Even though my learned instinct is to see Vietnam through the lens of war, it is in reality a economically emerging country filled with natural beauty and tranquil village life.
Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the easternmost nation on the Indochina Peninsula. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, and Cambodia to the southwest. On the country's east coast lies the South China Sea.
Vietnam is densly populated, with a population of over 85 million people. Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.
Độc lập - Tự do - Hạnh phúc
"Independence - Freedom - Happiness"
Largest city: Ho Chi Minh City
Language: Vietnamese, an Austro-Asiatic language formerly known under the French colonization as Annamese. Much of the vocabulary is dervived from Chinese.
At present there are 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Vietnam, in which Kinh (Viet) people make up nearly 90% of the whole population, and 53 other ethnic groups represent over 10%.
Government: Socialist republic
(Head of Vietnamese Communist Party with Castro in June 2007)
Currency: Dong. The most common bills available are the 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000 notes. There are no coins. One US dollar equals13,500 dong.
Brief History of power:
French rule lasted until WWII, when the country was invaded by Japan. At the war's end the predominantly Communist Viet Minh, which had led the resistance movement against the Japanese, declared the country's independence. The French Indochina War ensued, until France admitted defeat in 1954, and the Geneva Accords left Vietnam divided into a Communist north and an anti-Communist south.
Religion and Customs:
The major religious traditions in Vietnam are Buddhism (which fuses forms of Taoism and Confusianism), Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), Islam, Caodaism and the Hoa Hao sect.
A very popular belief among Vietnamese is the custom of the ancestor cult. In every household, an ancestor altar is installed in the most solemn location.
Vietnam and the Internet: Vietnam named as one of 13 "enemies of the internet" by Reporters Without Borders in 2006. The Communist Party has a strong grip on the media, including what content is posted and accessed on the internet. Internet providers face fines or closure for breaking the rules and "cyber dissidents" have been imprisoned; Internet cafes must register the personal details of customers
Since Andy is going to Vietnam this fall and he has toads, here is a Vietnamese Mossy Toad
Enjoy Vietnam, Andy!
Vietnamese Community of Minnesota: http://www.vietnam-minnesota.org/