145 Fascinating Facts about Vietnam, the “Land of the Blue Dragon”

Chào mừng bạn đến Viet nam! (That means “Welcome to Vietnam”!)

Have you ever wondered what Vietnam is famous for, besides the Vietnam War, pho, and Halong Bay You’re about to find out with these fun and interesting Vietnam facts!

General Vietnam Facts

  • Vietnam is a country located in Southeast Asia. It is the easternmost country in the mainland part of Southeast Asia, which was formerly called Indochina. 
  • Vietnam is bordered by China to the north, the South China Sea to the east and south, and Cambodia and Laos to the west.
  • At 331,699 km2 (128,070 mi2), Vietnam is the 66th largest country in the world. It sits between Finland and Malaysia in terms of size.
  • Vietnam is slightly larger than the US state of New Mexico.
  • Vietnam could fit into Australia 23 times.
  • Vietnam is long and skinny. It is shaped like the letter S.
  • At its narrowest point, in Quang Binh province, Vietnam is only 50 km (31 mi) across.
  • Vietnam is a tropical country lying between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere.
A glass viewing tower in a tropical forest in Vietnam
The tropical forest of Vietnam
  • The north of Vietnam sits at a similar latitude to Cuba, while the south of Vietnam sits at a similar latitude to Ethiopia.
  • Vietnam’s land boundaries total to 4639 km (2883 mi), while its coastline measures 3444 km (2140 mi). Its coastline is about the same length as the coastline of the Eastern United States. It has the longest coastline in mainland Southeast Asia, but not nearly as long as Indonesia’s.
  • The current population of Vietnam is 103.8 million, making it the 15th most populous country on the planet. It sits between Egypt and Democratic Republic of Congo in terms of population.
  • Vietnam has more people than Australia, Canada, Greece, Hungary, Denmark, and Austria combined.
  • The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi, which is the world’s 81st largest city. With a population of around 5 million, it is similar in size to Sydney, Australia or Nairobi, Kenya.
Aerial view of the city of Hanoi in Vietnam at night
Hanoi
  • The largest city in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon). With a population of 8.9 million, it is the world’s 43rd largest city. It is similar in size to Chicago, USA or Wuhan, China.
  • Around 40% of Vietnam’s population, or just above 40 million people, live in the Greater Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi metropolitan areas.
  • People from Vietnam are called Vietnamese. In Vietnamese, they are called gười Việt, or “Viet people”.
  • In the name Vietnam, ‘Viet’ means “people descended from the dragon soaring to the sun” and ‘nam’ means “southern territory”.
  • The name is sometimes shortened to ‘Nam in the context of the Vietnam War.
  • Vietnamese people speak the Vietnamese language, which is the most widely spoken Austroasiatic language, a language family that includes Khmer (spoken in Cambodia) and Aslian (spoken by the native peoples in Malaysia). It is NOT the same language family as Thai.
The Vietnam flag
The flag of Vietnam
  • Vietnam’s official name is Socialist Republic of Vietnam, or Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam in Vietnamese.
  • Tourism slogans for Vietnam have included “Live Fully in Vietnam,” “Vietnam – Timeless Charm,” and “Vietnam – Hidden Charm”.
  • The Vietnamese flag features a yellow star (representing the five classes: farmers, intellectuals, workers, entrepreneurs, and soldiers) on red background (representing revolution).
  • The flag was designed in 1940 during an uprising against the French in southern Vietnam, and also used to oppose Japanese occupation before Vietnam became independent in 1945.

Interesting facts about Vietnam’s Places

  • There are 34 national parks in Vietnam. The first one, Cuc Phuong National Park, was established in 1966 and is known for its biodiversity.
Some people standing inside Son Doong Cave in Vietnam
Son Doong Cave, the world’s largest cave
  • Phong Nha – Ke Bang is home to Son Doong Cave (Hang Sơn Đoòng), the largest cave in the world. A cross section of the cave is more than twice as long as the second largest cave, Deer Cave in Malaysia. It is said that an entire block of New York City could fit inside it, including skyscrapers. The cave was only discovered in 2009.
  • Son Doong Cave contains some of the world’s largest stalactites, at 70 m (230 ft).
  • There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vietnam, 2nd only to Indonesia in Southeast Asia, which has 9. These include Phong Nha – Ke Bang, the Monuments of Hue (the former capital), My Son (ancient temples of the Hindu Champa civilization), the historic district of Hoi An, and picturesque Halong Bay.
  • Halong Bay (Hạ Long Bay) is Vietnam’s most popular tourist destination, with over 6 million visitors per year.
  • There are more islands than residents in Halong Bay: 2000 islands versus 1600 people living there.
Aerial view of several islands and boats in Halong Bay
Beautiful Halong Bay
  • Halong Bay has been used as a setting in films such as Tomorrow Never Dies, Kong: Skull Island, Life, and Pan.
  • Halong Bay is one of the 7NewWonders of Nature, along with the likes of the Amazon Rainforest in South America and Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil.
  • The Mekong Delta, where the Mekong River splits into numerous tributaries before entering the sea, covers an area similar in size to Switzerland.
  • Phu Quoc (Phú Quốc) is the largest island in Vietnam. Located off the coast of Vietnam, it was used by the French to imprison captured Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers in the Vietnam War. The Con Dao Islands were also used for such purposes.
  • The Phu Quoc Cable Car is the world’s longest cable car, at 7899.9 m (25,918 ft) in length. It travels at a speedy 30 km/hr (18.6 mph), so a ride in one direction takes 15 minutes. Before it was constructed, the Fansipan Cable Car, also in Vietnam, was the world’s longest.
Phu Quoc Cable Car traveling above a beach with many boats in the water
Phu Quoc Cable Car, the longest in the world
  • During the Vietnam War, the communist Viet Cong dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels underground in Vietnam for living in and attacking South Vietnam/American forces. Today, tourists can enter and crawl through the tunnels of Cu Chi (Củ Chi), with are extremely narrow, but have actually been widened for the tourists.
  • Tourists can also fire an AK47 and other guns at Cu Chi Tunnels for a price of around 30,000 dong (1.25 USD).
  • Vietnam has an estimated 800,000 tons of unexploded bombs from the Vietnam War still dispersed throughout the country.
  • The mummified body of Ho Chi Minh (Hồ Chí Minh), the famous revolutionary leader and country’s first prime minister, can still be seen today at Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hanoi, even though he had actually wanted to be cremated.
  • The traffic in Vietnam is so wild that many tours of Ho Chi Minh city including a designated time to simply stand at a major intersection and watch the masses of mopeds weave around one another.
A scene of Vietnamese traffic, with many motorbikes
Traffic in Vietnam
  • In fact, there are around 50 million motorbikes in Vietnam, or 1 for every 2 people.
  • Fansipan is the tallest mountain in Vietnam. At 3147.3 m (10,326 ft). It is similar in height to Gray Peak in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. It is sometimes called the “Roof of Indochina.”
  • The famous beach resort of Mui Ne is also known for its sand dunes, which tourists like to go sledding or riding quads on.
  • The Golden Bridge (Cầu Vàng) is a brand new (2018) tourist attraction in Vietnam. The 150 m (490 ft) pedestrian bridge golden bridge appears to be held up by two massive hands. It connects a cable car station to some gardens in Bà Nà Hills resort.

Facts about Vietnamese Society and Culture

  • The Viet (also known as Kinh) people make up 85% of Vietnam’s population.
Three Hmong children wearing traditional clothing in Vietnam
Hmong children, one of Vietnam’s many ethnic minorities
  • Although Vietnam is geographically part of Southeast Asia, it is often considered culturally part of East Asia as it was in the past rules by Chinese dynasties for 1000 years and has been strongly influenced by Chinese culture.
  • Vietnamese culture is known for respecting elders and ancestor worship, the importance of family and community, and living in harmony with nature.
  • Vietnam has also incorporated Cham and Khmer territories and been influenced by them, as well as by French culture during the French colonial period. The French introduced Catholicism and Latin script for writing the Vietnamese alphabet.
  • The Vietnamese alphabet has 29 letters, including 7 with diacritics (those little symbols above the letters), as well as 5 more diacritics to designate tones. Two diacritics (one for a letter and one for a tone) can be stacked on top of each other.
  • There are also Northern, Central, and Southern dialects of Vietnamese.
A Vietnamese woman with conical hat who is smiling
A vendor in a floating Vietnamese market
  • Around 40% of Vietnamese have the surname Nguyen (Nguyễn), the name of the dynasty that rules from Hue. There are only around 100 surnames found in the country.
  • Vietnamese are some of the shortest people in the world, although with improving nutrition, their average height is growing.
  • Vietnam is 1 of only 4 communist countries left in the world (the others are China, Cuba, and Laos). The Communist Party of Vietnam has complete control over the state, military, and media.
  • In regard to freedom of press, Vietnam is ranked in the lowest 10 countries in the world.
  • Vietnam has the largest army in the world in terms of total personnel: 10.5 million. However, other countries have larger armies in terms of active personnel, with Vietnam placing 9th in that regard.
Colorful interior of the Caodai Holy See temple in Vietnam
Inside the Caodai Holy See
  • Around 85% of Vietnamese claim to not practice any religion, but most follow a number of folk beliefs or traditions. Around 6% are Catholic and 5% Buddhist.
  • Caodaism is a religion that started in Vietnam. Followers believe in one God, but the religion incorporates elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The colorful Caodai Holy See in Tây Ninh near Ho Chi Minh is their main temple. 
  • In recent decades, Vietnam has had one of the fastest rates of urbanization in the world.
  • The percentage of people making less than $5.50 per day in Vietnam has dropped from 94% in 1990 to 22% in 2018.
  • Vietnam has the 39th largest economy in the world, between Singapore and Denmark, with a GDP of 362 billion.
  • Vietnam has a GDP per capital (PPP, which is adjusted to reflect local cost of living) of $8651 per year, which 117th in the world, and similar to Guatemala and the Philippines.
Aerial view of central Ho Chi Minh City
The skyline of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city
  • As of 2022, there are 7 billionaires in Vietnam.
  • As of 2022, Vietnam has a crime index of 46.19, which is similar to the UK, 10 points better than Somalia, but 10 points worse than Germany.
  • Vietnam has the most PhD holders of any country in Southeast Asia.
  • There are around 1.8 million Vietnamese in American, half of whom live in Texas or California.

Facts about Vietnamese Food

  • Common ingredients used in Vietnamese food include fish sauce (which is used 3 times more than soy sauce), oyster sauce, shrimp paste, lemongrass, ginger, mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime, Thai basil, rock sugar, various meats and seafoods, tofu, and rice.
  • Vietnamese cuisine is known for using lots of fresh herbs and ingredients.
The tops of a row of bottles of fish sauce
Fish sauce is more common than soy sauce in Vietnam
  • Dishes in Vietnam often come with a variety of colors and balance of the five flavors (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and spicy).
  • Most Vietnamese food is naturally gluten-free, as most of the noodles (and spring rolls!) are rice not wheat based. The cuisine is also low in fat.
  • Gỏi cuốn, or Vietnamese spring rolls, are fresh, cold, uncooked, and made using rice paper, unlike Chinese spring rolls. They are commonly served as an appetizer.
  • Pho (Phở) is the national dish of Vietnam, and the country’s most well-known dish abroad. It consists of rice noodles in broth with beef (or chicken) and fresh herbs.
  • Pho was only invented in the late 19th or early 20th century. Historians disagree whether it was influenced by French beef stew or Chinese beef noodles, or perhaps both.
A bowl of pho with beef and lime on top, photographed from directly above, with chopsticks and spoon on the table
Pho, the national dish of Vietnam
  • There is a northern style of pho, which lighter, uses wider noodles, and green onions, while southern style pho is sweeter, with thinner noodles, more meat, and more fresh herbs.
  • There are numerous other variations of pho, some of which are not even soups.
  • Chinese dishes introduced to Vietnam include vằn thắn/hoành thánh (wontons), mì xào (chow mein), bánh bao (baozi or steamed buns with filling), bánh tổ (nian gao, a sticky rice cake eaten at Lunar New Year), bánh pía (moon cakes), and xá xíu (char siu, a kind of BBQ pork).
  • The French introduced baguettes to Vietnam, which were used to create the famous dish banh mi (bánh mì), baguettes filled with meats, cilantro, vegetables, pate, mayonnaise, or other ingredients.
  • Cà ri (curry) and the use of coconut have been introduced by Cham culture in the south and Malaysians/Cambodians.
Banh mi on a white plate
A typical banh mi sandwich
  • Due to contact with other communist countries in Eastern Europe, Vietnam also has dishes such as cabbage soup and Russian salad (sa lát Nga).
  • There are several Vietnamese idioms which use food to convey sexual meaning. For example, “He eats meat balls, she eats spring rolls” means both husband and wife have secrets lovers, or “Tired of rice, craving noodle soup” means he is tired of his wife and wants to find another girl.
  • The famous chef and food/travel documentary hosts Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay were both known to be in love with Vietnamese food.  
  • Some common desserts in Vietnam include chè (sweet drinks of puddings), bánh dau xanh (mung bean pastries), flans, and shaved ice desserts.
  • Coffee culture is huge in Vietnam, with cafés, both indoor and out, almost everywhere. Coffee as well as sweetened condensed milk (which is usually added) were introduced by the French. It is usually made with Robusta beans and served iced.
A Vietnamese coffee with a metal filter atop a glass with a layer of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom, on a white tray on a table
Typical Vietnamese coffee
  • Coffee often comes with a phin (a metal French-style filter) perched atop the glass and slowly dripping down into it.
  • In Hanoi coffee is often served with iced green tea on the side to refresh the palate.
  • Egg coffee is a new style of coffee in Vietnam that has taken off. It has been compared to egg custard atop coffee or even a Cadbury Creme Egg. Another unusual type is coconut coffee.
  • Dog meat (thịt chó), snake (considered an aphrodisiac and often consumed in wine), fertilized duck eggs (hột vịt lộn), and insects such as silkworms, bee larvae, and crickets are commonly eaten in Vietnam, especially outside of the big cities.
  • The Vietnamese diet is traditionally not vegetarian friendly, but Buddhist temples often sever vegan cuisine, and vegan/vegetarian restaurants are becoming more common in big cities. Dairy is not traditionally part of the diet.
Several bottles of wine with a snake in each one for sale in Vietnam
Snake wine in Vietnam
  • Beer (bia) is huge in Vietnam – in fact, it ranks 9th in the world in beer consumption and the average Vietnamese consumes 42 liters of beer per year. The first breweries were started by the French. More recently, craft beer culture is taking off. Beer is often enjoyed at little tables on the street after dark.
  • Many traditional liquors are widely consumed in Vietnam, such as rice wine, rose myrtle liqueur, corn wine, and even snake, scorpion, frog, or gecko wine.
  • In modern times, Vietnam also produces some Western wines like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Vietnam is the world’s 7th largest producer of tea, including green, oolong, and black teas. Tea is often consumed there are well, with tea culture being influenced by the Chinese.
  • Vietnam is the world’s 5th largest producer of rice, after China, India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.  
A pile of dragon fruit for sale in Vietnam
Dragon fruits
  • Vietnam is the world’s top exporter of dragon fruit. Other common tropical fruits in the country include starfruit, rambutan, longan, durian, jackfruit, and pomelo.
  • Asia’s 50 Best has listed Anan Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City as one the best restaurants in Asia for several years in a row.
  • Vietnamese-American Hung Huynh, who was born in Ho Chi Minh City was the winner of the third season of Top Chef.

Famous People from Vietnam

  • Ho Chi Minh (Hồ Chí Minh) is the most famous historical figure in Vietnam. Nicknamed Uncle Ho (Bác Hồ). He was prime minister from 1945 to 1955 and president 1945 until he died in 1969. He’s on the back of Vietnamese money, and his mummified body can be viewed at his mausoleum in Hanoi.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh (Thích Nhất Hạnh) is the most famous Buddhist monk from Vietnam. He is known for promoting peaceful resistance and was a major influence on Western Buddhism. He also founded Plum Village Monastery in France.
Upper half of a statue of Ho Chi Minh with a Vietnamese flag on the side
Statue of Ho Chi Minh in the city named after him
  • Võ Thị Sáu was a schoolgirl who fought against the French, even throwing a grenade at them when she was 14. She was captured and hilled at 18, and now considered a martyr.
  • The richest person in Vietnam is Pham Nhat Vuong, property developer and founder of Vingroup. He was Vietnam’s first billionaire and is today worth USD 7.5 billion.
  • Nguyễn Huy Thiệp is considered Vietnam’s most influential writer known for historical short stores.
  • Võ Nguyên Giáp is considered one of the greatest military leaders in modern times. He led the Vietnamese to defeat France in 1954, as well as achieving victory for North Vietnam in the Vietnam War.
  • Dustin Nguyen is one of the most famous Vietnamese-American actors. He has starred in Little Fish, The Doom Generation, and The Rebel.
A mosaic of famous people from Vietnam
Famous Vietnamese Dustin Nguyen, Veronica Ngo, Min, Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt, Hương Tràm, and Sơn Tùng M-TP (clockwise from top-left)
  • Vietnamese musician and actress Veronica Ngo (Ngô Thanh Vân) has starred in such films as The Princess, Da 5 Bloods, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  • Famous musicians and pop stars in Vietnam include Sơn Tùng M-TP, Min, Mỹ Tâm, Only C, and  Hương Tràm.
  • American actress Angelina Jolie adopted one of her sons, Vietnamese Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt, in Ho Chi Minh City in 2003.

Historical Vietnam Facts

  • The first settlers in Vietnam were the Hoabinhians around 20,000 years ago. They later mixed with Eastern Eurasian people to form the ancestors of today’s Vietnamese.
  • The legendary/semi-mythical figure Lạc Long Quân is believed to be the first king of Vietnam, from 2793 to 2524 BC. Most cities in Vietnam today have a street named after him. He was the start of the Hồng Bàng dynasty, which would have 18 kings in total.
A statue of Confucius in the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam, with some flowers in the foreground
Statue of Confucius in the Temple of Literature in Hanoi
  • In 258 BC, the Hồng Bàng dynasty was overthrown Thuc Phan, who established the state of Au Lac in the Red River delta near Hanoi.
  • From 111 BC to 905 AD, Vietnam was ruled by China.
  • Around 100 AD, the Champa people, and Austronesian group (related to Taiwanese aboriginals, Malays, Polynesians, and more) arrived in Central and Southern Vietnam. Originally Hindu, many were later Muslim. In 1832, what was left of the Cham kingdom was annexed by Vietnam.
  • The Champa reached their golden age in the 7th to 10th centuries, when they also came into conflict with the Khmer Kingdom centered at Angkor Wat.
  • After independence from the Chinese, life was centered on the village and changed little for the next 1000 years. The Dai Viet (Kingdom of Vietnam) expanded south into Champa territory.
A stone Champa temple ruins in southern Vietnam
Champa ruins in Nha Trang
  • In 1527, the country split in half, with the north ruled from Hanoi and the south from Hue.
  • In the 1600s, the Portuguese then French arrived in Vietnam, introducing Catholicism.
  • In 1757. Vietnamese settlers took the Mekong Delta from the Khmer, and renamed the Khmer settlement of Prey Nokor to Saigon.
  • In 1802, the Nguyen emperor of Hue defeated the north and established the Nguyen Dynasty, which would last until 1945.
  • In 1858, the French formally colonized Vietnam, beginning with an attack on Da Nang. They later captured Hanoi and the north (which they called Tonkin) in 1873 and 1882.
Exterior of an Opera House built by the French in Hanoi with traffic going by
Hanoi Opera House was built by the French
  • In 1887, French Indochina was officially established, with Laos and Cambodia being later added.
  • In 1930, Ho Chi Minh founded the Indochinese Communist Party and began campaigning for Independence from the French.
  • During WWII, Japan invaded Vietnam in 1940, keeping the French as a puppet state.
  • In 1941, Ho Chi Minh created to Viet Minh to fight the Japanese.
  • Just before the war ended, the Japanese created a short-lived Empire of Vietnam, with Bảo Đại as the last of the Nguyen emperors.
  • On September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed independence for Vietnam, becoming its first president and prime minister.
A woman inside a super narrow tunnel in the ground, with her hands holding up the tunnel cover, at Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels, built by the Viet Cong in Southern Vietnam during the Vietnam War
  • The French went to war against the Viet Minh in the First Indochina War, from 1946 to 1954, with the French suffering defeat.
  • In 1954, the country was divided into North (centered at Hanoi, and led by Ho Chi Minh), and South (centered at Saigon, and led by pro-Western and Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem).
  • The North and South went to war in the Second Indochina War, also known as the American War or the “Vietnam War”. The war would last from 1955 to 1975.
  • The incredibly long and costly war would result in up to 3 million deaths, with several other countries being involved or dragged in, including America, China, Cambodia, Laos, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • On June 11, 1963, the Vietnamese monk Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death at a busy intersection in Saigon to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government.
Famous image of Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc burning himself to death
  • In 1968, the Viet Cong (supporters of the North but based in South Vietnam) launched the Tet Offensive, a major escalation of the war. The name comes from Tết Nguyên Đán, or Lunar New Year in Vietnam, as it began during the holiday.
  • The Vietnam War divided Americans, with the US ultimately pulling out in 1973.
  • On April 30, 1975, the communist North capture Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City, after their leader who had died 6 years prior.
  • From 1975 to 1991, another series of wars collectively called the Third Indochina War. This included the Vietnamese-Cambodian War, in which the Vietnamese brought the reign of the genocidal Khmer Rouge to an end in 1979, and stayed in the area until 1991.
  • China also invaded Vietnam as a punishment for doing so. These wars resulted in nearly a million Hoa (Chinese-Vietnamese) fleeing Vietnam by sea, often called the “boat people”.
  • In 1976, the country was formally united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
  • In 1977, Vietnam joined the United Nations.
A traffic circle in Ho Chi Minh City viewed from above with lights of vehicles going around it and tall buildings in background
Traffic circle in Ho Chi Minh City
  • In 1986, Vietnam launched Doi Moi (Đổi Mới) a series of rapid socialist economic reforms. Over the following years, GDP per capita quadrupled and the poverty rate dropped significantly. The changes were also coupled with rapid urbanization.
  • In 1994, Halong Bay was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Vietnam joined ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) in 1995.
  • In 2000, Clinton became the first US president to visit Vietnam since the war, redefining relations between the two countries. Clinton himself had protested against the Vietnam War when he was younger.
  • Vietnam joined the World Trade organization in 2007.
A young white male tourist sitting on a stone fence overlooking a dramatic view of steep hills in the countryside of Vietnam
A tourist in Vietnam
  • Visitor numbers to Vietnam skyrocketed in the 2000s, from 2.1 million in 2000 to 18 million in 2019.
  • On January 22, 2022, the famous Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh died in Hue, Vietnam at the age of 95.
  • On March 15, 2022, Vietnam reopened to tourists after almost 2 years of being closed due to COVID.
  • According to a 2022 study, Vietnamese have the most favorable view of Americans of any country in the world.