Welcome back to another installment of A-Z Around the World. Today we will be covering Vietnam, Enjoy!!!
Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula. With an estimated 94.6 million inhabitants as of 2016, it is the 15th most populous country in the world. Vietnam shares its land borders with China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. It shares its maritime borders with Thailand through the Gulf of Thailand, and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia through the South China Sea. Its capital city is Hanoi, while its most populous city is Ho Chi Minh City.
Archaeological excavations indicate that Vietnam was inhabited as early as the Paleolithic age. Ancient Vietnamese nation was annexed by China in the 2nd century BC, which subsequently made Vietnam a division of China for over a millennium. The first independent monarchy emerged in the 10th century AD, paving the way for successive imperial dynasties as the nation expanded geographically southward until the Indochina Peninsula was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Modern Vietnam's age was marked upon the declaration of independence from France in 1945. Following Vietnamese victory against the French in the First Indochina War, which ended in 1954, the nation was divided into two rival states: communist North and anti-communist South. Conflicts intensified in the Vietnam War, which saw extensive US intervention in support of South Vietnam and ended with North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
After North and South Vietnam were reunified under a unitary socialist government in 1976, the country became economically and politically isolated until 1986, when the Communist Party initiated a series of economic and political reforms that facilitated Vietnamese integration into the world politics and economy. Thanks to the successful reforms, Vietnam has enjoyed a high GDP growth rate, consistently ranked among the fastest-growing countries in the world, although it faces challenges of issues including poverty, corruption and inadequate social welfare. By 2010, Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 178 countries. It is a member of the UN, ASEAN, APEC, WTO and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).
The name Việt Nam is a variation of Nam Việt literally "Southern Việt", a name that can be traced back to the Triệu dynasty of the 2nd century BC. The word Việt originated as a shortened form of Bách Việt, a group of people then living in southern China and Vietnam. The form "Vietnam" is first recorded in the 16th-century oracular poem Sấm Trạng Trình. The name has also been found on 12 steles carved in the 16th and 17th centuries, including one at Bao Lam Pagoda in Hải Phòng that dates to 1558. In 1802, Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (later become Emperor Gia Long) established the Nguyễn dynasty, and in the second year, he asked the Jiaqing Emperor of the Qing dynasty to confer him the title 'King of Nam Viet/Nanyue' after seizing Annam's ruling power but the latter refused since the name was related to Zhao Tuo's Nanyue which includes the regions of Guangxi and Guangdong in southern China by which the Qing Emperor decide to call the area as "Viet Nam" instead. Between 1804 and 1813, the name Vietnam was used officially by Emperor Gia Long. It was revived in the early 20th century by Phan Bội Châu's History of the Loss of Vietnam, and later by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDĐ). The country was usually called Annam until 1945, when both the imperial government in Huế and the Việt Minh government in Hanoi adopted Việt Nam.
Archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of humans in what is now Vietnam as early as the Paleolithic age. Homo erectus fossils dating to around 500,000 BC have been found in caves in Lạng Sơn and Nghệ An provinces in northern Vietnam. The oldest Homo sapiens fossils from mainland Southeast Asia are of Middle Pleistocene provenance, and include isolated tooth fragments from Tham Om and Hang Hum. Teeth attributed to Homo sapiens from the Late Pleistocene have also been found at Dong Can, and from the Early Holocene at Mai Da Dieu, Lang Gao and Lang Cuom. By about 1,000 BC, the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Ma River and Red River floodplains led to the flourishing of the Đông Sơn culture, notable for its elaborate bronze Đông Sơn drums. At this time, the early Vietnamese kingdoms of Văn Lang and Âu Lạc appeared, and the culture's influence spread to other parts of Southeast Asia, including Maritime Southeast Asia, throughout the first millennium BC.
The Hồng Bàng dynasty of the Hùng kings is considered to be the first Vietnamese state, known in Vietnamese as Văn Lang. In 257 BC, the last Hùng king was defeated by Thục Phán, who consolidated the Lạc Việt and Âu Việt tribes to form the Âu Lạc, proclaiming himself An Dương Vương. In 179 BC, a Chinese general named Zhao Tuo defeated An Dương Vương and consolidated Âu Lạc into Nanyue. However, Nanyue was itself incorporated into the empire of the Chinese Han dynasty in 111 BC after the Han–Nanyue War. For the next thousand years, what is now northern Vietnam remained mostly under Chinese rule. Early independence movements, such as those of the Trưng Sisters and Lady Triệu, were only temporarily successful, though the region gained a longer period of independence as Vạn Xuân under the Anterior Lý dynasty between AD 544 and 602. By the early 10th century, Vietnam had gained autonomy, but not sovereignty, under the Khúc family.
In AD 938, the Vietnamese lord Ngô Quyền defeated the forces of the Chinese Southern Han state at Bạch Đằng River and achieved full independence for Vietnam after a millennium of Chinese domination. Renamed as Đại Việt (Great Viet), the nation enjoyed a golden era under the Lý and Trần dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled three Mongol invasions. Meanwhile, Buddhism of Mahāyāna tradition flourished and became the state religion. Following the 1406–7 Ming–Hồ Warwhich overthrew the Hồ dynasty, Vietnamese independence was briefly interrupted by the Chinese Ming dynasty, but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê dynasty. The Vietnamese dynasties reached their zenith in the Lê dynasty of the 15th century, especially during the reign of Emperor Lê Thánh Tông (1460–1497). Between the 11th and 18th centuries, Vietnam expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến ("southward expansion"), eventually conquering the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.
From the 16th century onward, civil strife and frequent political infighting engulfed much of Vietnam. First, the Chinese-supported Mạc dynasty challenged the Lê dynasty's power. After the Mạc dynasty was defeated, the Lê dynasty was nominally reinstalled, but actual power was divided between the northern Trịnh lords and the southern Nguyễn lords, who engaged in a civil war for more than four decades before a truce was called in the 1670s. During this time, the Nguyễn expanded southern Vietnam into the Mekong Delta, annexing the Central Highlands and the Khmer lands in the Mekong Delta. The division of the country ended a century later when the Tây Sơn brothers established a new dynasty. However, their rule did not last long, and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn lords, led by Nguyễn Ánh and aided by the French. Nguyễn Ánh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.
From the 1500s, the Portuguese became acquainted with the Vietnamese coast, where they reportedly erected a stele on the Chàm Islands to mark their presence. By 1533, the Portuguese began to land into the Vietnamese delta but were forced to leave due to local turmoil and fighting. They also had less interest in the territory than those in China and Japan. After having successfully settled Macau and Nagasaki to begin the profitable Macau-Japan trade route, the Portuguese began to involve themselves in trade with Hội An, where many Portuguese traders and their Catholic missionaries set foot in the Vietnamese kingdom. The Dutch also tried to establish contact with Vietnam through the central part of Quinam in 1601 but failed to sustain a presence there after several violent encounters with the locals. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) only managed to establish official relations with Tonkin in the spring of 1637 after leaving Dejima in Japan to establish trade for silk. Meanwhile, the first British attempt, through the East India Company (EIC), to establish contact with Hội An, in 1613, failed following a violent incident involving their merchant. Eventually, they managed to establish relations with Tonkin by 1672, where they were allowed to reside in Phố Hiến.
Between 1615–1753, French traders also engaged in trade in the area around Đàng Trong and actively dispersed missionaries. Following the detention of several missionaries as the Vietnamese kingdom began to feel threatened by continuous Christianisation activities, the French Navy received approval from their government to intervene in Vietnam in 1834, with the aim of freeing imprisoned Catholic missionaries from a kingdom that was perceived as xenophobic against foreign influence. Vietnam's sovereignty was gradually eroded by France which was aided by the Spanish and large Catholic militias in a series of military conquests between 1859 and 1885.
In 1862, the southern third of the country became the French colony of Cochinchina. By 1884, the entire country had come under French rule, with the central and northern parts of Vietnam separated in the two protectorates of Annam and Tonkin. The three Vietnamese entities were formally integrated into the union of French Indochina in 1887. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Catholicism was propagated widely. Most French settlers in Indochina were concentrated in Cochinchina, particularly in Saigon, and in Hanoi, the capital of the colony.
Guerrillas of the royalist Cần Vương movement massacred around a third of Vietnam's Christian population during the colonial period as part of their rebellion against French rule, but were defeated in the 1890s after a decade of resistance by the Catholics as a reprisal of their earlier massacres. Another large-scale rebellion, the Thái Nguyên uprising was also suppressed heavily. The French developed a plantation economy to promote the export of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, however, they largely ignored the increasing demands for civil rights and self-government.
A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders such as Phan Bội Châu, Phan Châu Trinh, Phan Đình Phùng, Emperor Hàm Nghi, and Hồ Chí Minh fighting or calling for independence. This resulted in the 1930 Yên Bái mutiny by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDĐ) which was suppressed heavily by the French. The mutiny caused an irreparable split that resulted in many leading members of the organisation becoming communist converts.
The French maintained full control over their colonies until World War II, when the war in the Pacific led to the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in 1940. Afterwards, the Japanese Empire was allowed to station its troops in Vietnam while permitting the pro-Vichy French colonial administration to continue. Japan exploited Vietnam's natural resources to support its military campaigns, culminating in a full-scale takeover of the country in March 1945 and the Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which caused up to two million deaths.
First Indochina War
In 1941, the Việt Minh, a nationalist liberation movement based on a Communist ideology, emerged under the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Hồ Chí Minh. The Việt Minh sought independence for Vietnam from France and the end of the Japanese occupation. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its puppet Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, anarchy, rioting and murder were widespread since Saigon's administrative services collapsed. The Việt Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted national independence on 2 September.
Earlier, in July 1945, the Allies had decided to divide Indochina at the 16th parallel to allow Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China to receive Japanese surrender in the north while Lord Louis Mountbatten of the British would receive the surrender in the south, with the Allies agreeing that Indochina belonged to France.
However, as the French were weakened as a result of German occupation, the British-Indian forces together with the remaining Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army Group were used to maintain order and to help France re-establish control through the 1945–1946 War in Vietnam.
Hồ Chí Minh at the time chose a moderate stance to avoid military conflict with France by which he asked the French to withdraw their colonial administrators and asked for aid from French professors and engineers to help build a modern independent Vietnam. These requests, including the idea for independence, however, could not be accepted by the Provisional Government of the French Republic, which dispatched the French Far East Expeditionary Corps instead to restore colonial rule, causing the Việt Minh to launch a guerrilla campaign against the French in late 1946. Matters also turned worse when the Republic of China gradually fell to the communists in the Chinese Communist Revolution. The resulting First Indochina War lasted until July 1954. The defeat of French and Vietnamese loyalists in the 1954 battle of Điện Biên Phủ allowed Hồ Chí Minh to negotiate a ceasefire from a favorable position at the subsequent Geneva Conference.
The colonial administration was ended and French Indochina was dissolved under the Geneva Accords of 1954 into three countries: Vietnam and the kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam was further divided into North and South administrative regions at the Demilitarized Zone, approximately along the 17th parallel north, pending elections scheduled for July 1956. A 300-day period of free movement was permitted, during which almost a million northerners, mainly Catholics, moved south, fearing persecution by the communists. The partition of Vietnam was not intended to be permanent by the Geneva Accords, which stipulated that Vietnam would be reunited after elections in 1956. However, in 1955, the State of Vietnam's Prime Minister, Ngô Đình Diệm toppled Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam. At that point the internationally recognized State of Vietnam effectively ceased to exist and was replaced by the Republic of Vietnam in the south and Hồ Chí Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north.
Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including "rent reduction" and "land reform", which resulted in significant political oppression. During the land reform, testimony from North Vietnamese witnesses suggested a ratio of one execution for every 160 village residents, which extrapolated nationwide would indicate nearly 100,000 executions. Because the campaign was concentrated mainly in the Red River Delta area, a lower estimate of 50,000 executions became widely accepted by scholars at the time. However, declassified documents from the Vietnamese and Hungarian archives indicate that the number of executions was much lower than reported at the time, although likely greater than 13,500. In the South, Diệm countered North Vietnamese subversion (including the assassination of over 450 South Vietnamese officials in 1956) by detaining tens of thousands of suspected communists in "political re-education centers". This was a ruthless program that incarcerated many non-communists, although it was also successful at curtailing communist activity in the country, if only for a time. The North Vietnamese government claimed that 2,148 individuals were killed in the process by November 1957. The pro-Hanoi Việt Cộng began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950s to overthrow Diệm's government. From 1960, the Soviet Union and North Vietnam signed treaties providing for further Soviet military support.
In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diệm's regime erupted into mass demonstrations, leading to a violent government crackdown. This led to the collapse of Diệm's relationship with the United States, and ultimately to the 1963 coup in which Diệm and Nhu were assassinated. The Diệm era was followed by more than a dozen successive military governments, before the pairing of Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu took control in mid-1965. Thiệu gradually outmaneuvered Kỳ and cemented his grip on power in fraudulent elections in 1967 and 1971. Under this political instability, the communists began to gain ground. To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers, using the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretext for such intervention. US forces became involved in ground combat operations in 1965, and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000. The US also engaged in a sustained aerial bombing campaign. Meanwhile, China and the Soviet Union provided North Vietnam with significant material aid and 15,000 combat advisers. Communist forces supplying the Việt Cộng carried supplies along the Hồ Chí Minh trail, which passed through the Kingdom of Laos.
The communists attacked South Vietnamese targets during the 1968 Tết Offensive.
Although the campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment, and turned US public opinion against the war. During the offensive, communist troops massacred over 3,000 civilians at Huế. Facing an increasing casualty count, rising domestic opposition to the war, and growing international condemnation, the US began withdrawing from ground combat roles in the early 1970s. This process also entailed an unsuccessful effort to strengthen and stabilize South Vietnam. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 27 January 1973, all American combat troops were withdrawn by 29 March 1973. In December 1974, North Vietnam captured the province of Phước Long and started a full-scale offensive, culminating in the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. South Vietnam was briefly ruled by a provisional government for almost eight years while under military occupation by North Vietnam.
Reunification and reforms
On 2 July 1976, North and South Vietnam were merged to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The war left Vietnam devastated, with the total death toll standing at between 966,000 and 3.8 million. In the aftermath of the war, under Lê Duẩn's administration, there were no mass executions of South Vietnamese who had collaborated with the US and the defunct South Vietnamese government, confounding Western fears. However, up to 300,000 South Vietnamese were sent to re-education camps, where many endured torture, starvation and disease while being forced to perform hard labour. The government embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. In 1978, as a response towards the Khmer Rouge who had been invading and massacring Vietnamese residents in the border villages in the districts of An Giang and Kiên Giang, the Vietnamese military invaded Cambodia and removed them from power after overtaking Phnom Penh.
The intervention was a success, resulting in the establishment of a new pro-Vietnam socialist government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea which ruled until 1989. This action however worsened relations with China, who had been supporting the Khmer Rouge where they later launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam in 1979 and causing Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid with the mistrust towards the Chinese government began to escalate.
At the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in December 1986, reformist politicians replaced the "old guard" government with new leadership. The reformers were led by 71-year-old Nguyễn Văn Linh, who became the party's new general secretary. Linh and the reformers implemented a series of free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới ("Renovation") which carefully managed the transition from a planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy". Though the authority of the state remained unchallenged under Đổi Mới, the government encouraged private ownership of farms and factories, economic deregulation and foreign investment, while maintaining control over strategic industries. The Vietnamese economy subsequently achieved strong growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports and foreign investment although these reforms have also caused a rise in income inequality and gender disparities.
Vietnam is located on the eastern Indochinese Peninsula between the latitudes 8° and 24°N, and the longitudes 102° and 110°E. It covers a total area of approximately 331,212 km2 (127,882 sq mi). The combined length of the country's land boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi), and its coastline is 3,444 km (2,140 mi) long. At its narrowest point in the central Quảng Bình Province, the country is as little as 50 kilometres (31 mi) across, though it widens to around 600 kilometres (370 mi) in the north. Vietnam's land is mostly hilly and densely forested, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the country's land area, and tropical forests cover around 42%. The Red River Delta in the north, a flat, roughly triangular region covering 15,000 km2(5,792 sq mi), is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta in the south. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in over the millennia by riverine alluvial deposits. The delta, covering about 40,000 km2 (15,444 sq mi), is a low-level plain no more than 3 meters (9.8 ft) above sea level at any point. It is criss-crossed by a maze of rivers and canals, which carry so much sediment that the delta advances 60 to 80 meters (196.9 to 262.5 ft) into the sea every year.
Southern Vietnam is divided into coastal lowlands, the mountains of the Annamite Range, and extensive forests. Comprising five relatively flat plateaus of basalt soil, the highlands account for 16% of the country's arable land and 22% of its total forested land. The soil in much of the southern part of Vietnam is relatively low in nutrients as a result of intense cultivation. Several minor earthquakes have been recorded in the past with most occurred near the northern Vietnamese border in the provinces of Điện Biên, Lào Cai and Sơn La while some are recorded in the offshore of the central part of the country. The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Fansipan (also called as Phan Xi Păng) which is located in Lào Cai Province is the highest mountain in Vietnam, standing 3,143 m (10,312 ft) high. From north to south Vietnam, the country also has numerous islands with Phú Quốc being the largest. The Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave is considered as the current largest cave passage in the world since its discovery in 2009 while both the Ba Bể Lakeand Mekong River being the largest lake and longest river in the country respectively.
Due to differences in latitude and the marked variety in topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably for each region. During the winter or dry season, extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast along the Chinese coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up considerable moisture. The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains, especially in southern Vietnam compared to the north. Temperatures vary less in the southern plains around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, ranging from between 21 and 35 °C (69.8 and 95.0 °F) over the course of the year.
In Hanoi and the surrounding areas of Red River Delta, the temperatures are much lower between 15 and 33 °C (59.0 and 91.4 °F), while seasonal variations in the mountains and plateaus and in the northernmost are much more dramatic, with temperatures varying from 3 °C (37.4 °F) in December and January to 37 °C (98.6 °F) in July and August. As Vietnam received high rain precipitation with an average amount of rainfall from 1,500 millimeters to 2,000 millimeters during the monsoon seasons; this often causes flooding, especially in the cities with poor drainage systems. The country is also affected by tropical depressions, tropical storms and typhoons. Vietnam is one of world's most vulnerable countries to climate change with 55% of the population living in low-elevation coastal areas.
As the country is located inside the Indomalayan realm, Vietnam is one of twenty-five countries considered to possess a uniquely high level of biodiversity as also been stated in the country National Environmental Condition Report in 2005. It is ranked 16th worldwide in biological diversity, being home to approximately 16% of the world's species. 15,986 species of flora have been identified in the country, of which 10% are endemic, while Vietnam's fauna include 307 nematode species, 200 oligochaeta, 145 acarina, 113 springtails, 7,750 insects, 260 reptiles, 120 amphibians, 840 birds and 310 mammals, of which 100 birds and 78 mammals are endemic. Vietnam has two World Natural Heritage Sites, the Hạ Long Bay and Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park together with nine biosphere reserves including Cần Giờ Mangrove Forest, Cát Tiên, Cát Bà, Kiên Giang, the Red River Delta, Mekong Delta, Western Nghệ An, Cà Mau and Cu Lao Cham Marine Park.
Vietnam is furthermore home to 1,438 species of freshwater micro-algae, constituting 9.6% of all micro-algae species, as well as 794 aquatic invertebrates and 2,458 species of sea fish. In recent years, 13 genera, 222 species, and 30 taxa of flora have been newly described in Vietnam. Six new mammal species, including the saola, giant muntjac and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey have also been discovered, along with one new bird species, the endangered Edwards's pheasant. In the late 1980's, a small population of Javan rhinoceros was found in Cát Tiên National Park. However, the last individual of the species in Vietnam was reportedly shot in 2010. In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of the world's twelve original cultivar centres. The Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank preserves 12,300 cultivars of 115 species. The Vietnamese government spent US$49.07 million on the preservation of biodiversity in 2004 alone, and has established 126 conservation areas, including 30 national parks.
In Vietnam, poaching had become a main issue for their wildlife. Since 2000, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Education for Nature - Vietnam has been founded to instill the importance of wildlife conservation in the country. Following this, the seeds of the conservation movement starting to bloom with the foundation of another NGO called GreenViet by Vietnamese youngsters for the enforcement of wildlife protection. Through collaboration between the NGO and local authorities, many local poaching syndicates managed to be crippled with the arrestment of their leaders. As Vietnam have also become the main destination for rhinoceros horn illegal export from South Africa, a study in 2018 found the demands are due to medical and health-related reasons.
The main environmental concern that persists in Vietnam until present is the chemical herbicide legacy of Agent Orange that causing birth defects and many health problems towards Vietnamese residents especially in the southern and central areas that was affected most by the chemicals with nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese have been exposed. In 2012, approximately 50 years after the war, the United States began to start a US $43 million joint clean up project in the former chemical storage areas in Vietnam that was heavily affected with each clearance will be done through several phases. Following the completion of the first phase in Đà Nẵng in late 2017, the United States announced its further commitment to clean other sites especially in another heavily impact site of Biên Hòa which is four times larger than the previous site with an additional estimate cost of $390 million.
The Vietnamese government spends over VNĐ10 trillion each year ($431.1 million) for monthly allowance and physical rehabilitation of the Vietnamese victims caused by the chemicals. In 2018, Japanese Engineering Group, Shimizu Corporation also working with Vietnamese military to build a plant in Vietnam for the treatment of Agent Orange polluted soils with the plant construction costs to be funded by the company itself. One of the long-term plans to restore southern Vietnam damaged ecosystems is through reforestation efforts which the Vietnamese government has done since the end of the war, starting with the re-plantation of mangrove forests in the Mekong Delta regions and in Cần Giờ outside of the main city where mangroves are important to prevent more serious flooding during the monsoon seasons.
Apart from herbicide problems, arsenic exposure to ground water in the Mekong Delta and Red River Delta has also become a major concern, along with unexploded ordnance's (UXO) that pose dangers towards human and habitat life as another bitter legacy from the long wars.
As part of the continuous campaign for demining/removal of UXOs, various international bomb removal agencies including those from the United Kingdom, Denmark, South Korea as well the United States itself have been providing help. The Vietnam government spends over VNĐ1 trillion ($44 million) annually on demining operations and additional hundreds billions of đồng for treatment, assistance, rehabilitation, vocational training and resettlement for the victims of UXOs. Apart from the removal of explosives from the legacy of civil war, the neighbouring Chinese government also has removed 53,000 land mines and explosives from the legacy of war between the two countries in an area of 18.4 square kilometres in the Chinese province of Yunnan bordering the China–Vietnam border in 2017.
Vietnam's culture has developed over the centuries from indigenous ancient Đông Sơn culture with wet rice cultivation as its economic base. Some elements of the national culture have Chinese origins, drawing on elements of Confucianism, Mahāyāna Buddhism and Taoism in its traditional political system and philosophy. Vietnamese society is structured around làng (ancestral villages); all Vietnamese mark a common ancestral anniversary on the tenth day of the third lunar month. The influence of Chinese culture such as the Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and Hainanese cultures are more evidenced in the north with the national religion of Buddhism is strongly entwined with popular culture. Despite this, there is also a Chinatown in the south such as in Chợ Lớn where many of the Chinese have intermarried with Kinh and are presently indistinguishable among them. In the central and southern part, traces of Champa and Khmer culture are evidenced through the remains of ruins, artefacts as well within their population as the successor of the ancient Sa Huỳnh culture. In recent centuries, the influence of Western cultures have become popular among newer Vietnamese generations.
The traditional focuses of Vietnamese culture are based on humanity (nhân nghĩa) and harmony (hòa); in which family and community values are highly regarded. Vietnam reveres a number of key cultural symbols, such as the Vietnamese dragon which is derived from crocodile and snake imagery; Vietnam's national father, Lạc Long Quân is depicted as a holy dragon. The lạc is a holy bird representing Vietnamese national mother of Âu Cơ is another prominent symbol, while turtle, buffalo and horse images are also revered. Many Vietnamese also believes in supernatural and spiritualism where illness could be brought on by a curse or sorcery or caused by non-observance of a religious ethic where it needs to be treated through traditional medical practitioners, amulets and other forms of spiritual protection where religious practices may be employed to treating the ill person. In the modern era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and cultural programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences especially those of Western origin were shunned. But since the recent reformation, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to neighbouring Southeast Asian, East Asian as well to Western culture and media.
The main Vietnamese formal dress, the áo dài is worn for special occasions such as in weddings and religious festivals. White áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across the country. Other examples of traditional Vietnamese clothing include the áo tứ thân, a four-piece woman's dress; the áo ngũ, a form of the thân in 5-piece form, mostly worn in the north of the country; the yếm, a woman's undergarment; the áo bà ba, rural working "pyjamas" for men and women; the áo gấm, a formal brocade tunic for government receptions; and the áo the, a variant of the áo gấm worn by grooms at weddings. Traditional headwear includes the standard conical nón lá and the "lampshade-like" nón quai thao. In tourism, a number of popular cultural tourist destinations include the former imperial capital of Hué, the World Heritage Sites of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Hội An and Mỹ Sơn, coastal regions such as Nha Trang, the caves of Hạ Long Bay and the Marble Mountains.
Vietnamese cuisine traditionally features a combination of five fundamental taste "elements" (Vietnamese: ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth). Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird's eye chili, lime and basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil and reliance on herbs and vegetables where it is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. The use of such meats as pork, beef and chicken was relatively limited in the past, and as a result freshwater fish, crustaceans particularly crabs and mollusks became widely used. Fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce and limes are among the main flavoring ingredients.
There is an estimate of 40 Vietnamese dishes with many are usually served as a norm in the country street food culture. Many notable Vietnamese dishes such as bánh cuốn (ride noodle roll), bún riêu(rice vermicelli soup) and phở noodles are originated from the north and were carried to central and southern Vietnam by northern migrants. Local foods in the north are often less spicy than southern dishes as the colder northern climate limits the production and availability of spices. Black pepper is used in place of chili's to produce spicy flavors. Vietnamese drinks in the south also are usually served cold with ice cube especially during the annual hot seasons compared to the north where hot drinks are much more preferable in colder climate. Some examples of basic Vietnamese drinks include cà phê đá (Vietnamese iced coffee), cà phê trứng (egg coffee), chanh muối (salted pickled lime juice), cơm rượu (glutinous rice wine), nước mía(sugarcane juice) and trà sen (Vietnamese lotus tea).
Travel to Vietnam: Lonely Planet
A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic mega-cities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.