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Area and geographical features
Vietnam covers 330,000 sq km. It shares borders with China, Cambodia and Laos. It has 3,200 km of coastline. There are two main cultivated areas - the Red River Delta (15,000 sq km) in the north and the Mekong Delta (60,000 sq km) in the south. Three quarters of the country consists of mountains and hills. The highest point is Phan Si Pan, in the far north-west Hoang Lien Son mountains. 25% of the country is afforested and 21% under cultivation. The forests have been badly depleted by over-exploitation. Its geographical co-ordinates are 16 00 N and 106 00 E.

There is an estimated population of 81.6m (2003) with an annual growth rate of 1.7%. Life expectancy is set at 69 years and the illiteracy rate is 6%. Source: World Development Indicators database, April 2003

Major business cities and towns
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam with a population of 3.5 million. Government ministries, aid, agencies and embassies are located here. It is also the political and cultural capital but is second to Ho Chi Minh City in terms of commerce. Noi Bai International is 38km from the city centre.

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) has a population of 508 million. It is the commercial and industrial capital of Vietnam. Tan Son Nhat airport is only a few kilometers from the city centre. Sai Gon seaport is the biggest in Vietnam.

Hai Phong City has a population of 1.8 million. It is a major seaport close to the Gulf of Tonkin and 102km from Hanoi. It has only a domestic airport but still ranks third in terms of the destination of foreign investment.

Da Nang City has a population of 500,000. It has a modern sea and airport and is an entry point for central Vietnam. It is a major industrial centre.

The Mekong Delta region plays a central role in supplying food to the rest of the country.

A temperate climate in the North with four distinct seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn). Tropical in the South with a wet and dry season. The wet season is from May to October while the dry season occurs from November to April.

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