of history. Archaeological artifacts of the Phung Nguyen, Dong Dau, Go Mun and Dong Son cultures, especially discoveries of bronze drums of Ngoc Lu have proved that Vietnam was a cradle of the developed civilizations before Christ. Vestiges of the historic period of the Hung Kings have revealed that Vietnam is one of the oldest countries in Southeast Asia.

There are 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam. Together the have built the country and fought for national freedom and independence against invaders Many minorities have their own language, script and distinctive cultural identity. The cultural identity of each ethnic group is manifested through their communal life and the social-economic activities. Still, the ethnic groups of Vietnam share some common virtues, including a strong work, ethnic kindheartedness, altruist, resilience, and bravery.

Religions & Rituals
Located near two major centers of culture, India and China, Vietnam has absorbed a number of regions over time. Although imported from different countries, religions in practice in Vietnam have demonstrated no signs of conflict, and exist in harmony, striving for mutual development, and good secular and religious life. The Vietnamese Law ensures the sovereignty and freedom of religion and ritual

For thousands of years, different religious practices have played major roles in the lives of the Vietnamese people including worshiping ancestors, village Spirit, and national heroes. Each ethnic group has traditionally paid special attention to the worship of ancestors. These customs and habits remain today.

Festivals are a popular Vietnamese cultural activity. A festival, whether organized by a group living in the lowlands or highlands, is a chance for everyone to remember their origins and show their gratitude to those who had great merits for the nation. A festival is also a chance for people to exchange ideas, customs and habits to express their noble desire to love their country. Most Vietnamese festivals are organized in spring or autumn, the most pleasant times of the year when the harvests have been completed. Among these festivals, Tet Nguyen Dan (Lunar New year) and the National Day (September 2) are the most important.

Craft Villages
In many villages, in addition to cultivating rice, vegetable and other crops, villagers produce traditional handicrafts. The skills to create these crafts are handed down from generation to generation, with diligent artisans creating high-quality products. Traditional Vietnamese handicrafts are rich and diverse, including ceramic and porcelain making, silver engraving wood carving, silk weaving, brocade production, and bamboo and rattan weaving.

Tourists visiting these craft villagers are able to witness the expertise of Vietnamese craftsmen, and take home remarkable souvenirs.

Traditional Costumes
The traditional attire of Viet Nam is another part of its unique cultural identity. Each ethnic group has its own costume designs, typically employing bright and contrasting colors such as black and white, black and red, green and red, or green and white. Almost all traditional costumes are made from flax, cotton, or sillk. These are different types of costumes for people of different age and gender and for different occasions, such as meetings, festivals, wedding, and funerals. However, nowadays, Vietnamese people typically wear western clothes.

The most important article of traditional dress is ao dai (traditional long dress), which has been designed and stylized to the tastes of young girls. The present-day ao dai clings to the body helping to highlight the charming curves of its wearer. When wearing the ao dai, women often put on a conical bamboo hat than makes them look both graceful and gentle.

Viet Nam is an agricultural society known for wet rice civilization, thus, most Vietnamese dishes are characterized by rice and other products of local agriculture.

Nem Ran is a very popular dish of Vietnam and can be found on the menus of luxurious parties

Pho (noodles soup) is a delicious, simple dish. Pho noodles are made from rice. There are up to 20 kinds of Pho, with Pho bo being the most popular. Hanoians Pho has become famous around the world.

Banh Cuon (Steamed and rolled rice pancake). A rice flour batter is spread over a steaming plate to make a thin wrapper which is rolled with pork, minced shrimp and fried onion and dipped in a mixture of fish sauce, lemon and chili.

In Hue , visitors should try corn hen (rice with mussels) a Hue specialty

It is rather finicky to prepare, but has an unforgettable taste. Visitors to Hue can take home some of Hue’s specialties, such as a bottle of its shrimp sauce.

Cao Lau (Noodle soup) is a traditional favorite of Hoian. The noodles are made with specially selected rice, cooked over a slow fire.

There are many specialties with distinctive local flavor, such as Xeo cake (rice pancake) Hu Tieu (Noodle with seasoned, sauteed beef) in My Tho, Lau Mam (hot pot), spring rolls, are grilled shrimp paste.

It is impossible to count all of the traditional local dishes across Vietnam. Although many are made from the same raw materials, the dishes have distinct local flavor.