Today the 2nd of September is National Day in Vietnam. It is a national holiday in Vietnam commemorating the Vietnam Declaration of Independence from France on September 2, 1945.
The Japanese occupied Vietnam during World War II but allowed the French to remain and exert some influence. At the war’s end in August 1945, a power vacuum was created in Vietnam. Capitalizing on this, the Việt Minh launched the “August Revolution” across the country to seize government offices. Emperor Bảo Đại abdicated on August 25, 1945, ending the Nguyễn Dynasty. On September 2, 1945, at Ba Đình Square, Ho Chi Minh, leader of the communist Viet Minh organization, declared Vietnam’s independence under the new name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) in a speech that invoked the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV), is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. With an estimated 90.5 million inhabitants as of 2014, it is the world’s 13th-most-populous country, and the eighth-most-populous Asian country. The name Vietnam translates as “Southern Viet” (synonymous with the much older term Nam Viet); it was first officially adopted in 1802 by Emperor Gia Long, and was adopted again in 1945 with the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh. It’s capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976.
Vietnam was part of Imperial China for over a millennium, from 111 BC to AD 939. The Vietnamese became independent in 939, following the Vietnamese victory in the Battle of Bạch Đằng River. Successive Vietnamese royal dynasties flourished as the nation expanded geographically and politically into Southeast Asia, until the Indochina Peninsula was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Following a Japanese occupation in the 1940s, the Vietnamese fought French rule in the First Indochina War, eventually expelling the French in 1954. Thereafter, Vietnam was divided politically into two rival states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy intervention from the United States, in what is known as the Vietnam War. The war ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
Vietnam was then unified under a communist government but remained impoverished and politically isolated. In 1986, the government initiated a series of economic and political reforms which began Vietnam’s path towards integration into the world economy. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with all nations. Since 2000, Vietnam’s economic growth rate has been among the highest in the world, and, in 2011, it had the highest Global Growth Generators Index among 11 major economies. It’s successful economic reforms resulted in its joining the World Trade Organization in 2007.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, along with China, Cuba, and Laos, is one of the world’s four remaining single-party socialist states officially espousing communism. Its current state constitution, 2013 Constitution, asserts the central role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in all organs of government, politics and society.
Deep poverty, defined as the percentage of the population living on less than USD1 per day, has declined significantly in Vietnam, and the relative poverty rate is now less than that of China, India, and the Philippines. This decline in the poverty rate can be attributed to equitable economic policies aimed at improving living standards and preventing the rise of inequality.
The official national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese which is spoken by the majority of the population. In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 13th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters. The romanized Vietnamese alphabet used for spoken Vietnamese, was developed in the 17th century by the Jesuit Alexandre de Rhodes and several other Catholic missionaries. The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is spoken by many educated Vietnamese as a second language, especially among the older generation and those educated in the former South Vietnam, where it was a principal language in administration, education and commerce.
Vietnam has an extensive state-controlled network of schools, colleges and universities, and a growing number of privately run and partially privatised institutions. General education in Vietnam is divided into five categories: kindergarten, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and universities. A large number of public schools have been constructed across the country to raise the national literacy rate, which stood at 90.3% in 2008.
The Lonely Planet describes Vetnam as “Astonishingly exotic and utterly compelling, Vietnam is a country of breathtaking natural beauty with an incredible heritage that quickly becomes addictive.”
It is a culinary superpower – Vietnamese food is that good. Incredibly subtle in its flavours and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking is a fascinating draw for travellers – the dozens of cooking schools in Hoi An are testament to this. Geography plays a crucial role, with Chinese flavours influencing the soups of northern Vietnam, spices sparking up southern cuisine and myriad herbs and complex techniques typifying the central region, rightly renowned as Vietnam’s epicurean epicentre.
Vietnamese people are energetic, direct, sharp in commerce and resilient by nature. Poor in parts but never squalid, Vietnam is developing at an astonishing pace and inevitably there are some issues to consider (including some minor scams). However, on the whole this is an extremely safe (apart from the traffic!) and wonderfully rewarding country to explore.
On our three visits to Vietnam we would whole heartedly agree with the above sentiments. The food is amazing and the people are very friendly. They appear to work incredibly hard with most earning between USD150 and USD250 per month regardless of what job they do – the Communist model. Unfortunately there is a high level of corruption at Government level with those in office being incredibly wealthy. The people seem to accept this which we find unusual due to living in one of the least corrupt countries in the world. They are very family orientated and usually live in multi generational settings with the grandmothers providing daycare for the grandchildren while the mothers work. Pro creation is very important to the family unit as these youngsters are going to provide the physical and financial care later in life.