Thursday, September 29, 2016

The cultural geography of Vietnam

Image above: The Culture Crossing site at

A different world

Following on from the posting related to the physical geography of Vietnam I thought it important to do a posting on the culture of Vietnam – often what is unseen! Culture is very subtle and goes way beyond the physical aspect we often see, such a food and clothing. I really think it is important that you have a look at these sites that provide excellent information on the customs and cultural norms of Vietnam (which differ even from North to South Vietnam). It is important that we do not offend out of ignorance of the different cultural norms of a country we are visiting.

The Vietnam Culture site is worth looking at to get an overview of the culture.

Cultural Crossing is another great site to get an idea of the more subtle, unseen to the visitor aspects of the culture.

Other sites you should look at are:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let’s do some geography!


Image above: Vietnam in Google Maps and the amazing Street View capacity of Google Maps,105.637318,6z

Knowing without going

What does this place we are visiting look like? The wonders of spatial technology allow us to have a look at a place in amazing details before we ever go there. I am sure all of you use Google Maps (,105.637318,6z)  all the time and know about the Street View tool that allows you to have a 360 degree look at street scenes across the world. Such scenes are usually available for settled areas in developed countries and large cities in less developed countries. As Vietnam is not a developed country (often called Least Economic Developed –LED) the Street  View coverage is generally limited to the large cities such as Ho Chi Min City and Hanoi.

To use Street View just click on the little figure at the right hand bottom of the screen and drag to a location on the map.

Remember it needs to be in the built-up area of Ho Chi Min City or Hanoi – however you will also find Street View images for Vung Tau and other places – have a play across the map to see where Street View has been developed.

 A street in Ho Chi Min City

A street in Hanoi

Vung Tau from a building

You can also get a satellite view for many of the areas we are visiting. These images are very useful to show road networks, agriculture, settlement patterns, topography (hilly or not), water bodies (rivers/swamps etc) and generally an overview of the landscape.

 Just click on the satellite box in the bottom left hand corner of the screen to turn the street map into a satellite image of the area on the screen.

I really recommend you use Google Maps and do some geography before we go – just out of interest to get an idea of the landscapes we will encounter.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Australian story from the time

Image above: Vision from the 1968 documentary: Australian Diggers in Vietnam War.

Primary sources – propaganda or necessary communication?

Australian Diggers in Vietnam: an original source

After viewing the US focussed documentaries on the Vietnam War I thought it was worth referring you to some documentaries developed (official - funded by the Australian Government) to inform the Australian population about what our troups were experiencing and doing in Vietnam. Although rather dry, as primary sources these videos give a real insight to the attitudes and events of the time.

Australian Diggers in Vietnam is a documentary made in 1968 for publicity purposes to give insight into the Australian soldiers' experience. The film follows a group of Australian soldiers transiting into Vietnam, onto helicopter and into a contact with the VC, involving gunfire and capture of a Viet Cong fighter.

The narrator provides information about Australian and Viet Cong communications, tactics, supply lines, operational planning and other related matters. Other scenes include the gunners' command post, Army Air support, gun detachments firing, 20 pounder guns firing, river-bourne operations, troops tracking VC and wading through mud, creeks and moving through similar obstacles, use of APC's on the beach, inspecting villages for VC, detaining suspects for questioning.

This documentary covers the work of the units supporting the Australian infantry battalions in Vietnam - showing 105mm Howitzers of the artillery; Centurion tanks and M113 Armoured personnel carriers; Cessna fixed wing spotter aircraft and Sioux observation helicopters marking targets; signallers using various types of communications equipment in the field; the establishment of an artillery Fire Support Base; Bushranger gunships of 9 Squadron RAAF in action firing rockets and machine guns, the work of intelligence units; destruction of Viet Cong tunnels by the engineers; re-supply of units in the field; tanks and APCs supporting 5 RAR the battle of Binh Ba; a cordon and search of a Vietnamese village; winning the hearts and minds through the Civic Aid program; road building; repair of a bridge blown up by the Viet Cong.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Every picture tells a story: the power of television

Image above: Episodes from the series Vietnam: A Television History on YouTube.

The power of Television

It is often said that the Vietnam War was the first television war - it was televised into our lounge rooms and for the first time the community, young and old could see what war was really about. As a result, there was considerable resistance from sections of the community as the war dragged on and the images of suffering and death continued to be seen on television screens in Australia. Interestingly no war since Vietnam has had the same coverage in so much detail - compared to the censorship in other wars, including World War 1, the coverage was extensive and very real. It is worth reading the writings and viewing the photojournalism of famous Vietnam war photographers such as the Australian Neil Davis  to get an idea about how close the coverage was to the real action.

As a result of the images captured and stories told about the war the home front was informed about the nature of war more than ever before.  I wonder if WW1 and WW2 would have played out differently if we had television when they occurred?
I really recommend you view the YouTube episodes of the excellent TV Series from 1980's titled Vietnam: A Television History. Although very much focussed on the US, the series provides great information and images to really make us think about their impact at the time.

As you will see above, on the right hand side of the YouTube page for the video there are plenty of great documentaries on Vietnam for you to look at and consider - some quite controversial as we continue to the write the history of the Vietnam War.