Vietnam, the Land of the Blue Dragon, is a narrow, S-shaped country in Southeast Asia. Its closest neighbours are China (in the north) and Laos and Cambodia (in the west). Vietnam is surrounded by the South China Sea to the east and South, and is flanked by the stunning Annam Cordillera mountains in the west.
Vietnam’s 1,600 km coastline and warm sunny weather make it an ideal destination for travellers after some rest and relaxation on the beach. The climate differs considerably in the north and south, though both areas brave strong monsoons. The rainy season runs from May to November and the temperature ranges from around 17ºC in the winter, to 37ºC in the peak of the summer season.
In addition to its beautiful beaches, Vietnam boasts a rich cultural tradition, comprising over 2,000 years of history, a wide array of ethnicities and foreign influences from countries such as the USA, France, China, etc. The country is also famed for its rich gastronomic tradition, bearing influences from China and France and standing out for its high nutritional value and its colourful appearance. Vietnam is also famed for its stunning landscapes – think the dreamlike Ha Long Bay, the lush Son Doong Cave or the carefully manicured paddy fields in the north. Its beaches, meanwhile, are the perfect spot to unwind and find long-lost equilibrium.
Vietnam’s earliest peoples called the Red River Valley home, some 5,000 years ago. In 207 B.C., these tribes were conquered by a Chinese warrior, who set up a new kingdom which he called Nam Viet. A little over a century later, Nam Viet was incorporated into the Chinese Empire, until famous prefect and general, Ngô Quyá»n, led a revolt that resulted in the expulsion of the Chinese. The country was eventually renamed Dai Viet, and was divided into the Trinh kingdom in the north and the Nguyen kingdom in the south. In the early 19th century, the Nguyens defeated the Trinhs and the country was named Vietnam. By the late 19th century, however, the country was overtaken by the French. The Japanese would control Vietnam in World War II and, with the defeat of Japan, Ho Chi Minh (of the Vietnamese Communist Party) officially declared Vietnam to be independent. In 1954, the country was divided into north and south Vietnam, following French attempts to once again gain control. The Vietnam War, which involved various countries including the United States, Russia and China, saw the north and south continue to battle it out for further control.
Vietnam is home to lofty mountain ranges, verdant forests, dreamlike wetlands and an impressive coastline, all of which support various plant and animal species. Some of Vietnam’s most fascinating animals include powerful Indochinese tigers (smaller than Bengal and Siberian varieties), stunning Saola antelopes (with striking white markings on their forehead) and Irrawaddy dolphins (with their bulging forehead and short beak). Vietnam was once totally covered in lush forests; deforestation has seriously reduced the variety of flora, causing numerous species to go into extinction. Remaining rainforests are home to beautiful evergreens, wild rhododendrons and elegant orchids. Central Vietnam is peppered with tall pines and fertile river deltas, with mystical mangrove forests.
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