Driving Directions Vietnam

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

The country 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, which includes 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 north and south difficult.

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About two-fifths of Vietnam is wooded, mainly with tropical rainforest, which contains a variety of 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 for fuel, and 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 very cold 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 there is 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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