6 interesting facts about Vietnam you didn’t know

Vietnam is a fascinating country, full of surprises and one of the most attractive destinations in Asia. Plan your trip with the list of all best places in Vietnam with InboundVietnam.

1. The unique S-shape of Vietnam

Our personal favourite interesting fact about Vietnam is its S shape. Not only because we love our funky shaped countries (like the ones that resemble glamorous high heels – Italia), but because it honours both our first names: S for Stefan, S for Sebastien and S for S-shaped Vietnam!

When you think about it, it's actually quite a remarkable shape for a country, long and thin, just like Chile in South America. The top of the narrow S curve starts in the North with the capital, Hanoi, bordering China, and Laos in the West.

The S then trails down passing Hoi An, Hue (both must-see cities for any traveller to Vietnam!), sharing a border with Cambodia to the West and a long narrow coastline to the East with the South China Sea. The S then curves out at its southern tip which is where you find the economic and transport hub of Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City (also referred to as “Saigon” locally).

And that also sums up our month-long trip through Vietnam! Beginning with Saigon, we flew up to Hanoi, visited the famous limestone cliffs of Halong Bay, then headed to the central region to explore Hoi An and Hue, before returning back south to the bustling Saigon.

2. Motorbikes are EVERYWHERE!

We really weren't kidding about the hectic traffic in Vietnam, particularly the abundance of motorbikes. In Vietnam, motorbikes are everywhere, hence it's nickname: “The Kingdom of Motorbikes“! 

To give you an idea, the population of Vietnam is almost 100 million. According to Vietnam's Ministry of Transport, there are almost 60 million motorbikes in the country and only 2 million cars. This is largely down to cost and practicality.

Owning a car is incredibly expensive because the tax is around 100-200%, so it’s a luxury reserved for the very wealthy. The tax for motorbikes is far cheaper, making it a more affordable means of transportation for everyday folk.

Motorbikes are also a handy way to get around, particularly in the tight narrow streets and tiny alleyways. They're also much easier to park than cars.

Interestingly, Vietnam is the country with the 4th highest number of motorbikes after India, China and Indonesia. But with all the air pollution and traffic congestion this all causes, where is this heading? Well in 2017, the government announced it will ban all motorbikes in the capital, Hanoi, by 2030 and invest more in public transport, such as a Sky Train, much like the ones in Bangkok and Vancouver.

3. Crossing your fingers is super rude!

You hoping to pass your grades at school…you cross your fingers for luck! I pray Stefan won't take 3 hours to get ready for our next date night, so I cross my fingers for luck…you get my gist…
…not so in Vietnam!

Do not, I repeat, do NOT cross your fingers to a Vietnamese. It is seen as an obscene gesture, akin to raising your middle finger and saying “F*** You!”

4. A unique coffee made with egg

We're both coffee addicts, especially Stefan who can't seem to function as a normal human being until he's had around 6 cups of coffee…

Coffee in Vietnam (called ca pheI locally) is actually serious business. Just like many countries in Latin America, Vietnam is a huge exporter of coffee beans. It is, in fact, the world’s second-largest coffee-producing nation after Brazil, producing 16% of the world’s total coffee (Brazil’s is 40%).

As well as exporting it, the Vietnamese also love to consume it and have accordingly developed a rich culture for consuming coffee. The most common is through a small metal drip filter called a “phin cà phê”, which is then served (either hot or cold) with condensed milk used as a sweetener.

The most unique way of drinking coffee in Vietnam, and possibly one of our favorite ever coffees we've ever tried is the famous egg coffee of Hanoi. You read right – the “ca phe trung” is served with egg yolk whipped into the condensed milk.
It originated in the 1940s when milk was scarce and egg yolks provided a convenient replacement. 

5. Vietnam is The Queen of the cashew

Vietnam is the world's largest exporter of cashew nuts, producing 37% of the global number. Cashew is big business here, hence why we added it to our list of interesting facts about Vietnam.

In 2018, the country produced 339,700 tons of cashew nuts worth $3.09 billion, exporting mainly to the US, China and the Netherlands.

Interestingly, the cashew nut itself is, in fact, the seed that grows at the bottom of the cashew fruit unlike other nuts which grow inside of the fruit. The cashew's fruit is called a “cashew apple” and is super healthy, containing five times the amount of Vitamin C found in oranges.

6. Ong Tao the Vietnamese god of the kitchen

Vietnam is the only country we know of that has its own deity for the kitchen! His name is Ong Tao or “the Kitchen God”!

According to legend, Ong Tao makes his appearance just before the Vietnamese New Year (Tet) festival, which is usually in mid-February. During this time he rushes up to heaven to give his annual report to the Jade Emperor (the King of Heaven) on the activities of the family, which determines the fate of each household in the new year.

But spare a thought for poor old Ong Tao who doesn't have much money to buy new clothes, so he simply goes around clad in a long robe and shorts. Another legend claims he wears a robe because he's always rushing around and forgot to do up his trousers properly!

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