A map of Vietnam, showing highland and lowland areas and vegetationThe long, narrow country of Vietnam curves round the eastern rim of the Indochina Peninsula. The mountains of the Annam range stretch along its border with Laos. In the south, the range widens to form the country’s rugged central highlands. In the north of the country, they rise steeply to snow-capped peaks. The flat, fertile river deltas of the Red River in northern Vietnam, and Mekong in the south are important rice-growing regions, and are home to most of Vietnam’s people. Vietnam has a tropical climate with hot, humid weather all year round and a rainy monsoon season between May and September. In 1976, following a long war, North and South Vietnam became one country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Along with China, Cuba and Laos, Vietnam is one of the world's four remaining states that are governed by the Communist Party. Only groups linked with the Communist Party are allowed to contest elections. Following economic and social reforms carried out by its government, Vietnam is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Although over 50 different ethnic groups live in Vietnam, 86% of the country’s people belong to just one ethnic group, the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese, also known as Kinh, are descended from people of northern Vietnam and settlers from southern China.
Two-thirds of Vietnamese people live in small farming villages in the countryside. In the densely populated Red and Mekong river deltas, people have built their houses on stilts to keep them above the water, and constructed roads on raised banks. Travel by bicycle is popular all over Vietnam. In towns and villages, people sell their produce from moveable shops and businesses on the backs of bicycles.
A view of Ha Long Bay
Even though it is only the world’s 67th largest country by area, Vietnam is the 13th largest country by population.
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