Vietnam

Driving Directions Vietnam

VIETNAM is an extended narrow socialist republic in southeast Asia that runs down the South China Sea coast. It incorporates the ancient kingdoms of Cochin-China, Annam, and Tonkin.

The country was formerly divided into a Communist north and republican, Western-backed south, but the two parts reunited in 1976 at the close of the Vietnam war.

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Vietnam has a varied topography, including mountains, the broad plains of river deltas, and coastal plains. It has a narrow central area that links more broad plains centered on the Red (Hong) and Mekong rivers. This small zone, now known as Mien Trung, is hilly and makes commu­nication between the north and south difficult.

About two-fifths of Vietnam is wooded, mainly with tropical rainforest, which contains various trees, including the commercially important teak and bamboo. However, parts of Vietnam have suffered severe erosion due to the indiscriminate cutting of forest trees, mainly fuel. The government imposed a ban on timber exports in the early 1990s as a conservation measure.

Vietnam has a wide range of wildlife, including rare and spectacular Asian mammals such as the tiger, leopard, and elephant. Several previously unknown mammal species have been discovered in the remoter regions of Vietnam in recent years, including a new type of okapi.

Hanoi, the former northern capital, is the capital of unified Vietnam, but Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south remains the country’s largest city. Most people live in rural villages on the plains.

The climate is humid, with tropical conditions in the south and subtropical in the north. The far north can be freezing when polar air blows over Asia.

Agriculture, fishing, and forestry employ around 74 percent of the workforce. The main crop is rice, but cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes are also grown for domestic consumption. Soya beans, tea, coffee, and rubber are grown for export.

Major industries are food processing and the manufacturing of textiles, cement, cotton, and silk. Fishing, also an important export trade, is conducted mainly on the South China Sea, although some fish farming in flooded inland areas.

Vietnam is still recovering from the ravages of many wars this century and it remains underdeveloped as a result.

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Vietnam has four major topographic divisions: the Red River Delta in the north; the Mekong Delta in the south; the Annamese Cordillera, a mountain system that spans nearly the entire length of the country; and the central lowlands, a narrow coastal plain between the mountains and the sea in the middle of the country.

Vietnam is bordered on the northeast by the Gulf of Tonkin, on the southeast by the South China Sea, and southwest by the Gulf of Thailand. Coral reefs surround Vietnam’s coastline and its offshore islands – along with more than 90 percent of the entire coastal length.

Did you know about Vietnam?

At its narrowest point, Vietnam is only 50 kilometers (31 miles) wide.

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