Location: Southeastern Asia
Bordered By: Cambodia, Laos, China
Total Area: 127,210 sq mi (329,560 sq km)
Greatest Distance E-W: 380 mi (612 km)
Greatest Distance N-S: 1,030 mi (1,657 km)
Coastline: 2,139 mi (3,444 km)
Highest Point: Fan Si Pan, 10,312 ft (3,144 m)
Lowest Point: South China Sea coast, 0 ft (0 m)
Regions & Climate
Vietnam is a long and narrow country, lying completely in the tropical zone. Its landmass forms the shape of the letter S on the east side of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Vietnamese eastern border consists of more than 3,000 km of coastline, facing the East Sea and the Pacific Ocean. To the north, Vietnam shares its border with China, while to the west, with Cambodia and Laos.
Vietnam’s S-shaped landmass widens in the north and in the south. Northern Vietnam has large plains lying in the river basins of the Red, Lo, and Chay Rivers, which flow in a northeast-to-southwest direction into Bac Bo Gulf. North and northwest of these plains are large hilly and mountainous areas. Northern Vietnam is influenced by a monsoon climate, with four distinct seasons and high humidity. In order to cultivate land and earn their living, inhabitants of the north built dikes over the centuries, resulting in today’s system of dikes that are thousands of kilometers long along the river banks.
Southern Vietnam has the Mekong River, which originates in China, and flows through Laos and Cambodia before entering Vietnam. In Vietnam, the river splits into nine tributaries before flowing into the East Sea, which is the reason the Vietnamese call it the Cuu Long (Nine Dragons) River. The rich and fertile Mekong Delta region is the leading rice producer in the country. The south has only two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season.
Between these large delta regions in the north and south is the long and narrow Central Vietnam. In the west is the Truong Son mountain range. Short rivers running straight to the East Sea cross the region, creating small narrow plains along the coast. The climate of Central Vietnam is often harsh, and subject to natural calamities such as typhoons. In the southwestern part of Central Vietnam, there are large, high plateaus, 1,000 meters above sea level, with fertile basalt layers, appropriate for the cultivation of tropical and temperate cash crops, such as rubber, tea, coffee, and cacao.
Vietnam’s long coastline has many beautiful beaches, and includes the famous Ha Long Bay, which has more than 3,000 small mountains on the sea and which was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a world heritage. Vietnam has many primitive areas of forest with precious timber, rare fauna, and high mountains with temperate climates which are very attractive for tourists. A large number of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and grottoes complete the beauty spots of Vietnam.
Vietnamese natural resources include coal, iron, bauxite, and precious stones, which are mined in northern and central Vietnam, and large reserves of oil and gas in the coastal areas and on the continental shelf.
Vietnam is composed of 61 provinces and centrally-administered cities grouped into regions as follows:
Red River Delta: Hanoi, Hai Phong, Ha Tay, Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, and Ninh Binh.
Eastern North Vietnam: Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Lao Cai, Bac Can, Lang Son, Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai, Thai Nguyen, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh and Quang Ninh.
Western North Vietnam: Lai Chau, Son La and Hoa Binh.
Northern Central Vietnam: Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.
Southern Central Vietnam: Quang Nam, Da Nang, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa.
Southern Central Highlands: Tay Nguyen Highlands, Kon Tum, Gia Lai and Dac Lac.
Eastern South Vietnam: Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Ho Chi Minh City, Lam Dong, Binh Phuoc, Tay Ninh, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
Cuu Long River Delta: Long An, Dong Thap, An Giang, Tien Giang, Vinh Long, Ben Tre, Kien Giang, Can Tho, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau.
Flora & Fauna
Vietnamese land comprises 7 groups: Salted soil, alum, alluvium, muddy land, peat, grey exhausted soil; most of the land belong to different kinds of alluvium, grey soil and alum. On the whole, Vietnamese soil has thick strata and high fertility; it provides very favorable conditions for the development of agriculture and forestry.
The monsoon tropical climate, sunshine and rain have given Vietnam and abundant and diversified vegetation. The Vietnamese territory lies at the convergence of atmospheric currents and has received a great number of seeds from the north, west and south that is why the forests have many strains and species of vegetation. Vietnam has over 800 wood species many of which are precious due to their hardness, solidity, beautiful grains and colors. The famous wood species comprise iron wood, oak, teak; thitka on limestone mountains; wood with beautiful grains such as mahogany, calamander, barian kingwood, aqilaria, species of peumou, yellow wood pedo-carpus fleuryi, camphor-trees also abound. The virgin forests have a reserve of wood of over 300 cubic meters per hectare. The fauna is as abundant and diversified as the flora. In Vietnam there exist a variety of ancient tropical fauna and about 200 species of animals, 800 species of birds, 100 species of amphibians and over 150 species of reptiles. 1,000 species live in the seas and rivers and 200 species live in fresh water.
Dense forests, limestone mountain forests, multi-canopied forests constitute that habitat of different species of monkeys, langurs, gibbons, wild cats and squirrels. Vietnamese forests have typical monkey species such as white-headed langurs, rhinopithecus and black monkeys. Likewise, there are valuable species of birds such as pheasants, pheinardia ocellata. There are many species of reptiles: boas, iguanas, snakes, chameleons, centipedes. The high mountains in the north have many furred wild animals like selenartos, small bears, big black squirrels, foxes, otters, civet cats. Animals living in fresh waters comprise 250 fish species; brackish water and coastal areas are the habitat of 1,000 species of fishes, 300 species of crabs, 40 species of shrimps and lobsters, 300 species of oysters and sea snails. Besides, there are clams, sea slugs, sea turtles, pearl oysters; 300 species of seaweeds; in particular there are salanganes on rocky mountains on islands.
Though the Vietnamese fauna is rich, varied and comprises rare species of high value, not all of them are available in large quantities.
Vietnam has great potentialities for mineral ores, underground resources, and riches under the sea-bed. It ranks among the countries having average reserves of oil and gas which are gradually being exploited. All kind of mineral resources exist, some with large reserves: coal, iron, bauxite, etc. Small mines are scattered all over the country. The natural conditions of Vietnam also present an unfavorable aspect. A particular feature of the monsoon climate is its uncertainty. Cold comes early in some years, late in others. Some years are marked by heavy rains and big floods, and others by prolonged periods of drought.
The humid maritime climate facilitates the generation of fungi and insects while accelerating the corrosion of machinery and equipment. Steep slopes and existence of many rivers and streams creates difficulties for the building of the communication network. Land erosion is a danger to be checked in the first place. The diversity of flora and fauna and their existence is in scattered state and small quantity makes it difficult to organize breeding.