It’s fair to say that Vietnam’s notable history has been largely dominated by headlines of war and oppression. In Vietnam, they say that they were dominated by the Chinese for 1000 years, the French for 100 years and the Americans for 10 years. So it’s any wonder how they have managed to keep such strong and prevalent culture and rituals. If you’re getting geared up for a Vietnam holiday or simply want to boost your knowledge of the country, here are some of the lighter facts about Vietnam:
1. Ho Chi Minh’s body is on display
Ho Chi Minh (known affectionately as ‘Uncle Ho’) travels 8000 miles every year. This is only peculiar because he has been dead for over 40 years now. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi is a strange and interesting place to visit on your travels in Vietnam. His body is on show for the world to see for only 9 months of the year. The Mausoleum is usually closed from September to December as Uncle Ho makes his annual journey to Moscow for ‘maintenance’ (although there are some conspiracy theories about if it is the real Hi Chi Minh). Not bad for someone whose dying wish was to be cremated…
2. They have their own sport
Sepak takraw (A.K.A calameae ball or kick volleyball), is a traditional sport in Vietnam. The sport originated in the 15th-century in Malaysia, with its first mention being from an ancient text in Malacca (and the sport supposedly came from an accident during a Sepak raga game, that got pretty ugly…!). In this sport, a ball is passed from player to player by hitting it with the head and feet (it’s pretty intense..). Sepak takraw also is widely played in Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.
3. Motorbikes cover the roads
There are an estimated 7.4 million motorbikes on the roads of Ho Chi Minh City alone, and that number is climbing every year (with an estimated 45 million country-wide). That means that there is a motorbike for every other person in Vietnam (that’s a lot of bikes..!). In the major cities, bikes make up 90% of vehicles on the roads and yet it was only in the last 4 years that the government have made it compulsory to wear a helmet!
4. Speed dating began here
Speed dating might be a relatively recent fad in the west being introduced to the US in the 90s, but it has been a stable of hill tribe life in Vietnam for decades. Hill tribes from all over the northern regions around Sa Pa will meet at ‘love markets’, where the local young single people will come together with the intent of finding a mate. Giving villagers from very remote areas a chance to meet partners from other villages in a centralised place.
5. There are different types of temples
“Pagodas are for worship, temples are for honour.” Vietnam is less famous for its temples than neighbouring Thailand or Cambodia, but they are still a prominent part of its history and culture. But how do you tell the difference between the two during your Vietnam holiday? The Vietnamese pagoda (chua) is regarded as a place of worship where offerings are made. Conversely, the Vietnamese den (temple) is not strictly a place of worship, but more of a monument built to honour a great historical figure.