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Vietnam Travel Guide


Lying on the eastern part of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is a strip of land shaped like the letter “S”. China borders it to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the East Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the east and south.

The country’s total length from north to south is 1,650km. Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600km at the widest point in the north, 400km in the south, and 50km at the narrowest part, in the centre, in Quang Binh Province. The coastline is 3,260km long and the inland border is 4,510km.

Latitude: 102º 08' - 109º 28'  east

Longitude:  8º 02' - 23º 23'  north

 Vietnam is also a transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.More than three quarters of Việt Nam's territory comprises mountains and hills. Four distinct mountainous zones may be identified - the Tây Bắc (north west), the Đông Bắc or Việt Bắc (north east), the northern Trường Sơn zone in north-central Việt Nam and the southern Trường Sơn zone in the south-central region. The country has two major river deltas - the Red River Delta (Đồng bằng Châu thổ Sông Hồng) in the north and the Mekong Delta (Đồng bằng Châu thổ Sông Cửu Long) in the south.


 Vietnam is located in both a tropical and a temperate zone. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences, but has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity. Regions located near the tropics and in the mountainous regions are endowed with a temperate climate.

 In general, in Vietnam there are two seasons, the cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October. The difference in temperature between the two seasons in southern is almost unnoticeable, averaging 3ºC. The most noticeable variations are found in the northern where differences of 12ºC have been observed. There are essentially four distinct seasons, which are most evident in the northern provinces(from Hai Van Pass toward to the north): Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.



Recent archaeological finds indicate the presence of early man throughout the wider region from at least the late Paleolithic Era. However, a discernible link between prehistoric settlement and the peoples of modern Việt Nam cannot be established until the emergence of the sophisticated Đông Sơn culture in the north between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE. It was in the twilight of this period that the Lạc Việt, Austro-Asian ancestors of the Việt or Kinh people, established a prosperous agrarian kingdom known as Văn Lang, governed from a citadel near Việt Trì by the kings of the Hùng dynasty.

 In 258 BCE this kingdom of Văn Lang was conquered and annexed by the Tày Âu, ancestors of modern Việt Nam's Tày and Nùng peoples, who built a new capital at Cổ Loa, north of present-day Hà Nội, naming their new united state the kingdom of Âu Lạc. However, notwithstanding this Tày Âu annexation of Văn Lang, it was the culture of the Lạc Việts rather than that of the Tày Âu which subsequently became dominant in the Red River Delta area.dienbienphu victory

Two other significant maritime civilisations also emerged contemporaneously with the Đông Sơn in the region known today as Việt Nam - the Sa Huỳnh culture flourished in the coastal region south of Hội An between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE and is believed to have been an important precursor to the later Chăm culture, while in the south the Óc Eo civilisation, focused on modern Kiên Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, provided the cultural foundation on which the proto-Khmer kingdom of Funan (1st-6th centuries CE) subsequently developed.

Following the collapse of the Qin dynasty in 208 BCE, Triệu Đà, the Chinese military commander of Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces, seized the northern kingdom of Âu Lạc and incorporated it into an independent kingdom known as Nam Việt. However, following the rise of the Han dynasty in China an expeditionary force was dispatched south in 111 BCE and proceeded to conquer Nam Việt, incorporating it into the newly-constituted Chinese empire. Thus began a millennium of Chinese political and cultural dominance over what is now northern Việt Nam.

During this period of Chinese dominance the Việt kingdom grew steadily in power and prestige, profiting from maritime trade between India and China. Mahayana Buddhism was introduced from China and Therevada (Hinayana) Buddhism from India, whilst the introduction of Confucianism led to the growth of a rigid feudalistic hierarchy dominated by a mandarin class. The first millennium CE also witnessed important technological advances such as the evolution of writing, the manufacture of paper and glass, the development of sericulture and the construction of dykes and irrigation works. However, efforts by the Chinese to assimilate the Việts were always strenuously resisted and the period was marked by frequent rebellions which played an important role in shaping Vietnamese national identity. These included the uprisings of the Trưng sisters (Hai Bà Trưng, 40-43 CE), Lady Triệu (Bà Triệu, 248 CE), Mai Thúc Loan (722 CE) and Phùng Hưng (766-791 CE).

The historic victory of the Bạch Đằng River, secured in 938 under the leadership of Việt king Ngô Quyền, brought to an end almost 1,000 years of Chinese suzerainty over what is now northern Việt Nam and led to the establishment of the first truly independent Vietnamese state. Anarchy followed Ngô Quyền's death in 944, but in 967 the kingdom was reunified under the name Đại Cồ Việt by Đinh Tiên Hoàng (Đinh Bộ Lĩnh), who established a new capital at Hoa Lư (modern Ninh Bình Province) and reached an accommodation with the Chinese. Đinh Tiên Hoàng survived only until 980, when his government was overthrown by the short-lived Early Lê (980-1009), but Đinh Tiên Hoàng's legacy survived and was consolidated by Lý Thái Tổ, founder and first king of the Lý dynasty, who in 1010 established the kingdom of Đại Việt (literally 'great Việt'), moving the royal capital to Thăng Long (now Hà Nội). Henceforward, thanks largely to the success of such illustrious kings as Lý Thường Kiệt (1030-1105), Trần Hưng Đạo (1226-1300) and Lê Thái Tổ (Lê Lợi, 1385-1433) in repulsing successive invasions from China and Mongolia, the north was to enjoy a more or less unbroken period of independence lasting until well into the 19th century.

However, notwithstanding their newfound autonomy, successive rulers of Đại Việt continued to model their courts and system of government on the Chinese pattern. Indeed, under the patronage of successive kings of the Lý dynasty (1010-1225) Thăng Long's Temple of Literature-Royal College (Văn miếu-Quốc tử giám, established in 1070) became the intellectual and spiritual centre of the kingdom's growing mandarin class.

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