Located on the easternmost section of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is bordered by the East Sea to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the southeast, China to the north, and Laos & Cambodia to the west. Vietnam is a country that straddles both ends of the urbanization spectrum. There are still peasant women wearing conical hats who tend the rice patty fields in the countryside; meanwhile, the booming cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) offer the congestion and amenities of any major world city. Aside from the urban/rural dichotomy, Vietnam is home to two highly ranked beaches: Nha Trang and Quy Nhon, and the Hoang Lien mountain range. Gastronomists will feel like they have died and gone to heaven, as Vietnam offers more than 500 different dishes that are a mix of pungent herbs and spices.
The climate of Vietnam varies by region. The northern part is subtropical, while the southern part is tropical. In the northern mountains, weather conditions can bring frost; during the dry season in the southern part of the country, temperatures can soar to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Vietnam is also susceptible to monsoons and typhoons. The winter monsoon season occurs from October to March and brings chilly, wet winters to all parts of Vietnam north of Nha Trang and dry, warm weather to the south.