Vietnam and Travel : Places, People, Food & Shopping
Vietnam is an exciting travel destination offering spectacular natural scenery, highly cultured and friendly people of rich ethnic diversity and wonderful shopping.
The Red River Delta in the north and the Mekong Delta in the south are truly beautiful – flying in you witness a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies being worked by women in traditional conical hats. Another unforgettable sight is Halong Bay with its spectacular rock formations, sea cliffs and grottoes seen through a veil of mist.
Vietnam is among the most densely populated countries in Southeast Asia with over 80 million people. As a result of the Vietnamese war, 66% of Vietnamese are under the age of 30. While ethnic Vietnamese make up the majority of the population, Chinese, Khmers, Cham along with 54 ethnic minorities, many of which can also be found throughout SE Asia, and Yunnan, make up the remainder.
Four major philosophies / religions form the center of spiritual life in Vietnam; Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism have melded with popular Chinese belief systems along with Animism to collectively form Tam Giao or the Triple Religion.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
If like me you love good food, Vietnam will not disappoint – the cuisine is amazing with some 500 traditional dishes to sample. The Vietnamese take pride in preparing food and eating well is central to the everyday culture of the country. There are rules of etiquette to be observed when eating with Vietnamese – you should never pierce food with a chopstick on a communal plate to get at it and always hand bowls to others using both hands. Several bowls containing various dishes are shared and rather than ordering individually as is the style of eating in many Asian countries. Try not to take too much of any one dish, even if it’s your favorite. Vietnamese hosts will often take the best of each dish and place it on your plate to honor you as their guest. Use a spoon to take sauces, never pour them directly onto your food. One of my favorite dishes is Vietnamese spring rolls (nem), known as cha gio (pronounced chaow yau) in the south.
Vietnamese Stone Carving
Arts and Crafts in Vietnam
The arts are richly abundant in Vietnam and include dance, music, literature, architecture, painting, puppet theatre, lacquerware, ceramics and sculpture. One of my favorite items to buy in Vietnam is the stone carved figures and boxes found in Vietnam. They are hand carved using soapstone or marble and feature intricate carved figures, flowers, water lilies, dragonflies and village scenes in relief. The images on each side extend seamlessly from one surface to the next. Natural stone is contrasted against sections painted in red or black. Soapstone has served as a medium for carving for thousands of years, particularly in India where it was widely used in sculpture and the construction of temples - famously the temples of the Hoysala Empire. The high content of talc makes it relatively soft and ideal for carving. It was also popular amongst the Egyptians and Native Americans as a medium for sculpture.
I have included a few photos of these stone carvings and a large collection can be viewed and purchased at sabai designs gallery. I am offering Hubpages members a 40% discount off the marked price – just let me know your Hubpage name. They make great, unique gifts.
Vietnam is a wonderful, exciting tourist destination and doesn’t cost a fortune. It can be done very cheaply if you eat local food and stay in modest guest houses or if you want to splurge, the sky’s the limit. I recommend giving the Loney Planet guide book a read through first to get the most out of your experience.