Vietnam is approximately 331,688 km²in area (not including Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands), larger than Italy and almost the size of Germany. The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Phan Xi Păng, is the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143 m. The south is divided into coastal lowlands.
The delta of the Red River (also known as the Sông Hồng), a flat, triangular region of 15,000 square kilometers, is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. The Mekong delta, covers about 40,000 square kilometers and lies no more than three meters above sea level. It is criss-crossed by a maze of canals and rivers and is home to hundreds of people. So much sediment is carried by the Mekong's various branches and tributaries that the delta advances sixty to eighty meters into the sea every year.
In Laos, the climate is tropical and monsoonal. There is a distinct rainy season from May to November, followed by a dry season from December to April. Local tradition holds that there are three seasons (rainy, cold and hot) as the latter two months of the climatologically defined dry season are noticeably hotter than the earlier four months. The capital and largest city of Laos is Vientiane, and other major cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakxe.