Vietnam borders with China in the north, Laos and Cambodia in the West, and the South China Sea in the east. Its lies in the centre of South-East Asia (see map at the bottom of this page). Vietnam's territory stretches from Lung Cu village (Ha Tuyen province) in the north to Rach Tau hamlet (Minh Hai province) in the south. It is a S-shaped peninsula, with thousands of off-shore islands and archipelagoes; the biggest of which are the Hoang SA (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelagoes. Vietnam's mainland covers 331,689 square kilometres.
According to archaeological discoveries made at Do Mountain, it is believed that life in Vietnam began as far back as 300,000 years ago. Officially, the history of Vietnam stretches back 4,000 years when it was founded by the Hung Kings. It was then named Van Lang.
When speaking upon the history of Vietnam, it is important to note the large role played by the French in Vietnam. It began in 1858, when the French took over Danang in southern Vietnam. Over time, more and more territory was won over by the French. It wasn't until 1954, when the French surrendered to the Viet Minh, ending the French Indochina War, that the French colonial control in Vietnam ended.
The immediate image in the minds of most people at the mention of Vietnam is that of the war fought against the United States some twenty years ago. Most people think of the country only in terms of the American conflict in Indochina. The war ended nearly twenty years ago, and today, despite lingering signs of past American involvement, the situation in Vietnam is markedly different. People have finally begun to look at the country from another perspective, now that travelers and tourists from the West are being welcomed into what was once a forbidden country. It may take a bit more effort and tenacity to plan an excursion into Vietnam than it would for another Southeast Asian country, but Vietnam has much to offer in terms of culture and sights.
The weather in the southern part of Vietnam is tropical. It is monsoonal in the north, bringing a hot, rainy season from mid-May to mid-September and a warm, dry season from mid-October to mid-March. Occasional typhoons from May to January bring extensive flooding to the middle regions of Vietnam.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
The vast majority of the population is Vietnamese with minute percentages of Chinese. The Viet culture originated on the delta of the Red River and the Ma River where the Viet people cultivated paddy fields. They led a simple farming life in small villages, usually living around a communal house. Today the people living in the countryside follow this lifestyle. The Viet people are influenced by Confucianism, in particular the principle of respect for their elders. In spite of the immense suffering of the Vietnamese and the somewhat ruined state of the country, they are generally warm and friendly, and surprisingly, the Vietnamese bear little if any resentment or bitterness toward Americans. Children in the streets will commonly greet visitors with the name Lien Xo, which means Russian, but they will easily be corrected if you respond, "Hello!" or "Good morning" and explain you are an American, European or Australian, etc.
The country is predominantly 85-90% Vietnamese, 3% Chinese, ethnic minorities include Muong, Thai, Meo, Khmer, Man, Cham, and other mountain tribes.
Vietnamese is the official language; French, Chinese, English, Khmer and tribal dialects (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian) are also spoken.
Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, Roman Catholic, indigenous beliefs, Islamic and Protestant.
THINGS TO KNOW
Population: About 78 Million People
Flag: The flag of Vietnam is red with a large yellow five-pointed star in the center.
Shop Hours: Shops run from 7 or 8am to 11 or 11:30pm. Some are open from 1 or 2pm to 4 or 5pm.
Bank Hours: Most banks are opened from 7am or 8am to 11am or 11:30am Some are open from 1pm or 2pm to 4pm or 5pm.
View Larger Map