15 Interesting Facts About Vietnam

Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country known for its beaches, rivers, stunning natural landscapes and bustling cities. Here are some interesting facts that you probably didn't know about the Land of the Ascending Dragon.

1. Vietnam is an S-shaped country

Vietnam is a long, narrow nation shaped like the letter ‘s’, with an extensive coastline stretching from the Gulf of Tonkin in the north to the Gulf of Thailand in the south. China is to the country's north, while Laos and Cambodia lie to the west.

2. You can find motorbikes all over Vietnam

Vietnam is considered the center of the motorcycle industry in Asia, with average annual sales of motorcycles in Vietnam reaching 3 million units. There aren’t many cars in Vietnam as about 95% of registered vehicles are motorbikes or scooters. There are many narrow streets in Vietnam, it’s much easier to navigate the roads with motorbikes especially those tiny alleys.

3. Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee exporter

Accounting for 10.5% of the world’s coffee export, Vietnam’s coffee export is valued at USD3.2 billion. Coffee bean was first brought to Vietnam in 1857 by French colonialists who discovered that the environmental conditions in the country’s central highlands were suitable for the cultivation of many foreign crops. The French originally brought the Arabica variety; in 1908, the high-yield Robusta variety was introduced and cultivated alongside Arabica.

4. Home to the largest cave in the world

The world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong is located right in the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh, Vietnam. Son Doong is large enough to house an entire 40-storey New York City block skyscraper. The cave was discovered and explored for the first time in 2009, and officially opened to the public since 2013. However, there’s a waiting list of 2 years if you’re thinking of visiting. The cave is currently mostly used for scientific research. The ecosystem created within the cave has its own weather system and creates its own clouds. Inside, you will find the largest stalagmite known to man, hanging at 262 feet tall (80 meters), and fossils dating back millions of years.

5. World’s leading exporter of cashew nuts and black pepper

Vietnam is responsible for one-third of the global production of cashew nuts and black pepper. The country has been producing cashews since the early 1980s. Vietnam's biggest cashew producing area is the southern province of Binh Phuoc. It is located north of the commercial center Ho Chi Minh City. Additionally, Vietnam's pepper has continued its leading position in the global pepper market supplying 60 per cent of demand, exceeding exports of other pepper exporting countries such as Brazil and Indonesia.

6. Vietnamese will ask for your age

Don’t be surprised if Vietnamese ask for your age during the first meeting. While some cultures may find it astonishing, Vietnamese don’t find it awkward to discuss their age or personal status. It’s not because they are naturally nosy but they would like to know your age so that they can address you properly because the pronouns are different based on age and gender.

7. Snake wine is a thing in Vietnam

Snakes are widely believed to possess medicinal qualities and the wine is often advertised to cure everything from farsightedness, rheumatism, to hair loss, as well as to increase sexual performance. There are two main types of snake wine, which utilize either parts of a live snake, or the entire snake itself. When you walk along the streets or through the markets in Vietnam, it isn’t unusual to find row upon row of bottled snake wine (known locally as ruou ran). You can also find bottles of snake wines at the roadside stalls and age-old markets high up in the mountains, traditional pharmacies and modern chemists.

8. Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world

Many travellers are attracted to Vietnam due to its delicious local food. The most interesting thing about traditional Vietnamese food is that there is a perfect blend of the 5 flavours: salty, spicy, sweet, sour, and bitter. Thus, Vietnamese cuisine is hailed as one of the most balanced dishes in the world. The ingredients used in Vietnamese cuisine can cover all the dietary needs of protein, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals because there is a great natural diversity of agricultural products.

9. Vietnam has 3,260km of coastline

The country has a long coastline of 3,260 km running from Mong Cai in the North to Ha Tien in the Southwest. The population of coastal localities accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s population. Most of the locals work in sea-related occupations. Vietnam’s sea is considered one of the 10 richest centres of marine biodiversity in the world.

10. You can see snow in Vietnam

Surprised? Despite being a tropical country, it can snow in some parts of Vietnam, specifically northern Vietnam (the coldest part of the country)! The weather in northern Vietnam can get very cold in winter and snow can occur at the highest peaks in the north in Sapa, Tam Dao, and Hoeng Lien Son. As these places are located in high elevations like hills or mountains, you can expect to see some snow between December and February.

11. Water puppetry is a cherished intangible cultural heritage of Vietnam

Water puppetry (Múa rối nước) is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Water puppetry is a physically demanding craft. Puppeteers stand in water throughout the show, and use the movement of the water to create drama, perfect the illusion, and tell a story. The puppeteers’ secret lies in the material of the puppets themselves, which are made of buoyant fig wood and painted with lacquer. The puppeteers skillfully maneuver the puppet’s arms using bamboo sticks and strings. It takes decades to become a master water puppeteer.

12. Vietnam is the world’s second largest exporter of rice

After India, Vietnam is the second largest rice exporter, holding roughly 20% of the world’s export. On average, Vietnam produces about 26-28 million tons of rice a year. Aside from domestic consumption, the export volume of rice is about 6-6.5 million tons/year. In which, the Mekong River Delta - the main rice bowl accounts for more than 50% of the total output and more than 90% of the country's rice exports. In 2021, the Philippines was Vietnam's biggest rice buyer, importing 2.45 million tonnes worth over US$1.25 billion.

13. Tube houses dominate the city’s streets

When strolling through Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, you are sure to recognise those tall ‘tube houses’ — usually 3 storey high, incredibly narrow and packed like sardines. These houses are usually only found in the cities due to the dense population. In the past, land was scarce as people migrated to the cities for jobs. The tube houses are a stark contrast to the houses found in the countryside, where houses are huge with gardens.

14. Vietnam has a 94.5% literacy rate

Despite being a developing country, Vietnam has a high literacy rate of 94.5%, one of the highest adult literacy rates in the Asia Pacific. After coming to power in 1945, one of the first actions taken by President Ho Chi Minh’s Government was the establishment of the first literacy campaign. The literacy campaigns have changed an almost illiterate population with only 10% literate to a population with over 90% literate.

15. You can get one of the cheapest beers in the world

Ho Chi Minh City is the 5th cheapest city in the world for beer. With an average price of VND 23,036 (~USD1), it's not surprising that Ho Chi Minh City has become a popular tourist destination due to its affordability and variety of different beers available at local convenience stores or supermarkets. The locals usually wind down with a glass of beer with their friends and colleagues after a hard day at work.

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