Vietnam is a socialist country running 1,650 kilometers from North to South, bordering the the South China Sea, Gulf of Tonkin and Gulf of Thailand. Neighboring China, Laos and Cambodia, the s-shaped country is made up of 63 provinces and has a recorded population of more than 86 million people, more than 70% of whom are under the age of 35 years old.
Long and skinny, the country falls in different climate zones. The North enjoys four seasons like China, whilst the South experiences a tropical climate, with rainy and dry seasons. The highland areas offer a cooler climate and can provide a great escape from the heat of the lower areas.
Vietnam's cities are well known for the tons of traffic that travel through them everyday. Advice from Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is "smile, breathe and go slowly" when crossing the road through a mass of motorbikes, helmets and masks.
Ha Noi, the capital, is located on the Red River in the North. Popular
for its lakes, Ha Noi is often referred to as an artistic, dreamy city
that has attracted a lot of artists. Being the capital, a lot of government officials reside there. In the South, Ho Chi Minh City is more bustling, and is the country's economic center. Most big companies and
corporations base their head office in HCMC. Seeking opportunities, thousands of young people from the provinces are drawn to HCMC every year for study and employment. Population in HCMC is increasing rapidly and the city is developing at a fast pace, with much
construction occurring at present.
Aside from the major cities, the country is dotted with tourist spots and places of
interest, each location unique and possessing its own characteristics and highlights. It's a country full of history and culture, and from beachside destinations, to romantic towns set in the mountains, there's something on offer for everyone in Vietnam. Rather than take short trips abroad, the Vietnamese
will more often prefer to travel to destinations in Vietnam. However, the tourism industry still relies
heavily on foreign tourists.
There are 53 ethnic tribes in Vietnam, the majority (around 90%) made up of the 'kinh' tribe, who most Vietnamese people are. Some ethnic groups still speak in their own dialect and nowadays are making a more conscious effort to preserve it. Most of these minority people live in the countryside or the highlands, although many have migrated to the cities for education and work, and live simultaneously with the Kinh people. Over 70% of Vietnam's population are either Buddhist or influenced by it. Other religions include Catholic, Protestant, Islamic and Caodaism.
Vietnamese is a tonal language and has many words borrowed from the Chinese. The script was originally written using a system of characters like Chinese, but adapted to the latin alphabet in beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays, English is also widely spoken and has become an important part of curriculum in Vietnam's education system.
Every year, the Vietnamese celebrate "TET", the lunar new year, a very important celebration like Christmas and New Years in Western countries. Most people will return back to their home towns to spend this significant occasion with their families and go around visiting friends and relatives.
Trading is a critical part of everyday life in Vietnam, and most importantly, the markets. Every town and village has a market, and numerous markets bustle daily in the big cities with all your shopping needs. Supermarkets have also become widely used and very popular, where fixed-price shopping for everything all at once can sometimes be easier than bargaining at every stall at the market.
Vietnamese food is enjoyed by people all over the world. Family style meals comprise of white rice, with a selection of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Noodle soups are very popular, eaten anytime of day. Most well-known is "pho", a beef noodle soup made with thick, white rice noodles and served with beef and green leafy herbs. Each part of the country offer different specialties, varying in ingredients, flavors and aroma.
Vietnam, a country boasting a beautiful countryside and lively cities, is a truly amazing country with plenty to discover and enjoy. Best of all, it is a land of smiles.