Vietnam has one of the longest continuous histories in the world, with archaeological findings showing hominid settlements as far back as half a million years ago. Vietnam's peculiar geography made it a difficult country to attack, allowing it to develop as an independent state for thousands of years. However, around the time of Christ, north Vietnam did succumb to foreign rule, and for 1,100 years was successively governed by a series of Chinese dynasties. During this time, several civilizations flourished in what is today central and south Vietnam, particularly the Funanese and the Cham. The founders and rulers of these governments were not native to Vietnam however. From the 10th century onwards, the Viet people, emerging from their heartland of the Red River Delta, began to conquer these areas. King Ngô Quyền restored Vietnamese sovereign power in the country in 939, and the next millennium saw successive imperial dynasties. At various points during these 1,000 years Vietnam was ravaged and divided by civil war and repeatedly attacked by the Songs, Mongols, Chams, Mings, Dutch, Manchus, French, Japanese and Americans. The French reduced Vietnam to a dependency for nearly a century, followed by occupation by the Japanese during WWII. Political upheaval, nationalist and communist insurrection put an end to the Vietnamese monarchy after World War II, and divided the country into North and South Vietnam. The country finally reunited as a communist republic in 1976, after two decades of civil war between the North (largely supported by the USSR) and the South (largely supported by the USA).
Vietnam's cultural history stretches back around 20,000 years. In this time, it has been heavily influenced by Chinese politics, government, Confucianism and art. Other civilizations, including the Cham, Khmer, Dutch, Japanese, French and American have also had their impact. In the socialist era, cultural life of Vietnam was deeply influenced by government-controlled media and programs. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater re-exposure to Asian, European and American culture and media. Religion in Vietnam has historically been largely defined by the East Asian mix of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, known as Tam Giáo, or "triple religion." Vietnamese are also profoundly influenced by the practice of ancestor worship, as well as native animism. Most Vietnamese people, regardless of religious denomination, practice ancestor worship and have an ancestor altar at their home or business. Along with obligations to clan and family, education has always played a vital role in Vietnamese culture. In ancient times, scholars were at the top of society. Men not born of noble blood could elevate their status by studying for the rigorous Imperial examination, which could open doors to a government position, power and prestige. The most popular and widely-recognized Vietnamese national costume is the Áo Dài, a long gown with a slit on both sides, worn over cotton or silk trousers. White Áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across Vietnam and many female office workers also wear Áo Dài, but in daily life, traditional Vietnamese styles are now replaced by Western clothing. More than 90 million people live in Vietnam, with the population quickly improving it's socio-economic position year by year.
Pho, Fish Sauce and Rice
Vietnamese cuisine is extremely diverse, but there are three main categories, each pertaining to Vietnam's three main regions(north, central and south). In general, Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables, and is mainly based on rice, soy and fish sauce. Characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano pepper), sour (lime), salty (fish sauce), bitter (bitter melon) flavored by a variety of mint and basil. Vietnam also has a large variety of noodles and noodle soups, including the famous phở. Vietnamese food is now popular around the world.
Vietnam is located on the eastern margin of the Indochinese peninsula and occupies about 331,000 square kilometers, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos and Cambodia. The long S-shape of the country give it distinct climatic zones, ranging from the temperate highlands and Red River Delta in the north to the subtropical coastal lowlands and Mekong Delta in the south.
Plants and Animals
The range of climate and landscapes in Vietnam makes for a wide diversity in flora and fauna. Rare and endemic species are discovered quite frequently; the saola, a previously unknown antelope-like animal, was found in 1992 in Bạch Mã National Park. Three other large mammal species were also discovered in the 1990's. Elephants, bears, tigers and leopards as well as smaller animals like monkeys, bats, flying squirrels, turtles, crocodiles and otters are all native to Vietnam, as is the extremely rare Javan rhinoceros. Rare and little known birds such as the Edward’s Pheasant, the white-winged wood duck and the white-shouldered ibis can be found, and the country lies on the east Asian flyway of Siberian birds and is an important stopover for migratory waders. The country was once totally covered with forests, but over the years war, deforestation and anthropological pressures have led to a decline in these areas.
Scheduled tours 2015
This indulgent trip begins in vibrant, bustling Ho Chi Minh City, still known as Saigon to many. Highlights include a sightseeing tour that features the beautiful Opera House, Post Office and Notre Dame, as well as the War Remnants Museum. A half day luxury spa experience and special shopping opportunities at a lacquerware factory, Ben Thanh market and the antiques quarter enhance your time here. Next, fly to Danang, where you will see Marble Mountain and the stone carving village before heading to Hoi An for four days in this ancient town. Take the opportunity to have some clothes made by one of Hoi An's top tailors, enjoy a spa treatment, learn to recreate some of the delicious local cuisine at a cooking class, and just enjoy time in this quaint, beautiful town. Onto Hanoi next, Vietnam's capital and the center of government. Visit the Temple of Literature, the Ethnology Museum, and the infamous "Hanoi Hilton". Finally, travel to World Heritage listed Ha Long Bay, where you will stay overnight on a luxury junk, enjoying an evening massage, and awaking to spectacular limestone outcroppings and secluded coves. Head back to Hanoi, where you will take in a traditional water puppet show and shop on Hang Gai street. A wonderful farewell dinner at Nha Hang Ngon is a perfect end to your time in Vietnam.
>>>Make an enquiry
This fantastic tour is a great way to learn new skills in magical places. Whether you are interested in a career in journalism, film or television, this tour is an opportunity to experience fascinating people and places in the company of passionate experts. Visit magnificent temples and imposing monuments, fascinating markets and people, and travel off the beaten track to experience rural areas. In Hanoi, see the highlights of this ancient city, as well as staying in an ethnic minority village. Siem Reap provides the magnificent temples of Angkor, encounters with local people in the floating villages of Ton Le Sap and the chance to learn more about the tragic but ultimately uplifting history of this enchanting country. There is time in the schedule to work on your own projects, and plenty of hints and tips from our experts!
>>>Make an enquiry