The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is in South-East Asia and borders China to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the West and has a 2025-mile coastline along the Tonkin Gulf, the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. With an area of 127,246 square miles, it is roughly two and a half times the size of England. In 1954 the country separated into the communist North Vietnam and the (relatively) democratic South Vietnam. This was followed by a savage war that ended in 1975 after communist North Vietnam defeated American forces to conquer South Vietnam. North and South Vietnam were officially united and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was born. Only since around 1990 has Vietnam begun to build a reputation as a tourist destination. Before, the name of Vietnam was too associated with violence and war. However, Vietnam is a unique and fascinating part of the world with a huge variety of beautiful landscapes, a very rich culture and a history that stretches back over more than 4000 years. Vietnam extends across a strip of land between the deltas of two large rivers, the Song Hong (Red River) in the North and the Mekong in the South. In the West the Truong Son (Long Mountains) create a natural border with Laos and Cambodia. These highlands consist of a series of connected plateaus and reach an altitude of just under a mile above sea level. The highest peak in Vietnam is Fan Si Pan (1.95 miles) in the North West. The coastal land in the East is very fertile and has beautiful beaches surrounded by palm trees. Vietnam also has countless islands. Nearly all of Vietnam has tropical vegetation with mangrove forests along the coast and tropical rainforests further inland. The majority of the lowland has been deforested for farmland, particularly for growing rice. The fauna includes tigers, panthers, wild buffalo, deer, elephants, apes, reptiles and numerous species of birds.