Vietnam is a beautiful country with both temperate and tropical climates.
Here are 15 interesting facts about Vietnam that will have you packing your bags!
1. Snow in the Tropics
Vietnam has a high number of sunny days. Depending on the season, you'll see monsoon rains and extreme humidity. The temperatures are between 16 and 29 most of the year, with the North having substantially colder winters than the South.
If it's snow you're looking for, check out Sa Pa in North Vietnam near China between December and February. You’re likely to see some snow here during those months, but don’t expect to go snowboarding or skiing, as you’re still in a tropical country!
2. The Language of Vietnam
Vietnam was a colony of China for 1,000 years. Thus, the language and literature of the Vietnamese people are heavily influenced by China. Chinese characters were used in the written language until the 13th century.
Around that time, the Vietnamese developed their own script called chu nom. Later, they adopted the Latin alphabet with diacritics. Diacritics are accent marks that indicate pronunciation, and they make the written language seem familiar yet foreign.
3. Check Out the Caves
Vietnam is home to some of the largest caves in the world, including THE largest, which is big enough to fit an entire Manhattan city-block, skyscrapers and all. In Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the Quang Binh Province of Vietnam, there's a huge cave system.
The cave system is over 8 kilometres long, 200 metres wide, and 150 metres tall! There are giant stalagmites and stalactites, cave pearls, and pre-historic algae. Spend a day and take a look or spend a few days exploring over 150 individual caves.
4. Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh was the first president of Vietnam. The people called him Uncle Ho, and he died in 1969. His preserved body is on display in a mausoleum in the capital city of Ha Noi.
Many Vietnamese make a religious pilgrimage to visit Ho Chi Minh's body. Don't be put off by the long lines, since you're not allowed to pause in front of the body or take photos, the queue moves fast.
The mausoleum closes from September to December, and remember to wear respectful clothing when visiting, like you would in a cathedral or temple.
5. Try the Coffee
Vietnam is second only to Brazil when it comes to exporting coffee. Since the Vietnam war, coffee production has gone from about 80 tons in the 1800s to more than one million tons per year.
Vietnam has one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Called Kopi Luwak, or Weasel coffee, it sells for $150 USD per kilogram. It's called Weasel coffee because the beans are fed to weasels and subsequently collected from their faeces!
You read that right, but don’t let it scare you from trying this absolutely amazing coffee. The beans are prized for their sweet taste and vanilla aroma.
6. Dictionary Street Food
You can look up two of Vietnam's most popular street foods in the Oxford Dictionary. Banh mi and pho aren't translated into English and due to their fame now exist as loan-words in the English language.
Banh mi is a wonderful sandwich now found in many areas throughout the world. Resulting from the fusion of French and Vietnamese culinary cultures during the colonial period, it's a small bun filled with various kinds of pork, pate and chicken. Cucumber, pickled carrots, and cilantro are other ingredients. It's topped off with chilli, tomato, or soy sauce.
Chances are you've heard of pho, but in case you haven’t, it's a wonderful rice noodle soup served with beef, bean sprouts, and herbs.
7. Ethnic Diversity
Vietnam is a place of great ethnic diversity. The government recognizes 54 ethnic groups and each group has its own culture and language. The Kinh (or Vietnamese) people make up about 86% of the population and they primarily live in the coastal and delta provinces.
The remaining population consists of the remaining 53 ethnic groups, mostly spread in the mountainous and hilly areas of the Northern Mountains and Central Highlands. These groups have struggled with access to infrastructure, healthcare and education, but a focus on sustainable, responsible and ethical tourism practices in these regions have made great strides in improving quality of life for the inhabitants while also protecting their authentic way of life and rich culture.
8. The Happiness Quotient
Looking for happiness? Vietnam is the perfect destination. According to the Happy Planet index, Vietnam is the 5th happiest place in the world!
The Vietnamese love to smile and laugh, and they're happy about the direction of their country, eager to welcome travellers and share it with them.
9. The Drinking Age
In the west, you generally can't drink unless you're 16, 18 or 21. But in Vietnam, there is no legal drinking age. You don't need to show your ID to buy alcohol. It doesn't matter how old you are.
In Vietnam, they consume about three billion litres of beer per year.
10. Stay Connected
Don't worry about paying for Wi-Fi in Vietnam. You'll find it for free in all the major cities. You'll find it in coffee shops, hotels, and the main streets. Even if there's a password, ask the staff and they'll give it to you. Sim cards with 4G data are also easily accessible and cheap, ensuring that you’re always reachable in case of emergency.
11. Motorcycles Everywhere
Do you love motorcycles? The Vietnamese do! In 2016, there were roughly 45 million motorbikes registered in Vietnam. With a car tax running up to 300%, it should come as no surprise that cars are a luxury.
Vietnam has one of the biggest markets for motorcycles in the world. Look both ways before crossing the street, since motorcycles weave in and out of traffic, and learning the technique for crossing the street as the motorbikes weave around you like schools of fish might take a day or two.
12. Spirituality in Vietnam
Buddhism and traditional folk religions are the dominant spiritual teachings in Vietnam. You'll see Buddhist shrines and temples everywhere, and shrines in most houses and establishments. Even if you're not into religion, don't miss the temples as they contain a wealth of culture and history. Visit Tran Quoc Pagoda that dates from the 6th century, or if you're in Saigon, be sure to see the Cao Dai temple.
Small Spirit Houses are in people's yards throughout the country. These are to ward off evil spirits. The houses come from the Bahayana Buddhism tradition.
You'll see offerings left by the houses to appease the gods.
13. Celebrating the New Year
New Year is based on the lunar calendar and celebrated in February. If you love the sound of firecrackers, gongs, and drums, you'll love the New Year celebrations (also known as Tet). All the noise is said to ward off evil spirits.
14. Snake Wine
If you've got a strong stomach and no allergies, try a little snake wine. It's made with whole snakes and herbs in rice wine. It's a traditional medicinal remedy, but it contains a few substances that can be poisonous in large quantities, so think of it as a medicine and only drink a little.
15. UNESCO Sites
Vietnam is home to no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. A World Heritage site is a designated landmark ed by UNESCO, an organization within the United Nations. These sites have cultural, historical, natural, and/or scientific significance.
Hoi An Ancient Town, the Complex of Hue Monuments, My Son Sanctuary, The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi, and the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty are World Heritage cultural sites.
There are also two natural sites - Then Ha Long Bay, and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Trang An Landscape Complex is a both natural and cultural World Heritage site.
Interesting Facts About Vietnam
There's diverse culture, great beaches, and unspoiled beauty to be discovered in Vietnam. The people are happy, the days are sunny, the food is delicious, and there's so much to see.
Now that you know some interesting facts about Vietnam, you're ready to plan your visit! Looking for a fun adventure? Plan your authentic Vietnam trip now!