Viet Nam is located in the Eastern part of the Indochina peninsula, bordering China to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the West with a long land border of 4,550 km, and facing the Eastern Sea (South China Sea) and the Pacific to the East and the South. On the map, Viet Nam is an S-shaped long strip of land, stretching from 23°23’ to 8°27’ North latitude. The country’s total length is 1,650 km from the Northernmost point to the Southernmost point. Its width, stretching from the Eastern coast to the Western border, is 500 km at the widest part and 50 km at the narrowest part.
Viet Nam has a diverse topography. The country’s territory is made up of hills, mountains, deltas, coastal lines and continental shelf, reflecting the long history of geology and topography formation in a monsoon, humid climate and a strongly weathered environment. The topography is lower from the Northwest to the Southeast, which is clearly shown in the flows of major rivers.
Three quarters of Viet Nam’s territory are made up of low mountains and hilly regions. Regions with elevations less than 1,000 metres above sea level make up 85% of the territory. Mountainous regions over 2,000 metres above sea level only account for 1%. Mountain ranges and hills form a large bow facing the Eastern Sea with 1,400 km length from the Northwest to the Southeast. The highest mountain ranges are all located in the West and Northwest. Fan Xi Pan peak, with a height of 3,143 metres, is considered the roof of Indochina. Nearer to the Eastern Sea the mountain range is lower and ends with a coastal strip of lowland. From Hai Van pass to the South, the topography is less complex. A long limestone mountain range is replaced by large granite mountains followed by a vast plateau known as the Central Highlands behind Truong Son range to the East.
Only one fourth of the Vietnamese territory is covered by deltas separated in many regions by mountains and hills. There are two major deltas with fertile arable land in Viet Nam, which are the Red River delta, locally known as the Northern delta of 16,700 sq km, and the Mekong River delta or the Southern delta of 40,000 sq km. Between these two major deltas is a chain of small deltas located along the Central coast from the Ma River basin in Thanh Hoa province to Phan Thiet with a total area of 15,000 sq km.
Viet Nam faces the Eastern Sea to the East and the Gulf of Thailand to the South and Southwest. The country has a long coastline of 3,260 km running from Mong Cai in the North to Ha Tien in the Southwest. Viet Nam’s territorial waters in the Eastern Sea extend to the East and Southeast, including the continental shelf and many islands and archipelagoes. There is a group of 3,000 islands belonging to Viet Nam in the Tonkin Gulf, including Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long, Cat Hai, Cat Ba, Bach Long Vi, the Paracel and Spratley Islands. To the East and Southeast, there are groups of islands including Con Son, Phu Quoc and Tho Chu.
Viet Nam is located in the tropical and temperate zone. Viet Nam’s climate is characterized by high temperature and humidity all year round. North Viet Nam, under the impact of the Chinese mainland, has more or less mainland climate. In addition, the Eastern Sea also affects Viet Nam’s tropical monsoon climate. The monsoon climate does not spread evenly all over the Vietnamese territory, where there are different regions with different climates. Viet Nam’s climate changes by seasons and by regions from the lowland to highland, from North to South and from East to West. Given the strong influence of the Northwest monsoon, the average temperature in Viet Nam is lower than many Asian countries located at the same latitude.
There are two major climate regions in Viet Nam. Northern Viet Nam (from Mong Cai to Hai Van pass) has a tropical monsoon climate with four distinguishable seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) and is influenced by the highly-humid Northwest monsoon from the Asian mainland and Southeast monsoon from Thailand and Laos and the Eastern Sea. Southern Viet Nam (from Hai Van pass to Ha Tien) has arather moderate tropical climate given the weak influence of monsoons and is characterized by dry and rainy seasons and warm weather all year round.
In addition, given the topographical structure, there are some sub-climate regions in Viet Nam including regions with temperate climate, such as Sa Pa (Lao Cai province), Da Lat (Lam Dong province) and regions with mainland climate such as Lai Chau, Son La, all of which are ideal places for tourism.
The average temperature in Viet Nam varies between 21°C and 27°C and increases from the North to the South. In summer, the average temperature is 25°C (Ha Noi 23°C, Hue 25°C, Ho Chi Minh City 26°C). In winter, temperature in the North reaches the lowest in December and January. In Northern mountainous regions such as Sa Pa, Tam Dao and Hoang Lien Son, the temperature is sometimes down to 0°C with snow.
Viet Nam’s climate is also characterized by a considerable amount of sunshine with the number of sunny hours varying between 1,400 and 3,000 per year. The average rainfall each year stands between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm. Air humidity is 80%. Given the influence of monsoon and complex topography, Viet Nam is often prone to natural disasters such as storms, floods and droughts (each year, the country suffers from 6 to 10 tropical storms).
Viet Nam has a dense network of rivers and streams (2,360 rivers of more than 10 km in length), flowing in two main directions of Northwest and Southeast in a bow shape. The Red River and the Mekong River, the two largest rivers in Viet Nam, create two vast and fertile deltas. Each year, the river and stream network is supplied with 310 billion cubic metres of water. The water supply for rivers and streams depends on the flood and drought seasons. 70%-80% of the annual water volume is provided in the flood season.
Land, flora and fauna:
Vietnam’s soil is diverse with high fertility, thus providing very favourable conditions for the development of agriculture and forestry.
Viet Nam is also endowed with abundant and diverse flora, including 14,600 species of vegetation. Viet Nam’s flora is mainly covered by tropical forests with plants and trees adapted to much sunshine, high temperature and high humidity.
The fauna in Viet Nam is as abundant and diverse as the flora. There exists a variety of precious species listed in the World Red Book. At present, there are 275 species of mammals, 800 species of birds, 180 species of reptiles, 80 species of amphibians, 2,400 species of fish and 5,000 species of insects. Dense forests, limestone mountain forests, and multi-canopied forests provide habitats of different species of monkeys, languors, gibbons and wild cats. Vietnamese forests have typical monkey species such as white-headed languors, delacours languors and black languors. Likewise, there are valuable species of birds such as pheasants and pheinardia ocellata. The high mountains in the North have many furred wild animals like selenartos, small bears, big black squirrels, foxes, otters and civet cats.
Viet Nam preserves some precious national parks of high biodiversity, such as Hoang Lien Son National Park (in Fan Xi Pan mountain, Lao Cai Province), Cat Ba National Park (Quang Ninh Province), Cuc Phuong National Park (Ninh Binh Province), Pu Mat National Park (Quang Binh Province), Bach Ma National Park (Thua Thien Hue), Con Dao National Park (Ba Ria Vung Tau), and Cat Tien National Park (Dong Nai Province), etc. While remaining eco-tourism attractions, these national parks are ideal places for Vietnamese and foreign scientists to conduct research./.