The Vietnamese are descendants of nomadic Mongols from China and migrants from Indonesia. According to mythology, the first ruler of Vietnam was Hung Vuong, who founded the nation in 2879 B.C. China ruled the nation then known as Nam Viet from 111 B.C. until the 15th century. The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884, and Vietnam became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 and resulted in the division of Vietnam. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was then divided into the communist North and anti-communist South. Today, Vietnam has one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies and has set its sights on becoming a fully developed nation by 2020.
Vietnamese is spoken in three dialects, corresponding to the three main regions of Vietnam: Northern Vietnamese (Hanoi), Central Vietnamese (Hue), and Southern Vietnamese (Ho Chi Minh City). The northern dialect forms the basis of the standard language and is the prestige dialect. The dialects differ mainly in terms of pronunciation and to a limited extent in terms of the vocabulary. These dialect differences do not impede intelligibility among speakers of the different dialects, however. Vietnamese is a tone language that is the meaning of words and sentences is affected by the pitch with which they are spoken. With each syllable, there are different tones that can be used which change the definition and it often makes it difficult for foreigners to pick up the language. The language has a very sing-song effect.
How much does this cost?
những gì hiện chi phí này?
What time is it?
mấy giờ rồi?
xin vui long
cảm ơn bạn
chào buổi trưa
What is your name?
Tên của bạn là gì?
ăn – ăn means “eat” in Vietnamese. If you are eating Vietnamese food in Vietnam, you will be feasting on meals of great intricacy. Vietnamese cuisine traditionally features a combination of five fundamental taste “elements” that relate to the elements of the earth: spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth). Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime and basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables, and is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.
The principle of yin and yang is applied in composing each meal in a way that provides a balance that is beneficial for the body. While contrasting texture and flavors are important, the principal primarily concerns the heating and cooling properties of ingredients.
Just about everyone has heard of Pho, which is the “national dish” of Vietnam: a noodle soup of beef or chicken broth with rice noodles, onions, and either chicken, pork or beef. But what most people do not know is that it is primarily eaten at breakfast. Bahn Mi is also quite popular and widespread. Although Bahn Mi is actually just bread, most of us know it as the whole sandwich.
Seafood dishes are among some of the standouts of Vietnamese cuisine. Cha ca, is perhaps the best known. It is comprised of white fish sautéed in butter with dill and spring onions, then served with rice noodles and peanuts.
Some other common dishes you will find are Nem ran, bite-sized crunchy spring rolls with a soft veggie and meat filling dunked in a tangy sauce gets the gastronomic juices flowing. For something lighter, Ga tan, is a broth that’s Vietnam’s answer to the proverbial cup of chicken noodle soup. Bahn cuon, a steamed rice cake, is served with crispy fried shallots, chopped cucumber, shredded romaine lettuce, bean sprouts, slices of pork sausage, chopped shrimp, scallions, and ground beef.
Hat de nong roasting on an open fire should remind you of Christmas! Chestnuts are commonly found at many street vendors, freshly roasted and ready for you to enjoy on your stroll while exploring.
For a healthy, refreshing dessert, try Hoa qua dam, a chunky blend of fresh tropical fruit in a cup is the perfect local treat when the heat of Vietnamese summer starts to wear you down. For the full experience as the locals do it, try it with condensed milk mixed in.
Vietnam is the country with many festivals, which take place all year round. The major festivals are Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year), Mid-First month, Han Thuc (cold food), Doan Ngo (double five), Mid-Seventh month, Mid-Autumn Festival, Ong Tao (the god of the kitchen), to name a few. Each region has its own ritual holidays, the most important of which are agricultural rituals, such as the rituals of praying for rain, getting down to the rice field, new rice, and trade rituals like the rituals of copper casting, forging, making fire crackers, and boat racing. There are also rituals dedicating to national heroes and religious and cultural services. Ritual holidays are usually divided into two parts, the service is carried out for blesses and thanksgivings, the holiday is the cultural activities of the community consisting of many folk games and contests. Tet Nguyen Dan, or simply Tet is the most important festival in Vietnam. It celebrates rebirth and is an equivalent of the Lunar New Year.
Where to go and What to see
If you are moving to Vietnam, you are in for an adventure on many levels. It is a destination that offers an ideal combination of good earning potential and high quality of life. Vietnam also has a fast-growing economy, a thriving art scene, beautiful landscapes and some of the best food in Asia. There are so many beautiful sights to see.
The northern city of Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital, a fast-changing city filled with new developments, beautiful lakes, bustling streets, restaurants, and tens of thousands of motorbikes. The Hanoi Old Quarter is a fascinating area of the city where visitors can enjoy many fine examples of colonial architecture packed along narrow streets. Endless packs of scooters, motorbikes, bicycles and cars weave around traders selling fruit and souvenirs and narrow shop houses sell delicious Vietnamese food for pennies. Ba Vi National Park has dramatic scenery and a diverse range of jungle plants and animals. At the summit of the tallest mountain is an 11th century temple offering expansive views of the surrounding countryside and on the forest floor are natural hot springs. One of the most elegant and popular buildings in all of Hanoi is undoubtedly the Hanoi Opera House in the heart of the French Quarter. Built in 1911, it exudes Parisian charm. Inside, performances range from opera to dance, drama, and international artists from every corner of the world. Large events are well publicized so keep an eye out, and you might get lucky and get to see one of the world’s leading performers in one of the most beautiful buildings in Asia.
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s most important economic hub. If Ho Chi Min City is your spot, you can expect skyscrapers, malls, and modern restaurants alongside old French colonial architecture and remnants of a time long past. While in Ho Chi Min, check out the Fine Arts and History Museum, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cu Chi tunnels represent the sheer grit and ‘can-do’ attitude of the Vietnamese while a visit to the War Remnants Museum brings home the horrible reality of war.
There is also the beautifully quaint Hoi An, known for being a well preserved Ancient Town, with the architecture of a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shop houses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with pagodas.
If visiting the city of Hue, you cannot miss the Hue Imperial City or the Thien Mu Pagoda, which was once regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital and the Tombs of the Emperors. Here there are seven tombs scattered about the countryside around Hue and are monuments to nine of the 13 rulers of the Nguyen Dynasty. To awaken your spiritual side, there is the My Son Sanctuary, a remnant of an ancient Champa civilization. The sanctuary is an impressive set of ruins and a royal burial ground that consists of more than 70 structures devoted to Hindu gods and goddesses and features many beautiful stone sculptures, temples, and towers in tropical jungle surroundings.
A must mention is the stunning Ha Long Bay dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets was officially named as one of new seven natural wonders of the world by the New Seven Wonders Foundation. Hạ Long Bay is also a member of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World.
Covered mostly with tropical rainforest, Phong Nha-Ke Bang Park is another “have to” visit for an escape to nature. The park is one of the most important eco-regions of the Indo-Pacific. It also offers many significant geomorphic features including underground rivers, dendritic caves, dry caves, suspended caves and terraced caves. Many endangered animal species still roam the area including black bears, tigers, and elephants. Composed of 300 caves and grottos, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park offers countless activities, amongst them visiting caves and grottos by boat as well as mountain climbing and forest trekking.
Chúc may mắn
The Vietnamese are friendly, proud people who believe in a myth that they are descendants of an angel and a dragon, and when you look into the history of the people, that is somewhat an accurate portrayal. You will find yourself surrounded by authentic, ancient villages, temples, and pagodas of years long past, existing harmoniously amongst the new shininess of the modern future being built. Vietnam is a country eager to grow. And in a way, you and Vietnam have this in common. Even if your time in Vietnam is brief, make the most of it and grow together. Vietnam will tantalize your senses, possibly overloading them at times, but it is all part of the experience and life is about the experiences that turn into memories.
So chúc may mắn…or as we’d say in English, good luck!
For more information about Vietnam, see the following: