Despite Vietnam\'s ongoing economic liberalization and the pressures of rapid development, Vietnamese people have managed to preserve their rich civilization and highly cultured society. Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country\'s natural setting: the Red River Delta in the North, the Mekong Delta in the South and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats. There are lots of divine beaches along the coast too, while inland there are soaring mountains, most of which are covered by dense, misty forests.
The country has discarded its post-war fatigues and the boom in budget traveling, coupled with the softening of government control, have enabled more contemporary and relevant portraits of the country to gain currency in the West. Vietnam offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.
Full country name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Area: 329,566 sq km (128,527 sq miles).
Population: 83 million.
Capital city: Hanoi (pop 3.5 million).
Population: 84% ethnic Vietnamese, 2% ethnic Chinese, also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once-great Indianized Champa Kingdom) and members of over 50 ethno linguistic groups (also known as Montagnards, \'highlanders\' in French).
Language: Vietnamese, Russian, French, Chinese, English and a variety of Khmer and Laotian dialects.
Religion: Buddhism is the principal religion but there are also sizeable Taoist, Confucian, Hoa Hao, Caodaists, Muslim and Christian minorities.
Government: Social Republic.
President: Nguyen Minh Triet
Prime Minister: Nguyen Tan Dzung
GDP: US$24 billion.
GDP per capita: US$300.
Annual growth: 8%.
Major products/industries: Rice, rubber, food processing, sugar, textiles, chemicals.
Major trading partners: China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan.
Situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, with a surface of about 333,000 km², Vietnam has the shape of a stretched letter S with two extremities, bordering China in the north and the East Sea in the south. In the west, Vietnam shares borders with Laos and Cambodia. The country possesses 3,260 km of coastline and a part of the Paracels and the Spratleys in the East Sea. The North includes ranges of high mountains, including the Fansipan Mount with an altitude of 3,143 m regarded as the Roof of Southeast Asia. The Center, the narrowest part of the country, composes a large coastal area and the highlands. The South is an immense delta of 60,000 km² irrigated by water of the Mekong River and working as an attic of rice for the entire country.
Vietnam has a population of over 78 million belonging to 54 ethnic groups which differ from each other in language, customs, clothes and religions. These 54 ethnic groups also share a lot of cultural similarities and well-cohabit forming, an astonishing melting pot. Viet people (or Kinh people) counting for more than 84% of the total population and are mostly based in the deltas and the coastal areas. The other 53 ethnic minorities live generally in the northern mountains and the central highlands and are classified into four linguistic families, underwhich the Austro - Asiatic, Malayo-Polynesian, Sino-Tibetan and Miao-Dao people.
History in a nutshell
- From 200 to 111 B.C.: Kingdom Lang Sieve and Nam Ria.
- From 111 B.C. to 937 A.D.: Chinese domination.
- National independence and feudal dynasties:
938-967: Ngo Dynasty.
968-980: Dinh Dynasty
980-1009: Inferior Le Dynasty
1009-1225: Ly Dynasty
1225-1400: Tran Dynasty
1400-1407: Ho Dynasty
1407-1776: Posterior Le Dynasty
1776-1792: Tay Son Dynasty
1792-1945: Nguyen Dynasty
1858: Landing of French colonists in Danang.
1867: French colonization in the South.
1883: French protection in the North and the Center.
1945: Declaration of Independence by President Ho Chi Minh and the birth of the
Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
1954: Dien Bien Phu Victory.
1956: Establishment of the government in the South without election.
1968: General Offensive at Mau Than Tet
1973: Entire withdrawal of US Army from Vietnam.
1975: Liberation of Saigon and unity of the country.
1986: Implementation of the renovation policy.
1994: End of the American embargo.
Vietnam is located in a tropical and subtropical zone, with a lot of monsoons, year-round sun, high rainfall and humidity. Regions near the Tropic of Cancer or at high altitude have a moderate climate. The average annual temperature rises from 22ºC to 27ºC and is very favorable to tourism even though there is a difference among the thee parts of the country: 23ºC in Hanoi, 26ºC in Ho Chi Minh City and 25ºC in Hue. The change of temperature can be more clearly seen in the northern provinces, where the gap sometimes reaches 12ºC. In the southern provinces, the difference is only about 3ºC.
In general, there are two distinct seasons: dry and cold season (from November to April) and rainy and hot season (from May to October). In the North, however, due to the frequent change in weather a year often consists of four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.
The moral and religious universe of Vietnamese people was shaped on base of beliefs and principles of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Christianity. Almost every Vietnamese family sets up an indoor altar to express their honor to ancestors and defunct people and gives their death anniversaries. Buddhism, first introduced in Vietnam in the late second century, is the biggest religion with the total adepts counting for approximately 30% of the population. In the North, people follow either Mahayana Buddhism or Buddhism of Big Vehicle while in the South and the Central, people exercise either Theravada or Buddhism of Small Vehicle. The second position is Christianity introduced in Vietnam much later with about 3 millions of supporters. Islam is exercised by a small community in Saigon and in the Mekong Delta. The lifestyle of Vietnamese people is governed by philosophies of Confucius and Lao Tseu, the founders of Confucianism and Taoism. Caodaism and Hoahaoism are new religions which are syncretism of Christianity and Confucianism.
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