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Charming of Vietnam
Spanning the estuaries of the Red and Mekong Rivers from north to south, the coastal plains and plateaus bare an eery tranquility that conceals Vietnam's tumultuous path to sovereignty. Caught between the Annamite Cordillera and the South China Sea, Vietnam's seclusive borders and vast natural resources have always made it sought after by kings, emperors, and feudal lords. Indeed, before the earliest chapters of human history were written, its fertile river valleys hosted some of the earliest human civilizations. Today, this legacy remains largely hidden amid Vietnam's rapid rise in the 21st century.
Vietnam during colonization
The modern founding of the Court of Nam-Viet stems from an unlikely alliance between a Vietnamese warlord and a French Catholic priest in the late 18th century. Literally meaning "South of Baiyue," its name pays tribute to its proud ancestral past, referring to Chinese migrants living south of the Yangtze River. From his capital in modern Hue, Nguyen Anh established a strict Confucian civil code, while conquering Cambodia and uniting, for the first time, the Indochinese provinces of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. From this blueprint was established the modern state of Vietnam.
The cities of Vietnam reflect the ingrained heritage of its old provinces, namely Chinese, Cham, and Khmer. From the northern capital at Hanoi, the grandiose colonial boulevards give way an urban frenzy as dense and diffuse as the cloud cover on its humble skyline. Their destinations unknown, Hanoi's hardy urbanites fearlessly dodge between gleaming skyscrapers and the solemn monuments of creed and country: a patchwork of museums and French colonial mansions that reflect both a sense of national unity and Vietnam's Confucian-Buddhist roots. A quite respite is achieved amid the blooming Cay Hoa Sua trees and perennial lotus blossoms of Ho Tay Park, which lies adjacent to placid West Lake. A foray into the "Old Quarter," reveals a diverse smattering of art, culture, and everything in between at its Chinese-style markets.