First Impressions of Vietnam

Vietnam stretches as a banana-shaped strip between two major river systems, the Mekong and the Red River, along the eastern part of the Southeast Asian peninsula. The country is about 8 times the size of Switzerland and has about 12 times the population of Switzerland. For more than 1000 years Vietnam was under Chinese rule and from 1883 to 1954 the French occupied the country. Influences from both “occupying states” are still clearly recognizable today and partly characterize the landscape and the cuisine. After 1954, the country divided at the “Cloud Pass”; the north was supported by the Russians and a communist regime ruled. The French and later the Americans supported the South but lost the war. In 1975 the North won and unified the country.

The main attractions in the north are junk rides in Halong Bay, in the central area there are the “Perfume River”, the “Cloud Pass” and Hoi An, a typical rural town with a long, fine sandy beach, which makes perfect bathing holiday dreams come true. In the south, lively Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) dominates, but also the delta of the Mekong River, about 70km away.

Geography

According to topmbadirectory, Vietnam’s area is approximately 93% that of Germany. The country encompasses the vast plains of the Red River and Mekong river deltas, the entire eastern mainland coast of Southeast Asia, and the long mountain ranges and plateaux of the hinterland. The north-south extent is about 1650 km, the east-west width is up to 600 km, while the narrowest point in central Vietnam is only 50 km wide. The geography of Vietnam is also described as a “bamboo stick with two rice bowls”: In the north and south there are two fertile river deltas that supply rice, with a narrow, rather barren area between them as a connection, characterized by forest and mountains. Three quarters of Vietnam is covered by mountains and plateaus.

Climate

The climate differs significantly between North and South Vietnam. The north has a temperate tropical alternating climate, there is a cool season from November to April and a hot one from May to October. The south is tropical: warm to very hot throughout the year, slightly cooler from November to January, hot from February to May and with a rainy season between May and October. The cloud pass north of Da Nang forms the weather divide between these areas. During the rainy season, typhoons often rage, causing flooding in the Mekong Delta in particular, but also in other coastal regions.

Cities

The two most important cities by far are the capital Hanoi (Hà Nội) and Vietnam’s largest city Ho Chi Minh City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, formerly Saigon). While the latter is one of the fastest growing boom cities in the world and is seen as the economic hub of ASEAN, Hà Nội has a reputation for being quieter and more elegant. In fact, Hà Nội lags far behind the southern metropolis in economic matters.

Environment

The use of environmental toxins by the USA during the Vietnam War caused lasting damage to Vietnamese nature. In particular, dioxin-containing herbicides such as Agent Orange, of which the US Air Force sprayed about 40 million liters over the country, are still having an effect in large areas of the country because they decompose very slowly and have a half-life of about a decade. About half of the mangrove swamps that cannot regenerate themselves were destroyed during the war. The leafless slopes in the interior still cannot be reforested because only very hardy grasses that are very susceptible to wildfires during the dry season can survive. During the rainy season, these regions are therefore subject to extremely severe erosion.

Wildlife

Vietnam has a rich wildlife, but it is threatened by ongoing forest destruction and poaching. According to recent estimates, only around 200 tigers and less than 60 Asian elephants live there, and their survival is questionable. The Javan rhinos, which were long restricted to the area of ​​the Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam, were wiped out by poaching in 2010. Outside of Vietnam, the rare animals only live in the Ujung Kulon National Park on the island of Java. Other mammals include primates (crested gibbons, slow lorises, langurs, macaques), carnivores (including sun bears, marbled cats and several species of civets), even-toed ungulates (antschile, muntjac, deer, bantengrinder, gaur) and numerous species of bats and rodents. The bird world is also rich in species, these include pheasants, hornbills, owls, birds of prey, herons and numerous songbirds. Crocodiles, snakes, lizards and frogs also make their home in this country, as well as countless species of insects and invertebrates. Several new species of Vietnam were described in the 1990s, including Vu Quang cattle and several Muntjas. Vu Quang cattle are protected in Vu Quang National Park.

Population

The population of Vietnam is estimated to be between 86.9 million and 91.5 million. The population is very young on average: nationwide in 2005 about 32% of the people were under 14 years old and only about 5.6% are over 65. The population growth is estimated at 1.3% to 1.4%. The birth rate is tending to fall (2005: 17.07 births per 1000 and 1.94 children per woman), while the death rate is also falling due to improved medical conditions (2005: 6.2 per 1000). Overall life expectancy from 2010 to 2015 was 75.7 years (70.7 years for men and 80.3 years for women).

First Impressions of Vietnam