50 things about Asean countries you probably didn't know - Asean's golden jubilee

Asean's golden jubilee: 5 interesting things about Vietnam

6. An ethnic group facing extinction

The Si La ethnic group is among those with the fewest people in Vietnam.

With a population that is fewer than 1,000, the Si La people live mostly in Muong Te District in the northern province of Lai Chau and in Muong Nhe District in the northern province of Dien Bien.

The Si La people's language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, but its usage is dropping and the group has no written language.

Hundreds of years ago, the group's ancestors lived in Lhasa, the capital of today's Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. They then migrated to Laos before coming to Vietnam.

Men in the group used to dye their teeth red, while women dyed their teeth black, but that custom has died out. The costumes of the Si La women are made with metal coins attached to the chest. Their headscarves indicate their ages and marital status. The Si La people customarily marry twice. The second ceremony is held one year after the first.

7. Only mosque in the north is in capital's centre

The only mosque in northern Vietnam, named Al-Noor Masjid (The Mosque of Light), is at 12 Hang Luoc Street in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem District.

Over the past 100 years, the mosque has been the destination for Vietnamese and foreign Muslim worshippers. At the beginning of the 19th century, Indian businessmen came to Vietnam and some settled here. In 1885, they started building the Al-Noor mosque, which is deeply influenced by Indian architecture and culture.

The mosque was officially inaugurated in 1890.

The Si La people are one of the smallest ethnic groups in Vietnam - with only about 1,000 people. PHOTO: VNS PHOTO XUAN TU 

8. Monopoly on squid eggs

Every coastal locality in Vietnam offers visitors culinary gifts from the sea, but the southernmost province of Ca Mau has a monopoly on squid eggs.

The province's fishermen catch squid at night. The haul is put on ice to keep it fresh. The next morning, the eggs are taken out and the flesh is dried in the sun.

A popular squid egg dish involves mixing it with duck eggs, minced pork and pig's liver. The mixture is flattened into small patties, which are sun-dried and taken home.

Squid eggs are a luxury because for every 10 to 12kg of fresh squid, you get only 1kg of eggs.

9. Underwater sea path

 For a long time, only men were taught and allowed to make ao dai, Vietnam's national dress, in Trach Xa Village. PHOTO: VNS PHOTO DOAN TUNG

Located in Van Phong Bay (60km from Nha Trang City in the central province of Khanh Hoa), Diep Son Island is an increasingly attractive destination for many visitors, drawn by its beaches and especially its beautiful "underwater sea path" connecting two islets.

Depending on the time of the visit, the path is either partially submerged in the crystal waters (in the morning during high tide) or completely dry and visible (in the afternoon during low tide).

The rustic island consists of three small separated islets and is home to about 100 households who use it as a base for fishing trips.

10. Where mostly men make dresses for women

Around 60km from downtown of the capital Hanoi, Trach Xa village in Ung Hoa District has been known for making ao dai (Vietnam's national dress) for centuries.

To this day, 90 per cent of the local tailors are men, owing to a longstanding rule in the region: The skill was taught to only men.

Explaining the special rule, Mr Nguyen Van Nhien, 84, who has been an ao dai maker for 65 years, said in the old days, local residents had to go far away to work as tailors to earn a living.

Only men could travel as women were not believed to be strong enough to travel far.

Locals also believed that the ao dai designed and tailored by men were more beautiful than those done by women.

Today, villagers do not have to travel to other regions to look for clients. The women also help their husbands do the job.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 06, 2017, with the headline 'Vietnam'. Print Edition | Subscribe