It can be said that there were three layers of culture overlapping each other during the history of Vietnam: local culture, the culture that mixed with those of China and other countries in the region, and the culture that interacted with Western culture. The most prominent feature of the Vietnamese culture is that it was not assimilated by foreign cultures thanks to the strong local cultural foundations. On the contrary, it was able to utilize and localize those from abroad to enrich the national culture.
The Vietnamese national culture emerged from a concrete living environment: a tropical country with many rivers and the confluence of great cultures. The natural conditions (temperature, humidity, monsoon, water-flows, water-rice agriculture ...) exert a remarkable impact on the material and spiritual life of the nation, the characteristics and psychology of the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese nation was formed early in the history and often had to carry out wars of resistance against foreign invaders, which created a prominent cultural feature: a patriotism that infiltrated and encompassed every aspect of life.
With the Declaration of Independence on September 2nd 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the first independent republic in Southeast Asia, was born. On January 6, 1946, the first universal suffrage general election was held to elect the National Assembly, the supreme organ of power of the new Vietnam.
In November 1946, the National Assembly adopted the first Constitution of the Republic. The Constitution clearly pointed out that "Vietnam is an indivisible and monolithic bloc; it is a democratic republic; power belongs to the whole Vietnamese people irrespective of race, gender, property, social class and religion."
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 some divine beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some of which are cloaked by dense, misty forests. Vietnam also offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.
Despite its ongoing economic liberalization and the pressures of rapid development, this dignified country has managed to preserve its rich civilization and highly cultured society.
It 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.
Full country name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Area: 329,566 sq km
Population: 81.62 million
Capital City: Hanoi (pop 3.5 million)
People: 84% ethnic Vietnamese, 2% ethnic Chinese, also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once-great Indianised Champa Kingdom) and members of over 50 ethnolinguistic groups (also known as Montagnards, 'highlanders' in French)
Language: Vietnamese, Russian, French, Chinese, English
Religion: Buddhism is the principal religion but there are also sizeable Taoist, Confucian, Hoa Hao, Caodaists, Muslim and Christian minorities
Government: Communist state
Head of State: President Tran Duc Luong
Head of Government: Prime Minister Phan Van Khai
GDP: US$24 billion
GDP per capita: US$300
Annual Growth: 8%
Major Industries: Rice, rubber, food processing, sugar, textiles, chemicals
Major Trading Partners: China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan
Facts for the Traveler
Visas: Bureaucratic hassles will be your first problem in getting a visa - expect delays of five days or more; Bangkok is the best place to get one. It's usually best to get your visas through a travel agency. Expense is the other problem; tourist visas valid for a single 30-day stay cost about US$40 in Bangkok.
Health risks: Dengue Fever, Hepatitis, Malaria, Rabies, Typhoid, Tuberculosis
Dialing Code: 84
Electricity: 220V ,50Hz
Weights & Measures: Metric
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