Vietnam is a stunning, picturesque country with an ancient history and rich culture. There are many reasons why it is worth visiting this unique point on the world map, and since we know and love this country well, today we will share with you the most interesting facts about Vietnam. Our top 25 reasons why Vietnam is such an alluring travel destination cannot be ignored by the country’s incredible landscapes, architectural wonders, and of course, its incredible mix of cultures. Let’s take a closer look.
Fact number 1. Vietnam has the world’s largest cave
This is perhaps one of the most incredible facts about Vietnam. The Son Dong Cave was discovered in 1991 near the border with Laos – in the Fong Nya Kebang National Park. This place is amazing for several reasons. Firstly, the cave is simply huge – more than 5 kilometers long and 150 meters wide, Shondong also boasts a huge, high ceiling of 200 meters. The cave also contains a real wall of calcite deposits with a height of 60 meters, which is also called the “Great Wall of Vietnam”. Moreover, Shondong attracts speleologists with its stalagmites, which reach 70 meters in height. Can travelers visit this place and wander through its endless corridors? Yes it is possible. True, you need to be prepared that Son Dong is not the most easily accessible cave in Vietnam, and it is also quite dangerous. There are other caves in Fongya Kebang National Park that are better suited for speleological expeditions – and they look just as good. We’ll talk about them a little later.
Fact number 2. Vietnam is a very spiritual country
Like many other Asian countries, Buddhism is widespread in Vietnam. Therefore, travelers will find it easy to find richly decorated temples and Buddhist shrines in any corner of the country, from underground caves to mountain peaks. Must-see religious sites in Vietnam include the Chang Quoc Pagoda, built in the sixth century, the candy-bright Caodai Temple in Saigon, and the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, built in 1070 in honor of Confucius. Without a doubt, Vietnamese temples deserve a special place in the tourist program.
Fact number 3. The mountains boil here
… active rural life. Like neighboring Laos and China, Vietnam is home to countless ethnic minorities. The state distinguishes 54 distinct groups, among which the highlands are famous for their bright everyday clothes. A tour of the northern province of Khazyang, which is located on the border with China, will immerse you in the colorful world of the hill tribes. Here, the people of San Tay, Hmongi, Yao, Tai, Nungi and Lolo continue to lead their traditional Vietnamese lifestyle among the picturesque landscapes. Their smart casual wear will definitely outshine your hiking “mountain look”.
Fact number 4. New Year is celebrated in February
The most important reason for Vietnamese to throw a party is the first day of the new year Tet (whose full name, Tet nguyen dan, literally means “first morning holiday”). This traditional holiday is calculated according to the lunar calendar and falls on the same day as the Chinese New Year. Tet is a family day when relatives gather around the same table to noisily celebrate the beginning of a new life cycle. The Vietnamese decorate their homes with peach or apricot flowers, which symbolize fertility and prosperity. During the first week of the new year, the whole of Vietnam is on its ears – from morning to night, explosions of firecrackers, the rhythmic beat of drums and gongs, which the Vietnamese use to protect themselves from evil spirits, are heard on the streets of the country.
Fact number 5. The Vietnamese coast is enough for everyone
Vietnam’s coastline stretches for 3,444 kilometers, twisting like a snake. It starts just north of Halong Bay in the South China Sea and stretches to the Gulf of Thailand, where Phu Quoc Island is located. With such a vast coastline, it’s no wonder that Vietnam is world famous for its beaches, in particular in Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Con Dao, Da Nang and Hue. There are magnificent beaches not far from Saigon, for example, in Hocham and Vung Tau, so you can safely allocate one day for a lazy beach holiday on your trip.
Fact number 6. Vietnam – an abundance of islands
If you like island hopping, then Vietnam is definitely the country for you. In addition to the famous Phu Quoc Island, you can visit the former Con Dao Prisoner Island, Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay and the Cham Islands off the coast of Hoi An, where clear sea water, soft white sands and an atmosphere of tranquility await all travelers seeking peace in Vietnam. An added bonus is the variety of accommodations – the islands offer anything from a traditional rustic bungalow to a five-star eco-resort.
Fact number 7. Diverse culture is the hallmark of Vietnam
The legacy of Vietnam’s rich past can be seen literally at every turn, no matter where you are. It is easy to trace the religious and architectural influence of China, traces of the period of French colonization in the local cuisine and language, and in the visual and martial arts – the presence of Japan. Thanks to globalization, Vietnam cannot do without more modern touches of American culture.
Fact number 8. There is a unique “love market” in the city of Sapa
The arena for love adventures in remote settlements of Vietnam cannot boast of much activity. That is why the inhabitants of the city of Sapa, high in the northern mountains of the country, organize the so-called “love market” every Saturday. This tradition has been helping to unite lonely hearts for several centuries. Thus, young people of the Hmongi ethnic group come to the “love market” in search of a couple. The way of showing attention is also interesting here – to give a sign to the girl or guy you like, you need to play a melody on a banana leaf twisted into a tube. With the popularity of the Internet and mobile dating apps like Tinder, which make it easy to find a match, the popularity of the “love market” has dropped somewhat. It is quite possible that this tradition is not far from extinction – have time to see it with your own eyes.
Fact number 9. Puppets in Vietnam walk on water
Vietnam is home to water puppetry, a traditional art form that dates back to the 11th century. Lacquered wooden puppets are skillfully manipulated by a hidden puppeteer, creating the illusion of a dexterous dance on the water. As a rule, such a “dance” is performed on a pond, and the very first performances were performed by the masters in a rice field.
Fact number 10. Vietnam – a cornucopia of culinary masterpieces
The most famous Vietnamese dishes – pho and ban mi – remain the most popular among the locals and tourists. Pho (sometimes called “Pho Bo”) is a soup made of rice noodles, chicken, or beef flavored with herbs and chili. Pho’s exact origin is unknown: some argue that the soup was born as a continuation of the French broth Potofyo; others are convinced that the dish was invented in the Canton region of China. The second famous dish, Ban Mi, means simply “bread” in Vietnamese, but is actually a fresh, crispy baguette with several types of pork and pork sausage, pâté, cilantro, carrots, cucumbers, and sometimes eggs. We could talk for a very long time about the taste variety of Vietnam, but it is better to try all these original and delicious dishes yourself, going on a trip to Vietnam,
Fact number 11. Food in Vietnam tastes good for a reason
Vietnamese recipes are designed to combine five key elements: pungency (Metal), sourness (Wood), bitterness (Fire), salt (Water), and sweetness (Earth). Travelers who are not used to spicy Asian food can usually adjust the amount of chili and spices themselves. In the middle of the table, there are traditionally small bowls filled with salt, pepper, as well as fresh chili and lime. Moreover, during a family-style dinner, when guests share food on plates, the table is usually lined with a variety of sauces to suit all tastes.
Fact number 12. There is a cave here even longer than Seongdong
In the same national park, where the world’s largest cave is located, is the Fongya Cave – a natural tunnel 7.7 kilometers long with an underground river, which, in turn, stretches for almost 14 kilometers. Only the first one and a half kilometers are open to the public, but this site can definitely surprise tourists – here you can wander in the grottoes, see with your own eyes huge stalagmites, stalactites and cave ponds. Phong Ng is easier to get to than Son Dong Cave, as it is one of the most popular attractions in Vietnam. If you crave a memorable and uncommon adventure, then trekking and camping in the national park is unlikely to be outdone.
Fact number 13. Vietnam has a network of underground tunnels
Dug up by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War (here called the “American”), the tunnels served many functions: they were a place for storing ammunition, served as shelter and even shelter for the fighters of the Vietnamese resistance movement. Initially, this complex system consisted of more than 200 kilometers of maze of tunnels in which first aid barracks and kitchens were broken up, sleeping bunks and traps built in. In some areas, the ceilings were so low that it was possible to “pass” only by crawling on your stomach. Nowadays, tourists can visit several large tunnels of the original labyrinth. Some sections in them have been recreated to provide easier access – the traveler does not have to crawl on the belly.
Fact number 14. Vietnamese love cashews
Vietnam is the largest exporter of cashews in the world … and also the largest importer. Local suppliers cannot keep up with the existing demand due to the insane popularity of this nut, so cashews are imported from neighboring Cambodia and a number of African countries. Other leading exported commodities are rice and coffee.
Fact number 15. UNESCO sites in Vietnam.
Vietnam has 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Namely: the Hue Monument Complex, the Historic City of Hoi An, Michon Shrine, Thang Long Imperial Citadel in Hanoi City, and the Ho Dynasty Citadel. All of them are cultural heritage sites of UNESCO. Halong Bay and Fongya-Kebang National Park have been declared by UNESCO as natural World Heritage Sites, and the Changan landscape complex is unique in its way – it is listed as both a natural and cultural site under the protection of the organization. Changan and Halong Bay are our favorite attractions throughout Asia.
Fact number 16. The local wine is famous for its zest for the brave
Rượu rắn, or snake wine, is the famous Vietnamese rice wine infused with a whole snake. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this drink significantly prolongs life. As a rule, it is drunk in one gulp.
For the production of snake wine, the locals prefer to use poisonous species of snakes, but do not worry – the poison splits, reacting with alcohol, therefore it does not pose a danger to the drinker.
Fact number 17. The bears are protected here
In July this year, the Vietnamese government pledged to rescue 1,000 bears from so-called “bile farms” and transfer the animals to nature reserves. Like snake bile, bear bile is a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine – it contains an acid that helps treat gallbladder disease. Fortunately, some herbs are also effective in healing, so there is reason to hope that gall farms will soon disappear forever. Today, “only” 1200 Vietnamese bears still live in cramped cages. In 2005, according to various estimates, this figure reached 4000. The Animals Asia organization opened a nature reserve two hours away from Hanoi – there, in the fresh air and in their natural conditions, black Himalayan bears can enjoy life in peace.
Fact number 18. Vietnam is the cradle of civilization
People fell in love with Vietnam for a very long time – ever since the species Sapiens was not in the world. Archaeological excavations in the north of the country have brought evidence of the habitation of people dating back to the Paleolithic era (2-2.5 million years ago) – the kingdom of habilis. In the north of the country, there are the Long Son and Nghan Caves, the site of the discovery of the Erectus fossil, which is no less than 500,000 years old. Interesting prehistoric relics can be found on the three floors of the Quang Ninh Provincial Museum in Halong Bay.
Fact no.19. Vietnam is home to many species of animals
Vietnam is ranked 16th in the world biodiversity ranking. On the territory of this country there are about 16 thousand species of plants, 840 species of birds and 310 species of mammals, 78 of which are endemic, that is, unique for this area. You probably have not heard of some of them – the saola, a special species of antelope, lives in impenetrable rainforests, and the naked-headed ghulman, an endangered monkey, is found in the provinces of Quang Tri and Quang Binh. Scientists have recently discovered a new species of deer – Pu Hoat muntjak, living in the province of the same name. Almost 10% of Vietnam’s wildlife is endangered, although six state biosphere reserves still allow at least a little protection of the unique local nature.
Fact number 20. Drum making – local art
Dongson drums, whose origins date back to 600 BC, are renowned for their incredibly detailed metal carvings. Cast from bronze, weighing up to 100 kg each, these drums are traditionally decorated with filigree finishes – patterns, scenes from wars and everyday life, images of animals, stars and the sun. Dongsons were actively used during celebrations – festivals, weddings – and served as a symbol of tribal power. Later, local residents began to sell their unique drums, and they were discovered many kilometers from their home – in West Papua.
Fact number 21. Halong was not built immediately
Scientists estimate that the karsts of Halong Bay formed over 20 million years. The bay area stretches over 1553 square kilometers and includes 2000 islets, 775 of which are located in the central part of the bay. Halong is one of the most diverse natural areas in Vietnam, where signs of human habitation have been going on for tens of thousands of years. One of the best ways to take in the views of this scenic area is to book a luxury Karst Night Cruise, during which you can watch the sunset and sunrise from the deck of the ship. The city surrounding the bay is a well-developed tourist point, on the banks of which there are many amusement parks, and the cabins quietly glide over the water along the cable car.
Fact number 22. Near Halong Bay there is a picturesque place “for introverts”
If you do not like crowds of tourists, but still want to enjoy the beautiful scenery, you should visit Bai Tu Long Bay. It is located northeast of Halong Bay. The views in it are the same, but there are much fewer people. By the way, this “secret” archipelago is part of a national park, so here you can also visit caves, islands, see karsts, and, of course, admire the shining emerald water.
Fact number 23. In Vietnam, you can pamper yourself
If you like travel “for the soul”, Vietnam is a very suitable country for such purposes. Take a ride around Saigon on a vintage Vespa motor scooter, have lunch in a private garden owned by one of the country’s most respected architects, go shopping in Hanoi … all with a personal driver and a local guide who will tell all the secrets of the country that are not read in the guidebook.
Fact number 24. Vietnam – the land of romance
Lovers of cultural recreation and art of the colonial period in Vietnam have a unique opportunity – to walk in the footsteps of one of the most famous French writers, Marguerite Duras. The winner of the prestigious Goncourt Prize has lived in Saigon and the city of Sadek in the Mekong Delta. Tourists can visit the house of her lover, which is mentioned in the semi-autobiographical novel “The Lover” – the very one that brought her the Goncourt Prize. Those interested can see the local school where Duras studied. Such a tourist route is ideal for lovers of literature and dreamers.
Fact no. 25. The sun shines in Vietnam all year round
While winter is considered the best time to travel to beaches and islands, Vietnam doesn’t have a bad time to travel. There is a place in the country for a lover of all weather – many high-mountain tourist points are famous for their cold temperatures, and if the cool mountain air gets tired, you can go down to the southern lowlands, where the sun always reigns.