Four great philosophies
and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people:
Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. Over the centuries,
Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have melded with popular Chinese
beliefs and ancient Vietnamese animism to form what is known as Tam
Giao (or 'Triple Religion').
Vietnamese (kinh) is the official language of the country, although
there are dialectic differences across Vietnam. There are dozens of
different languages spoken by various ethnic minorities and Khmer and
Loatian are spoken in some parts. The most widely spoken foreign
languages in Vietnam are Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), English,
French and Russian, more or less in that order.
Popular artistic forms include: traditional painting produced on
frame-mounted silk; an eclectic array of theatre, puppetry, music and
dance; religious sculpture; lacquerware and ceramics.
Vietnamese cuisine is especially varied - there are said to be nearly
500 different traditional dishes that include exotic meats (but think
twice before you eat a rare animal) and fantastic vegetarian creations
(often prepared to replicate meat and fish dishes). However, the
staple of Vietnamese cuisine is plain white rice dressed up with a
plethora of vegetables, fish (which is common in Vietnam), meat,
spices and sauces. Spring rolls, noodles and steamed rice dumplings
are popular snacks, and the ubiquitous soups include eel and
vermicelli, shredded chicken and bitter soups. Fruit is abundant; some
of the more unusual ones include green dragon fruit, jujube, khaki,
longan, mangosteen, pomelo, three-seed cherry and water apple.
Vietnamese coffee (ca phe phin) is very good; it's usually served very
strong and very sweet.