Vietnam is located on the eastern Indochinese Peninsula. It is a long and thin country in Southeast Asia. Its neighboring countries are China to the north, Laos, and Cambodia to the west.
Once a lesser-known destination, Vietnam has become widely popular in recent years with Hanoi consistently ranked among the world’s top destinations. And one can now find European tourists as far as Ha Giang, one of the most remote mountainous provinces with lush forest-covered hills featuring indigenous tribes. The people can be distinguished by their clothing. Occasional wild elephants traveling in herds can be seen.
The land of Vietnam is mostly hilly and densely forested, with level flat land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the country’s land area, and tropical forests cover around 42%.
Southern Vietnam is divided into coastal lowlands and near the Mekong River Delta where the water feeds the vast rice paddy fields. The mountains of the Annamite Range and extensive forests of the south that is home to rare creatures including the Chinese pangolin, and the Indochinese tiger. And this region was also the first part of Vietnam to be colonized by the French Cochinchina.
The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Fansipan, also known as Phan Xi Păng in Lào Cai Province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam, standing 3,143 m (10,312 ft) high. The north harbors some of the most magnificent views of Vietnam with stunning rice terraces, hill tribes in the far north, as well as the iconic Ha Long Bay.
And from north to south Vietnam, the country also has numerous islands. Phú Quốc is the largest island in Vietnam.
Other interesting landmarks include the Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave which is considered the largest known cave passage in the world since its discovery in 2009. The Ba Bể Lake and Mekong River is the largest lake and longest river in the country.
Vietnam’s culture has developed over the centuries from indigenous ancient with wet rice cultivation as its economic base. And Vietnam’s history is one of war, colonization, and rebellion. Occupied by China no fewer than four times, the Vietnamese managed to fight off the invaders just as often. At various points during these thousand years of imperial dynasties, Vietnam was ravaged and divided by civil wars and at different times attacked by the Songs, Mongols, Yuans, Chams, Mings, Dutch, Qings, French, Japanese, and the Americans.
Nevertheless, Vietnamese culture remains distinct from Chinese culture as it has also absorbed cultural elements from neighboring Hindu civilizations such as the Champa and the Khmer empires. The French colonization has also left a lasting impact on Vietnamese society, with baguettes and coffee remaining popular among locals.
Vietnam is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites including five cultural sites, two natural sites, and one mixed. Vietnam holds the second-highest number of World Heritage Sites in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia with nine sites.
Vietnamese clothing and headwear are unique and specular. The ao dai is the fancy silk tunic with spits on the side and is worn with pants by women and men. The áo bà ba, is more often seen in the rural countryside as working “pajamas” for men and women. Many travelers buy these clothes and wear them at home. Also the Nón lá is a Vietnamese cone-pointed headwear used to cover the head and shield the face from the sun and rain. It is a typical symbol of the Vietnamese people. It’s good to have if you are a green thumb gardener to use back home.
Vietnamese cuisine is based on five fundamental tastes: spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. And Vietnamese recipes call for lemongrass, ginger, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, chili, lime, and basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables; it is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. Many notable Vietnamese dishes such as gỏi cuốn (salad roll), bánh cuốn (rice noodle roll), bún riêu (rice vermicelli soup), and phở noodles.
Amazing 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).