There’s lots to learn about history, customs, etc. when visiting the countries of Southeast Asia. But, sometimes it’s the miscellaneous fun facts that are most interesting. Here are some random bits of Southeast Asia trivia:

  • Myanmar is the highest per capita consumer of onions in the entire world. The Burmese people love their onions!

  • The Mekong River, which flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. is second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. The river is home to over 1,200 species of fish.

  • Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, has reportedly written over 100 songs, some of which you might hear played on the government radio station.

  • In April, 2017, CNN named Bangkok as the best street food city in the world.

  • The southern Laos town of Savannakhet is home to the Dinosaur Museum, showcasing dinosaur bones that were dug up at local excavation sites.

  • Most of the world’s remaining teak forests are in Myanmar.

  • In Vietnam, it’s against the law to put your hands in your pockets while visiting Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum.

  • In Myanmar, the local women wear a yellowish paste on their cheeks and foreheads. The paste, which is made from the ground bark of the thanaka tree, acts as a natural sunscreen and moisturizer.

  • In Laos, because the head is considered to be the most sacred part of the human body, one should never touch anyone else’s head. And, because the feet are considered to be the most inferior part of the body, one should never use their feet to point at people or even at objects.

  • Originally found in 1991, and discovered by the outside world in 2009, Central Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong (mountain river cave) is the largest cave in the world. In addition to its river, Hang Son Doong has a lush jungle growing inside. Natural skylights were formed when sections of the limestone ceiling collapsed. The cave is estimated to be between two and five million years old.

  • A golden urn containing the remains of Buddha is housed in a stupa (shrine) on a hilltop in Oudong, 30 miles north of  Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. When the remains were moved from Phnom Penh in 2002, an estimated one million people joined the procession to Oudong.

  • Engaged couples from throughout Vietnam travel to the Central Highlands town of Dalat to have wedding photos taken at Dalat’s railway station. The couples dress up, sometimes in elaborate colonial-style clothing, and pose in front of the art-deco building and the wood-burning steamer train that’s still parked on the tracks.

  • In February, 2017, wild jungle cats were discovered in Omkoi Wildlife Sanctuary, near Chiang Mai in Thailand, 40 years after they were believed to have become extinct. A freelance photographer was able to take pictures of both male and female jungle cats in the sanctuary. Based on this development, Thailand’s National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department plans to start a study of the jungle cat population there. Jungle cats typically weight between four to six kilograms (8.8 to 13.25 pounds).

  • Playing funeral music is one of the oldest professions in Vietnam. Qualified funeral musicians can earn more money in one month than the average Vietnamese person earns in a year.

Diane Embree
April 19, 2017