Vietnam introduction

Vietnam is shaped in a long "S" stretching for 1000 miles from China in the north to the Gulf of Thailand in the south. The country's land area including water is about 127,000 square miles, which makes it slightly larger than Italy or a bit smaller than Japan. It is broad in the north and south and narrow in the center, where at one point, it is only 31 miles wide; Vietnamese often describe their country as resembling a bamboo pole supporting a basket of rice on each end since. This image can also be seen as a metaphor for the demography of Vietnam with the heavily populated, grain producing areas located in the north in the Red River Delta and in the south in the Mekong Delta with a thin, less productive and less densely inhabited coastal region linking them. Vietnam has 2144 miles of coastline and 2372 miles of land borders: 966 miles shared with Laos, 796 miles with China, and 610 miles with Cambodia.

Vietnam is a country of tropical lowlands, hills, and densely forested highlands, with level land covering no more than 20 percent of the area. Three quarters of Vietnam is made up of mountains and hills. In the north, there is the Hoang Lien Mountains which contains the highest point in Vietnam, Fan Si Pan, extending 10,312 feet into the sky.

The country can be divided into four geographical regions: the highlands and the Red River Delta in the north, the Truong Son Mountains form the Central Highlands running almost the full length of Vietnam along its borders with Laos and Cambodia, the coastal lowlands, and the Mekong River Delta in the south. The Red River and the Mekong River are navigable in their entirety and are considered to be the two major rivers in Vietnam. To help prevent flooding in their deltas, a system of dikes and canals has been built which confines the rivers to their paths. However, silt carried by the Red River and its tributaries has raised the level of the riverbeds above that of the surrounding plains and breaks in the levees result in disastrous flooding every year during the Monsoon season.

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