Inland area: 331,688 sq km Continental shelf area:
700,000 sq km Population: Over 70 million
Latitude 102,10 - 109,30 East
Longitude 8,30 - 22,30 North
Vietnam is located in the centre of the Southeast
Asian region. It lies in the eastern part of the Indochina peninsular bordering China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the
west and the east Sea and Pacific to the east and south. Viet Nam's coastline is 3260 kilometres long and its inland borderline
measures is 3730 kilometres. The country's total length as the bird flies is 1650 kilometres from the northernmost point to
the southernmost. Its width, stretching from the eastern coast to the western border, continental shelf area is not included,
is 600 kilometres at the widest point in the north, and 50 kilometres at the narrowest part in the Quang Binh province on
the central coast.
The Wonders of Vietnam
Vietnam is located in the tropical and temperate zone. It is characterised by a strong
moon soon influence, a considerable amount of sunny days, and with a high rate of rainfall and humidity. Some places located
near the tropics or in mountainous regions are endowed with a temperate climate. Average temperatures for the year range
from 22 to 27 oC. In Hanoi the average is 23oC, in Ho Chi Minh City, 26oC, and in the ancient capital
city of Hue, 25oC. The climate in Vietnam is divided into two distinguished seasons: the cold season (from
November to April) and the hot season (from May to October). The most noticeable seasonal changes in temperature are found
in the northern provinces, where a difference of 12 degrees Celsius is possible. The difference in temperature, estimated
at 3 degrees Celsius, between the two seasons in southern Vietnam is almost unnoticeable. Four distinct seasons are most
evident in the northern provinces.
Three quarters of Viet Nam's territory is made up of mountainous and hilly regions.
Except for several deltas and narrow plains you can see from on a map that Vietnam is endowed with vast expanses of mountains
and forests. Vietnam has four distinctive mountain zones each having its own unique features. The first zone is the Northeastern
zone or Viet Bac - a former revolutionary base between 1945 and 1954. It stretches from the Red River valley to the Gulf of
Tokin. Apart from having the topical characteristic features of a tropical forest area, the mountainous area of Viet Bac is
crowned with nationally famous sights such as Dong Nhat (First-Rate Grotto), Dong Nhi (Second-Rate Grotto) and Tam Thanh in
Lang Son province; Pac Bo Grotto and Ba Be Lake in Cao Bang province; Yen Tu mountain, and Tay Con Linh, a mountain peak 2314
metres above sea level, and Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh province. The second zone is the Northwestern mountain range running
from the northern area on the Sino-Vietnamese border to the western region in Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces on
the central coast. This magnificent high mountain range is famous nation-wide for its Sapa resort town in Lao Cai province.
Sapa is perched on a high mountain slope, 1,500 metres above sea level, and is endowed with a temperate climate all year round
and with snow flakes during winter time. The North-western zone is also famous for the historical site of Dien Bien Phu and
for its Fanxipang mountain peak, 3,143 metres above sea level, which is considered the roof top to Vietnam. The third
mountain zone is the North Truong Son Range, a long low mountain range running from the western part of Thanh Hoa province
to the Hai Van Pass. The zone is reputed regionally for its picturesque Phong Nha Grotto and fantastic looking passes such
as the Ngang Pass and the Hai Van (Sea Cloud) Pass. It is also known nationwide for being the location of the legendary Ho
Chi Minh Trail. The four and last mountain zone is the South Truong Son, a mountain range located in the western side
of provinces situated on the southern end of the central coast. Behind these huge mountains is located a vast expanse of red
soil known locally as Tay Nguyen (the Central Highlands). The legendary Central Highlands contains numerous mystic accounts
of flora and fauna as well as the lives of the people of several different ethnic minority groups. The central highlands is
proud of its idyllic mountain resort town of Da Lat, the most famous resort in Vietnam. Forests and forest land accounts for
50 per cent of Viet Nam's total land area. These forests are home to many kinds of plants and animals not found elsewhere
in Southeast Asia or in many other parts of the world. The most valuable timber plants include lat hoa (chkrasia), dinh (markhamia),
lim (ironwood), sen (madhuca pasquieri) and tau (tonkinensis), to cite just a few. Besides valuable timber Viet Nam's forests
are also home to many other valuable forest products much sought after in overseas outlets. They include stick lac, cinnamon,
pine resin, anise and tung oil.ect... Vietnam has several famous national packs such as Cuc Phuong, Ba Vi, the Cat Ba,
Cat Tien and Con Dao as well as the submerged forests in the southernmost province of Minh Hai. These national parks are regarded
as the preservation of tropical wildlife and a natural genetic preserve. Beneath the forests and forest land are valuable
mineral deposits most of which remain untapped. They include gold in province of Cao Bang, Hoa Binh, Quangnam - Danang; precious
stones in the provinces of Nghe An and Lao Cai, zinc and silver in Tuyen Quang province antimony in the provinces of Quang
Ninh and Bac Thai. Particularly Vietnam has large deposits of oil and gas in both the continental shelf and inland areas.
Vietnam has two major deltas. They are the Red River delta in the northern part and the Mekong River delta in the south.
The Red River delta, locally known as the northern delta is 15,000 square kilometres in area. It is comprised, from time
immemorial, of deposits of alluvium carried in from two major rivers: the Red River and the Thai Binh River. The basin of
the two rivers was the location for the settlement of the Viet people. Sine then the wet rice civilisation has been established.
The Mekong River delta more commonly known as the northern delta is 36,000 km2 in area. This is a fertile arable
area endowed with favourable climatic conditions, hence it is the biggest rice growing area in Vietnam. Vietnam is criss-crossed
by thousands of large and small rivers. There is a river mouth on every 20 kilometres of coastline. However, the river that
run through Vietnam are generally small and short. The major rivers like the Red River and the Mekong River has only their
lower section running through Vietnam. Viet Nam's coastline is 3,260 kilometres long. The country is washed up by the
East sea to the east and by the Gulf of Thailand to the Southwest. Many foreign visitors have named Vietnam as the "balcony
on the Pacific". If you have a chance to go along the coast of Vietnam you will be awarded a rare opportunity to enjoy
such beautiful swimming beaches as Tra Co, Do Son, Sam Son, Cua Lo, Ly Hoa, Thuan An, Non Nuoc, My Khe, Nha Trang, Vung Tau
and Ha Tien. Their pure white sand is famous. In some places you can see parts of mountains jutting out from the sea which
make the local seascapes breathtaking. On such magnificent place is Ha Long Bay which has recently been listed as an item
in the World Heritage by UNESCO. Endowed with particular geographical features, Viet Nam's coast has been awarded by nature
a series of big deep sea ports. They are located at Hon Gai, Hai Phong,Cua Lo, Da Nang, Qui Nhon, Cam Ranh, Vung Tau and Sai
Gon (now Ho Chi Minh City). Cam Ranh sea ports is known world-wide as one of the world's most ideal sea port in terms of the
size and location. Off shore on Viet Nam's continental shelf are thousands of islands and islets lying scattered from the
northern to southern end. Among them are the Truong Sa (Spratlys) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagos.
Vietnam Spa & Relaxtion
The Vietnam nation was formed through a process of anthropological interference
and the inter exchange of two major ancient cultures, the Chinese and the Indian. Thus a peculiar trait of Vietnam's culture
was formed. As far as anthropology is concerned the Vietnamese people have their origin in the Mongoloid race, believed to
be one of the major races of the world and often found in northern and eastern Asia. At present there are 54 different ethnic
minority groups inhabiting Vietnam. The Kinh people or (Viets) account for nearly 90 per cent of Vietnam's total population.
Major ethnic minority groups include the Tay, Muong, Thai, H'mong,Dao and Khmer. In the course of the history of national
development, all these groups of people have been closely attached to on other in sharing the same tasks of fighting against
foreign invaders, defending the country's territory. gaining the right to live and the right to national independence and
self determination. Each group of ethnic people have developed their own language and cultural identify, thus making the Vietnamese
culture, long known for its variety, a well blended combination of different cultures. The Viet language is recognised as
a universal means of communication for all inhabitants of Vietnam.
In addition to traditional religious practices in Vietnam there are
other major religions such as Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism,Islam, the Cao Dai sect and the Hoa Hao sect ect.
Buddhism was first introduced to Vietnam in the 4th century B.C.. The Buddhist
religion reached its peak in the Ly dynasty ( the 11th century ). It was then regarded as the official religion dominating
court affairs. Buddhism was preached broadly among the population and enjoyed a profound influence on people's daily life.
Its influence also left marks in various areas of traditional literature and architecture. Many pagodas and temples were built
during this time.
At the end of the 14th century Buddhism began to show
signs of decline. Yet the ideological influence of Buddhism remained very strong in social and cultural life. At present,
over 70 percent of the population of Vietnam are other Buddhist or strongly influenced by Buddhist practices.
Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam in the 17 century. At present the most
densely-populated Catholic areas are Bui Chu - Phat Diem in Ninh Binh province in the North and Ho Nai - Bien Hoa in Dong
Nai province in the south. About 10 percent of the population are considered to be catholic.
Protestantism was also introduced to Vietnam at about the same time as Catholicism.
Yes, Protestantism remains obscure. At present most Protestants live in the Central Highlands. There is also a Protestants
Church in Hang Da street in Ha Noi. The number of Protestants is estimated at a mere 400,000.
Islam: Most of the Islamic follower in Vietnam are those of the Cham ethnic
minority group living in the central part of the central coast. The number of Islamic followers in Vietnam totals about 50,000.
Cao Dai sect: It was first introduced to the country in 1926. The Church
in Tay Ninh is the central point nearby which are located settlements of those Cao Dai followers in South Vietnam. The number
of followers of this sect is estimated at 2 million.
Hoa Hao sect: The sect was first introduced to Vietnam in 1939. More than
1 million Vietnamese are followers of this sect. Most of them live in the western part of South Vietnam.
·SPOKEN AND WRITTEN LANGUAGES
The Vietnamese language belongs to a language group which was establishes quite along
time ago in East Asia.
However changes in material conditions over many centuries and the increasing demands
of cultural life incrusted the development of the Vietnamese language, both spoken and written. While adopting many elements
of Chances language, the Vietnamese people creatively Vietnamezed many Chinese words, and they gradually became Han-Viet Chinese-Vietnamese),
incorporated alongside purely Vietnamese words. The Vietnamization was not only applied to the Chinese language however, but
also to the French and other languages to create a great, diversified, vital vocabulary for the Vietnamese language.
Chu Nom: At the time when the multi-ethnic Vietnamese nation with
its own cultural identify was taking shape, a great monarchy was established in the North and it began a southward expansion.
The Vietnamese nation had to undergo thousands of years of Northern domination. That was why for a long time Chinese was used
as the official written language. In addition, local mandarins of various levels were allowed to sit for examinations in the
Northern Court (China), and were recruited in to the administrative machinery of foreign invaders. Based on the Chinese characters,
the Vietnamese worked out a unique writing system of their own called chu nom. In chu nom, two Chinese characters
were usually combined; one of which indicated the meaning of the Vietnamese word, while the other indicated pronunciation.
Chu nom was welcomed and widely used by the masses in their daily life as
well as in transcribing their national history and literature. According to researchers chu nom came into being very
early, probably around the end of the Northern domination period and early in the 10th century (the independence period).
The oldest, true evidence of chu nom currently available is a stele set up in the Bao An Pagoda in Yen Lang, Vinh
Phu province dating back to 1209 (the Ly dynasty). However not until the 13th century under the Tran dynasty was chu nom
systematized and used in literature.
Nguyen Thuyen (alias Han Thuyen) and Nguyen Si Co wrote poems in chu nom.
Ho Qui Ly (1400) made Chinese textbooks translated in to Vietnamese using the chu nom writing system. He also used
chu nom to write Royal proclamations and ordinances. In the 15th century, Nguyen Trai, a national hero, used chu
nom to write 250 poems in Quoc Am Thi Tap (Collection of Poems in the National Language). The chu nom literature
was developed unceasingly from the 16th century onwards, and it totally dominated national literary circles. Worthy of note
were poems written by Ho Xuan Huong, Ba Huyen Thanh Quan (the wife of Chief of Thanh Quan district), Cao Ba Quat, and Kieu
story of Nguyen Du, and the translation of Chinh Phu Ngam (Lament of a Wife Whose Husband has Gone to War) by Doan Thi Diem.
In parallel with the development of the nation, the Vietnamese language was constantly developed and improved. Around the
17th century, western missionaries came to Vietnam and learned Vietnamese in order to disseminate Catholicism. They developed
a Romanced script to represent THE QUOC NGU or national language in order to translate prayer books and catechisms. A number
of Portuguese and Italian missionaries used quoc ngu to compile catechisms and Portuguese - Vietnamese and Vietnamese
- Portuguese dictionaries. Based on those works Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit missionary, published the Vietnamese
- Portuguese-Latin dictionary and a fundamental catechism in Rome in 1649-1651. After Alexandre de Rhodes, quoc ngu
was the further improved by foreign missionaries and Vietnamese scholars. In 1867, some colonial schools began to teach quoc
ngu. But not until early in the 20th century was quoc ngu widely use in the local primary education system.
The coming into being of quoc ngu constituted a new step in the development of the Vietnamese language. While Romanization
received only reserved welcome in other Asian counties, it recorded an extraordinary success in Vietnam, creating favorable
conditions for cultural and intellectual development.
·CUSTOMS AND HABITS
Vietnam is endowed with a rich culture formed on the basis of a wet rice civilisation.
Thus the life style of the Vietnamese people is closely attached to their villages and native land. However, such villages
and native lands are named differently in the spoken and written language of each ethnic group in Vietnam. They are Lang in
the Vietnamese language, chieng in the Tay-Thai languages, ban in the Muong language and buon play in the languages of other
ethnic minority groups inhabiting the Central Highlands. The Lang (village) is an extremely socially interwoven organisation.
It is not only an administrative organisation but also an economic unit based on sections of land on rich farm produce is
made. Farmers living in the same village are closely linked by family, neighbourhood or bussiness relations. Thus habits,
religious practices and festivals are all based on the formation of the village. Deep in the recesses of very Vietnamese person's
memory there never fades images of his or her typical village features. It may be banyan tree standing at the village front
gate, or bamboo groves surrounding the village, deep water wells, the roof of the village temple, a far away mountain peak,
a river running nearby or may be the paddy fields and joyous bustling village festivals.
Tradition village festival
Traditional village festival are a great tradition and an indispensable cultural
practice in the daily life of the Vietnamese people. Village festival are always held in the front yard of a village temple,
a pagoda or the village long house. There are many region or national village festivals of repute throughout the country.
Visitors can go to the Central Highlands to enjoy the festive atmosphere of a buffalo sacrifice festival or to Hai Phong port
city to attend a buffalo flighting festival inn the Do Son seaside district. Quan Ho song retical festivals in Bac Ninh,
Ha Bac province; boat races and water puppetry festivals in reverie regions; traditional music festivals featuring the classic
tuong and cheo, wrestling as well as festivals commemorating national heroes , to cite just a few. Village festivals are
considered a national folklore demonstrating Vietnam's age old customs especially Vietnam's folk literature. Festivals are
usually organised in spring when the harvest have ended or the rice transplanting season is complete. It is the time when
farmers can relax to enjoy a few days of festivals. Surveys suggest there are hundreds of such village festivals throughout
Vietnam. In addition to village festivals are there three national festivals known locally as Tet festivals. They are Tet
Nguyen Dan (lunar New Year Festival), Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival) and Tet Tao Quan Kitchen God's Celestial Journey
Tet Nguyen Dan
To the Vietnamese people this festival is very sacred. The Tet season usually falls
on either the second half of the first calendar month, or the early days of the second calendar month of year. This is the
time when family members together make food,, fruit and incense offerings on the family altars to commemorate their ancestors.
This is also the time for people to visit their neighbours, their friends and relatives. During the first three or four
days of Tet any visitors who is the first visitor to one's house to offer Tet greetings could be considered as the first visitor
of the year (xong dat). Their good or bad luck would have a strong effect on the house owner's business success for the coming
year. The belief of the xong dat remains very strong nowadays, especially among business people. Tet days are always regarded
as a perfect time for people to enjoy traditional food such as banh chung,a square-shaped sticky rice cake, the fragrance
of which alone could strongly provoke one's sense of nostalgia for Tet.
TEA - AN INDISPENSABLE DRINK FOR VIETNAMESE
Walking along streets you can see somewhere near a lamp port, or under
the shade of a tree, or next to a door there is a low table on which are placed several glass pots containing different kinds
of candies, roasted ground nuts and sugar coated cakes. Next to them is a humble tea cosy and a tray of cups. Around the table
are several small wooden stools. This is the complete set of a make-shift tea shop and is very popular part of Vietnamese
street life. The first sentence a customer will utter to the shop owner will invariably be: "One cup a tea, please". The
owner skillfully lifts the cap of the tea cosy, takes out the tea in to a small cup. The owner then hands the cup of steaming
tea to the customer. This kind of drink is indispensable to every inhabitant of the capital city. Tea is drunk every day from
the early morning until late at night. People drink tea at their homes, at their work places and in tea shops on their way
to and on their return from work. Whenever they feel thirsty they are likely to look for the drink. It is drunk in both
the summer and the winter months. In the summer and winter a sip of hot tea makes you feel warm inside and better able to
cope with the cold temperatures outside. Unlike northerners whose preference is for a cup of hot steamy tea, people in
the south like to drink their tea cold and tend to have it with ice cubes. If you pay a litter more attention to the surroundings
of the tea table in northern Vietnam you can notice a very old-looking bamboo pipe leaning against the edge of the table or
kept inside a nearby wooden box. The pipe is called dieu cay (tobacco water pipe) and it is said to be one of several
typical traits of lifestyle in northern Vietnam. To make a dieu cay a piece of bamboo pipe up to 0.5 metres in length
and with an opening at one end is required. A smaller pipe wooden pipe is fixed at the other end and it is here that the tobacco
is placed. A smoker begins by rolling a small amount of tobacco into his hand before placing it into the small wooden pipe.
Then he lifts the open end of the bamboo pipe to the mouth and lights the tobacco with a burning bamboo stick while smoking.
During smoking you can hear a merry noise inside the bamboo pipe. This is caused by the water contained inside the pipe which
is used to filter the smoke. When the tobacco is completely burnt out the smoker begins to raise up his head backwards and
slowly exhales the smoke from his mouth to appreciate in full the complete satisfaction and enjoyment the smoke has to offer.
The smoke is so "delicious" and "tasty" that farmers in Hanoi's outskirts commonly call the process of smoking thuoc
lao (eating the tobacco). They invite their friends to smoke by every simply declaring: " eat the tobacco, please". How
strong and delicious the stuff can be, but it is best appreciated together with a few sips of the steaming hot tea which provides
the perfect supplementary to the smoking ritual. What is about tea that offers so magic a power, one could wander? Tea
has been planted in Vietnam from time immemorial. It is grown widely in the provinces of Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang, Ha Giang,
Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Bao Loc in Lam Dong of the Central Highlands. These place are well known nation-wide for their tea growing.
In some cases, tea plants can service as long as 300 years. To make the best tea, tea growers have to pick the leaves at the
right time of day. If tea leaves are picked just a few days later then permitted they will become tough and the drink made
from such leaves will have a very poor taste The leaves are then subject to a five-phase drying process when they are first
partially dried, then crushed, fermented and heated before being finally sorted.. Vietnam's tea commonly comes in two varieties:
green tea and black tea. Black tea is used for export and green tea is always used for domestic consumption. There are
also several kinds of fragrant tea flavoured with the scent of flowers such as chrysanthemum,lotus and jasmine. King Tu
Duc who reigned during the Nguyen dynasty in the ancient capital of Hue on the central coast (1848-1883) was renowned for
drinking lotus-flayvoured tea in a very special way. In the afternoon of the day prior to his morning tea, he had his servants
row to a lotus growing lake in the royal garden and put a small handful of tea into each lotus flower in the blossom before
binding the petals up. In so doing the tea would dry over night and at the same time absorb the scent of the petals. Next
morning the tea would be picked from the lotus lake and offered to the king for his morning refreshment. But for those who
are serious about their tea drinking, unflavoured tea grown in the hilly province of Thai Nguyen, 50km north of Hanoi, is
their best choice. It is said that particular region has a very special taste and fragrance. Tea drinking is a customary
practice at wedding ceremonies. During the hoi vo (engagement) ceremony, tea is among several items of food offered
to the bride's family. Several kilograms of the best Thai Nguyen tea wrapped in beautiful bags and placed inside a qua son
(a cicular lacquered wooden container) would be an ideal gift. Tea also finds it way into funeral ceremonies where tea
drinking is believed to be a medium for uniting friends and relatives and in offering condolences to family members of the
deceased. In the old days when friends met each other after along period of absence, they could offer each other betel
and areca nuts plus a tobacco pellet to chew before beginning to chat. Now people in both urban and rural areas rarely invite
their friends to take betel or areca , but prefer instead to offer a cup of tea as a precursor for conversation. Recently
another kind of tea shop has begun to appear in major urban centres. The shops are called quan hong tra (red tea shop)
and they offer a kind of tea cocktail. The ingredients of this tea include flower petals, sugar, honey or milk and grated
ice. Tea is then mixed into the blend until a froth appears. The mixture is then ready to pour in to a cup. For a unique flavour,
a particular shop may well add its own blend of ingredient, including fragrance from peppermint, lemon, lotus, honey or milk.
Costume is one of the three essential needs of the people's material
life (food, accommodation and closes). These were the earliest cultural commodities man has ever produced. Costume is always
subject to change in accordance with historical development. Generally speaking, the traditional costume of the Vietnamese
people was very simple and modest. A man used to wear brown shirt and a pair of white trousers. His headgear was simply
a piece of cloth wrapped up in to a scarf, and his footwear just a pair of clogs or sandals. When going to attend a formal
ceremony however, he would have two additional items. that of a long gown slit on either side and a turban. The gown and turban
usually in black or brown were made of cotton or silk. In feudal time there was a strict rule governing dress code. "Ordinary
people are not allowed to wear cloths with dye other then black,brown or white. Costumes in yellow were reserved for the King.Those
in purple and red were reserved for high ranking court officials, while dress in blue were exclusively worn by petti court
officials". Men's dress has gradually changed along with social development. The traditional set of long gown and turban had
to have given way to more modern looking suits, while business shirts and trousers have replaced customary long sleeved shirts
and wide trousers. However, traditional costume still survives especially efforts are increasingly being made to restore traditional
festivals and entertainment which use such traditional costumes. For her part, a woman used to more attractive dress.
Young girls used to wear short shirts in a light brown colour with long black skirts. There headgear was a black turban with
apeak at the in front. To make their waist look smaller they used to tightly fasten a long piece of cloth in either pink or
violet. On formal occasion they wore a special dress which included three layers of ao dai, a long gown with slits on either
side. The outer garment was a special gown called ao tu than, which was brown or light brown in colour, with four slits
divided equally on its lower section. It was made silk. The second layer was a gown in a light yellow colour and the third
was gown in pink. When a girl had her three gown on, she would fasten the buttons on the side and leave those on the chest
unfastened, so that it had a V shaped collar. This allow her to show the different colours on the upper part of three gowns
neatly folded one after another. Beneath the three gowns is a bright red brassiere, part of which is exposed to cover the
girl's neck. To supplement her beautiful formal dress the girl would have a conical palm hat fastened with a red or yellow
silk ribbon to make her look both elegant and modest at the same time. However, over the passage of time the traditional
ao dai has gone through certain changes. Now the long gown is tailored carefully to make it fit the small and slender body
of a Vietnamese girl. The two long slits make the gown have two free floating pleats in the front and at the back of her body.
The floating pleats give some room for the exposure up to her thigh of a long pair of white silk trousers. As part of
her formal dress, the girl would have an elegant looking conical palm hat which is traditionally known as non bai tho (a hat
with poetry written on it). The traditional conical hat which has been in use from time immemorial is particulary suitable
for wear in a tropical country such as Vietnam, where fierce sunshine and hard rain are commonplace . To make a beautiful
hat , a hat maker has to choose young palm leaves which have been dried under continued sunshine. Beneath the almost transparent
layers of the dried palm leaves in attached a drawing of a small river wharf, with a small bamboo boat on the passing by.
Below the drawing is usually written a piece of poetry which would be recited by the hat wearer. In recent years some
foreign fashions have been introduced to Vietnam, but still the traditional ao dai remains preferable by woman in both urban
and rural setting.