To many in the U.S., “Vietnam” is not just the name of a distant Southeast Asian country where the United States once fought a war, but a loaded term that rouses so many emotions about a transformative time in American history. “Vietnam” means the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s–all the protests, politics and cultural change. “Vietnam” raises all the confounding questions surrounding a brutal war. “Vietnam” is not a land far away. It’s something that happened in the U.S.
Of course, Vietnam is not just a function of Americans’ view of America’s recent past. Vietnam has four thousand years of nationhood behind it, a long, broad stretch in which Americans only make a brief appearance. Vietnam has overcome several colonial powers, through which has found some way, through it all, to remain whole.
— HISTORY: We take a relatively deep dive into the long history of Vietnam, in which the war with the U.S. is but a chapter.
— MUSIC: From workers’ songs to V-Pop.
— LANGUAGE: Vietnamese is a “tonal” language, which means that if you can’t speak it you probably won’t be able to pick it up on the plane on the way to visit.
— WHEN YOU GO THERE: How could a country with 2,000 miles of coastline be anything other than extraordinary to visit?
— HARVESTING RICE: From paddy to plate.