10 interesting facts about Vietnam you didn’t know

Sebastien Chaneac

Vietnam is one big #foodporn with some of the best food we tried during our travels in Asia as a gay couple.

We spent a month eating our way from Saigon in the South to Hanoi in the North and picked up these 10 interesting facts about Vietnam along the way.

Vietnam is shaped like the letter S

Our first interesting fact about Vietnam is its shape. We love our funky shaped countries especially ones that resemble glamorous high heels (Italy).

We particularly like the shape of Vietnam because S also stands for Stefan and Sebastien ☺

interesting facts about Vietnam - S shaped country
S shaped Vietnam was a joy for S lovers Stefan and Sebastien

Vietnam is the country of motorbikes

In Vietnam, motorbikes are everywhere! According to the Ministry of Transport figures from 2013, of the 90+ million population, 37 million were registered with a motorbike and only 2 million with a car.

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.

So on your first arrival in Hanoi or Saigon, the first interesting fact you'll most like notice is that literally everything is done/carried on the motorbike.


The Vietnamese finger gesture is unusual

An interesting and rude (!) fact is that if you want to express your contempt to someone in Vietnam, just make this finger gesture at them, demonstrated by our friend Quan:

interesting facts about Vietnam rude finger gesture
Quan showing us this rude Vietnamese finger sign

Read more about Quan in our guide to what it's like being gay in Vietnam and the gay bars of Saigon.

Vietnamese coffee is unique in the world

We are coffee addicts so interesting fact #4 is our favourite: Vietnamese coffee!

Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee-producing nation after Brazil, producing 16% of the world’s total coffee (Brazil’s is 40%).

Coffee in Vietnam is incredibly tasty, cheap, and the iced version a refreshing drink to cool you down during the warm, humid months.

Kings of the cashew nut

Vietnam is the world's largest exporter of cashew nuts, producing 37% of the global number.

The nut itself is in fact the seed that grows at the bottom of the cashew apple, a fruit rich in nutrients and containing five times the amount of Vitamin C of oranges. The cashew tree is native to Brazil, but Vietnam seems to produce far more of them.

interesting facts about Vietnam largest cashew nut exporter
A Vietnamese cashew fruit and nut

Ong Tao the god of the kitchen

Vietnam is the only country we know that has its own deity for the kitchen! His name is Ong Tao and for us foodies was an interesting fact to discover.

According to legend, Ong Tao makes his appearance just before the Vietnamese New Year (Tet) festival. During this time he rushes up to heaven to give his annual report to the God of Heaven on the activities of the family. This report determines the fate of each household in the new year.

Legend also has it that he wears a robe because he forgot to do up his trousers properly before rushing off.


Vietnam and the breast milk fruit!

The breast milk fruit was our new exotic fruit discovery in Vietnam and an interesting fact that made us giggle. It's in actual fact a juicy and sweet fruit called ‘star apple' (vu sua).

It gets its nickname because as you peel it, a few white milky drops dribble out!

interesting facts about Vietnam - breast milk fruit: the star apple
Discovering a new fruit: breast milk fruit, also known as a star apple

White skin is considered perfection

In the West, tanned skin is usually regarded as more ideal then pale white, usually a sign a holiday, hence the popularity of tanning / sunbeds. In Asia, particularly Vietnam, the complete opposite applies.

White is considered the ideal skin colour and any form of tanned skin frowned upon because it's a sign of being a labourer working in the sun.

As a result, whitening products are big business across the country and the Vietnamese cover up as much as possible when in the sun, whether they're working the fields or at the beach!

interesting facts about Vietnam white is beautiful
A Vietnamese woman completely covered up at An Bang beach near Hoi An

Vietnam currency is called dong!

Another interesting fact that made us giggle…as soon as we found out the name of the Vietnamese currency, our childish humour took over and we wet ourselves laughing.

You can check the Urban Dictionary’s more explicit meaning in English slang, but for Stefan (a currency collecting geek), the dong was another fascinating currency for his currency collection:

interesting facts about Vietnam Stefan with Vietnamese dong currency
Stefan enjoying Vietnamese dong: the latest addition to his currency collection

Everyone is called Nguyen, even uncle Ho

Ho Chi Minh and Nguyen (pronounced “win”) are the two most common names you see everywhere in Vietnam.

Nguyen is the most popular family name in Vietnam, used by around 40% of the population and is also the birth name of the famous Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh led the fight for independence against the French and the Japanese. During the subsequent US war, he was regarded as such an important symbol of unification that in 1976, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

interesting facts about Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh aka Uncle Ho
Travel advice for LGTBQ community

Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Vietnam

Vietnam is a gay friendly destination. As a foreigner, you will be treated with immense respect by the Vietnamese. We never had any problems getting a double bed in the hotels we stayed at. Whilst society is still quite conservative, we found the Vietnamese to be one of the most gay friendly in Asia, which is not surprising given they've never had any anti-gay laws and have progressive laws for people with HIV/AIDS, which includes anti-discrimination and free health care. Read more in our interview with Quan from Saigon about gay life in Vietnam.

For more, read about backpacking in Vietnam and watch our Vietnam travel video:


Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, an activity or your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission. There is never an extra cost to you for using these links and it helps us keep the site going.

Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of nomadicboys.com. He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

21 thoughts on “10 interesting facts about Vietnam you didn’t know”

  1. Hey fellas,
    You have helped me so much with my planning for Vietnam. I prefer to spend my money towards gay or gay friendly establishments. Thanks for hooking me up with Rainbow Tours and The Pink Tulip. I’m hoping to book a tour to Halong Bay. Love my straight people, but to have a tour catered to gays is very special.

  2. I love the list, guys! Keep ’em coming! Very interesting and useful trivia. It gives us an overview of a country or a culture presented in a brief and fun (and funny) way! The dong made me laugh! I never thought of it that way until you guys mentioned it 🙂

    • Ha ha ha thanks Lindsay! Yes yes – he makes his appearance during the Vietnamese New Years celebrations apparently 🙂

  3. Awesome facts – I wasn’t aware of the breast milk fruit one! There were so many kids in our classes with the same names in Hanoi, plenty of Nguyens. They had this song about Ho Chi Minh and photos of him in the schools and classrooms – they really do love him.

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