Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Moment in Nam

Magnet # 332:  Map, Symbols of Vietnam

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Me

Okay, I'm just on a roll with Independence Days - yep, today is yet another. This time, we venture to Vietnam, where they are celebrating their independence from the Japanese. In 1945, they broke free, officially forming the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

While the area of Vietnam has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, it wasn't until the first dynasty, the Hong Bang Dynasty, rose up that the predecessor of the country of Vietnam first began.  They ruled for 2000 years until the Thuc Dynasty rose up in 257 BC, but they didn't last long.  The Chinese invaded in 111 BC, took control of the area, and ruled almost continuously for a millennium.  But in 938, they were defeated by a Vietnamese lord and the area entered into a golden period. With only a brief takeover by the Chinese, they were able to remain independent for 900 years. But by the 16th century infighting had broken out in the country, weakening it when it needed to be strong, for colonization was becoming widespread across the globe.  French Catholic missionaries arrived in the area, hoping to convert the Vietnamese, only to be persecuted by their rulers.  It wasn't so easy, however, to get rid of the rest of the French, who began attacking southern parts of the country in 1858, partially in reaction to the treatment of their missionaries, and also to take control of the area.  By the 1880s, they were able to add it to French Indochina.  They implemented a great deal of change there, modernizing education and promoting their own religious agenda.  Of course, the French weren't immune from being overtaken themselves and when the Nazis defeated them in 1940, at the beginning of World War II, they also gained its colonial holdings.  They gave their ally Japan control of French Indochina, and they were able to exploit its resources for their war efforts.  But with the defeat of Japan by the Allies in August of 1945, the people of Vietnam were able to seize the moment, creating the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.  Of course, their troubles were far from over, particularly when the Vietnam War broke out in 1957 and dragged out for years, but the nation has finally come into more prosperous and peaceful times.

While I've never been to Vietnam, it might be nice to try it out someday. I've eaten plenty of Vietnamese food over here in the United States and really enjoy it. I love the flavors, especially peanut sauce, and the rice noodles and spring rolls. Plus, they use plenty of seafood, which is a favorite of mine. I'd definitely be interested in trying out authentic Vietnamese cuisine in the country itself and seeing how the version I'm used to measures up. Plus, one of my favorite Travel Channel hosts, Anthony Bourdain, gives it about the highest recommendation possible. The episode where he travels there is the only time I've seen him visit a foreign country and actually take a look at the real estate. Yep, he was so taken with Vietnam during his previous visit there while working for the Food Network that he's actually considering moving there. Overall, he decided the prices were a little too high and his family wouldn't be confortable there - for now. But I have to imagine that with all of the money he brings in every year, Bourdain may realize his dream one day. And if this country means this much to him, I think it's worth at least checking out.

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