Ho Chi Minh City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh), formerly named Saigon (Sài Gòn), is the largest city in Vietnam. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer sea port prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century.
Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochin-china and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam from 1955–75. South Vietnam, as an anti-communist republic, fought against the communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, with aid from the United States and countries including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.Saigon fell when it was captured by the communists on 30 April 1975, bringing an end to the War with its enemy’s victory. Vietnam was then turned into a communist state with the South overtaken. On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after Hồ Chí Minh (although the name Sài Gòn is still commonly used).
The city center is situated on the banks of the Saigon River, 60 kilometers (37 mi) from the South China Sea and 1,760 kilometers (1,090 mi) south of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
The metropolitan area, which consists of the Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area, Thủ Dầu Một, Dĩ An, Biên Hòa and surrounding towns, is populated by more than 9,000,000 people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam and the countries of the former French Indochina. The city’s population is expected to grow to 13.9 million in 2025.
The greater Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area, a metropolitan area covering most parts of Đông Nam Bộ plus Tiền Giang andLong An provinces under planning, will have an area of 30,000 square kilometers with a population of 20 million inhabitants by 2020. According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Economist Intelligence Unit and ECA International, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked 132 on the list of world’s most expensive cities for expatriate employees.
Today, the city’s core is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. The most prominent structures in the city center are Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất), City Hall (Ủy ban nhân dân Thành phố), the Municipal Theatre (Nhà hát thành phố, also known as the Opera House), City Post Office (Bưu điện thành phố), State Bank Office (Ngân hàng nhà nước), City People’s Court (Tòa án nhân dân thành phố) and Notre-Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà). Some of the historic hotels are the Hotel Majestic, dating from the French colonial era, and the Rex and Caravelle hotels are former hangouts for American officers and war correspondents in the 1960s/70s. It was approximated 4.3 millions tourist visited Vietnam in 2007, and 70 percent, about 3 millions came to visit Ho Chi Minh city. In 2007, the number tourist came to the city increased up to 12 percent compare to 2006, and the tourism industry got up to 19,500 billion VND, went up to 20 percent.
The city has various museums, such as the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History, the Revolutionary Museum, the Museum of Southeastern Armed Forces, the War Remnants Museum, the Museum of Southern Women, the Museum of Fine Art, the Nha Rong Memorial House, and the Ben Duoc Relic of Underground Tunnels. The Củ Chi tunnels are northwest of the city in Củ Chi district. The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, in District 1, dates from 1865. Aside from the Municipal Theatre, there are other places of entertainment such as: the Bến Thành and Hòa Bình theatres and the Lan Anh Music Stage. The Đầm Sen Tourist and Cultural Park, Suối Tiên Amusement and Culture Park, and Cần Giờ’s Eco beach resort are three recreational sites inside the city which are popular with tourists. Ho Chi Minh City is home to hundreds of cinemas and theatres, with cinema and dramatic ticketing revenue accounting for 60–70% of Vietnam’s total revenue in this industry.
Unlike other dramatic teams in Vietnam’s provinces and municipalities, residents of Ho Chi Minh City keep their theaters active without being subsidized by the Vietnamese government. The city is home to most of the private movie companies in Vietnam. Like many of Vietnam’s smaller cities, the city boasts a multitude of restaurants serving typical Vietnamese dishes such as phở or rice vermicelli. Backpacking travelers most often frequent the “Western Quarter” on Phạm Ngũ Lão Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City has gone by several different names during its history, reflecting settlement by different ethnic, cultural and political groups. In the 1690s, Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyễn rulers of Huế to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the Mekong Delta and its surroundings. Control of the city and the area passed to the Vietnamese, who gave the city the official name of Gia Định (Chữ Nôm: 嘉 定). This name remained until the time of French conquest in the 1860s, when the occupying force adopted the name Saigonfor the city, a westernized form of the traditional name, although the city was still indicated as 嘉 定 on Chinese maps until at least 1891.Immediately after the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975, a provisional government renamed the city after Hồ Chí Minh, the lateNorth Vietnamese leader.[nb 1] Even today, however, the informal name of Sài Gòn remains in daily speech both domestically and internationally, especially among the Vietnamese diaspora. In particular, Sài Gòn is still commonly used to refer to District 1.
Ho Chi Minh City is located at 10°10′- 10°38’N, 106°22′- 106°54’E in the southeastern region of Vietnam, 1,760 km (1,090 mi) south of Hanoi. The average elevation is 19 metres (62 ft) above sea level. It borders Tây Ninh and Bình Dương provinces to the north, Đồng Nai and Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu provinces to the east, Long An Province to the west and the South China Sea to the south with a coast 15 km long. The city covers an area of 2,095 km2 (809 sq mi) (0.63% of the surface of Vietnam), extending up to Củ Chi (12 mi (19 km) from the Cambodian border) and down to Cần Giờ on the Bien Dong coast. The distance from the northernmost point (Phu My Hung Commune, Củ Chi District) to the southernmost one (Long Hòa Commune, Cần Giờ District) is 102 kilometers (63 mi), and from the easternmost point (Long Binh Ward, District Nine) to the westernmost one (Bình Chánh Commune, Bình Chánh District) is 47 kilometers (29 mi).
The city has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate, with an average humidity of 75%. The year is divided into two distinct seasons. The rainy season, with an average rainfall of about 1,800 millimetres (71 in) annually (about 150 rainy days per year), usually begins in May and ends in late November . The dry season lasts from December to April. The average temperature is 28 °C (82 °F), the highest temperature sometimes reaches 39 °C (102 °F) around noon in late April, while the lowest may fall below 16 °C (61 °F) in the early mornings of late December into early January.
Ho Chi Minh City is the economic center of Vietnam and accounts for a large proportion of the economy of Vietnam. Although the city takes up just 0.6% of the country’s land area, it contains 8.34% of the population of Vietnam, 20.2% of its GDP, 27.9% of industrial output and 34.9% of the FDI projects in the country in 2005. In 2005, the city had 4,344,000 laborers, of whom 130,000 are over the labor age norm (in Vietnam, 60 for male and 55 for female workers). In 2009, GDP per capita reached 2,800 US$, compared to the country’s average level of $1042 USD.
In 2007, the city’s GDP was estimated at $14.3 billion, or about $2,180 per capita, up 12.6 percent from 2006 and accounting for 20% of the country’s GDP. The GDP adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) reached $71.5 billion, or about $10,870 per capita (approximately three times higher than the country’s average). The city’s Industrial Product Value was $6.4 billion, equivalent to 30% of the value of the entire nation. Export – Import Turnover through HCMC ports accounted for $36 billion, or 40% of the national total, of which export revenue reached $18.3 billion (40% of Vietnam’s total export revenues). In 2007, Ho Chi Minh City’s contribution to the annual revenues in the national budget increased by 30 percent, accounting for about 20.5 percent of total revenues. The consumption demand of Ho Chi Minh City is higher than other Vietnamese provinces and municipalities and 1.5 times higher than that of Hanoi.
As of June 2006, the city has been home to three export processing zones and twelve industrial parks. Ho Chi Minh City is the leading receiver of foreign direct investment in Vietnam, with 2,530 FDI projects worth 16.6 $ billion at the end of 2007. In 2007, the city received over 400 FDI projects worth $US 3,000,000,000. In 2008, it attracted $US 8.5 billion in FDI.
In 2010, the city’s GDP was estimated at $ 20,902 billion, or about $2,800 per capita,up to 11.8 percent from 2009.
The city is served by Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, the largest airport in Vietnam in terms of passengers handled (with an estimated number of over 15.5 million passengers per year in 2010, accounting for more than half of Vietnam’s air passenger traffic). Long Thành International Airport is scheduled to begin operating in 2025. Based in Long Thành, Đồng Nai Province, about 40 km northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Long Thành Airport will serve international flights, with a maximum traffic capacity of 100 million passengers per year when fully completed; Tân Sơn Nhất Airport will serve domestic flights.
Ho Chi Minh City is also a terminal for many Vietnam Railways train routes in the country. The Reunification Express (tàu Thống Nhất) runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi from Saigon Railway Station in District 3, with stops at cities and provinces along the line. Inner the city, the two main station are Sóng Thần and Sài Gòn. Besides, there are several small station such as Dĩ An, Thủ Đức, Bình Triệu, Gò Vấp. However, the rail transportation is not developed because it got about 0.6 percent of the number passenger and 6 percent of transporting merchandise.
The city’s location on the Saigon River makes it a bustling commercial and passenger port; besides a constant stream of cargo ships, passenger boats operate regularly between Ho Chi Minh City and various destinations in Southern Vietnam and Cambodia, including Vũng Tàu, Cần Thơ and the Mekong Delta, and Phnom Penh. Traffic between Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam’s southern provinces has steadily increased over the years; the Doi and Te Canals, the main routes to the Mekong Delta, receive 100,000 waterway vehicles every year, representing around 13 million tons of cargo. A project to dredge these routes has been approved to facilitate transport, to be implemented in 2011–14.
Ho Chi Minh City has a number of coach houses, which house coach busses to and from other areas in Vietnam. The largest coach station – in terms of passengers handled – is the Mien Dong Coach Station in the Binh Thanh District.
Inner city transportation
The main means of transport within the city are motorbikes, buses, taxis, and bicycles. Motorbikes remain the most common way to move around the city. Taxis are plentiful and usually have trip meters, although it is also common to agree on the trip price before taking a long trip, for example, from the airport to the city centre. Public buses run on many routes and fare can be purchased on the bus. For short trips, “xe ôm” (literally, “hug vehicle”) motorcycle taxis are available where the passenger sits at the rear of a motorbike. A popular activity for tourists is a tour of the city on cyclos, which allow for longer trips at a more relaxed pace. For the last few years, cars have become more popular.. There are approximated 340,000 cars and 3.5 million motorcycles in the city, which is almost double compare to Hanoi.
The Ho Chi Minh City Metro, a light rail rapid transit network, is currently in the preparation stages, with the first line currently under construction, to be completed by 2017. This first line will connect Bến Thành to Suối Tiên Park in District 9, with a depot in Long Binh. Planners expect the route to serve more than 160,000 passengers daily. A line between Bến Thành and Tham Luong in District 12 has been approved by the government, and several more lines are currently the subject of feasibility studies.