Vibrant Vietnam - 2007

certainly was colonized and governed by that country many different times. However, oftentimes the dominance did not extend into the South, so Chinese influence is not as strong there. From the 7 th century to 1832, the Champa Kingdom ruled what is now Vietnam from the Da Nang area southward. The rival Khmer Empire controlled much of what is now Laos, Cambodia, part of Vietnam and part of Thailand. The two kingdoms were both heavily influenced by their apparent Indian origins. They constantly made incursions on one another’s territories, but in truth it was the Khmer Empire that was more “sinned against than sinning.” Finally, the French really finished the Champa kingdom off. After the Champa rule was destroyed, North Vietnam was ruled under one set of noblemen and kings (the Le Dynasty) and the South by another (the Nguyen) who basically did not interfere with each other very often. Many of the Cham people fled Vietnam for Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and even India. The French united all of present-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia under its protectorate and renamed the whole area French Indochina. Ethnically speaking, the Vietnamese people are considered to be 80% Kinh (Viet) stock. So was the North’s desire to pull all the territories together a foreign invasion or a civil war to determine what type of government the entire country would adopt as its own? Were we so blinded by our fear of communism that we ignored history or were we supporting a previously separate country in its efforts to stay independent? Even though I cannot say our visit to Vietnam answered that question for me, evidently the Vietnamese themselves have stopped brooding over it. A Caveat: Because Vietnam is so resonant a place in American consciousness, I am treating the visit here a bit differently from the visits to the other countries. I intend to discuss each place we visited in a little more depth rather than simply discussing my general impressions of the country as a whole as I did with Bhutan and Laos, and will be doing also with Cambodia and Bali. After all, echoes of our own history here cannot be drowned out.

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