Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City


Ho Chi Minh city is a city in Vietnam with a population of more than 10 million people. According to unconfirmed estimates, it has a population of 14 million, making it the largest city in Vietnam. Vietnam’s largest metropolis is located on the banks of the Saigon River, 19 metres above sea level, covering an area of 2,095 km², 80 km from the South China Sea and 200 km from Phan Thiet (Mui Ne).

The largest metropolis in the south is still known to locals as Saigon, but this was the name Saigon bore until 1976 when the city was renamed Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh City upon liberation. History scholars confirm that it is a Sino-Vietnamese word where Sài (firewood, branches) and Gòn (cotton). The name alludes to the kapok trees that can still be seen in the outskirts of the city today. Others, however, claim that Sai Côn is a direct translation of the Khmer word Prey Nokor, meaning kapok tree forest. Ho Chi Minh City – Wikipedia


The history of the Chinese tells us that their Fou-nan people arrived in Ho Chi Minh City centuries before the Khmer people, where they grew vegetables and fruits. The Khmer Empire is considered to have begun in 802 BC. Khmer King Jayavarman II then also proclaimed himself King of the World in a region called Phnom Kulen located in Siem Reap province, Cambodia. Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire and was home to up to 1220 people during the heyday of the empire. At that time, it was 0.1% of the world’s population. The end of the empire, however, came in the 15th century with the fall of Angkor.

Ho Chi Minh was for centuries part of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which belonged to the Khmer and was then called Prey Nokor or Jungle City. In Khmer chronicles, Prey Nokor is known as the Royal City which was an important economic centre for the export of rice and fruit grown in the Mekong Delta.


Vietnamese began arriving in Prey Nokor in the 17th century when the civil war between the Vietnamese Trịnh – Nguyễn dynasties took place. The Viet fled to Prey Nokori and later to other Khmer towns in the Mekong Delta such as Psar Dèk (Sa Đéc) and Moat Chrouk (Châu Đốc). The Vietnamese arrived in the region in such large numbers that the Vietnamese were simply outnumbered by the Khmer. The Khmer were also at war with Siam (Thailand) and lacked the real power to stop this migration. Khmer folklore also tells us that the Khmer gave their princesse to marry a Vietnamese prince, only to stop the invasions and looting on Khmer villages.


The Franco-Spanish expedition concluded an agreement in 1862 to establish the French colony of Cochinchina. At that time, Ho Chi Minh city bore the Vietnamese name of Ben Nghe which consisted of 40 villages. As Ben Nghe seemed too difficult to pronounce for foreigners, the name Saigon was used. From this point on, luxury villas, 3 row streets and other classical buildings were built. A north-south railway line was also completed, making Saigon a major collection point for rice and other foodstuffs.

The Vietnamese, however, began to use the name Cho Lon instead of the inappropriate name Ben Nghe after the arrival of the French. Nowadays, Cholon (VN: Chợ (Turg) Lớn (Great)) is the largest business centre in HCMC spread over Districts 5, 6 and 11. Populated mainly by Chinese, it is also the largest Chinatown in the world.


Cholon was founded in 1879 and by 1930 the city had expanded to the limits of Saigon. A year later, Cholon and Saigon were merged into a single city called “Saigon-Cholon”. In 1929, Saigon had a population of 130,000, 12,100 of whom were French. Saigon-Cholon, however, continued to be called Saigon by the people. Even today, the name Saigon is heard on a daily basis, especially by the Vietnamese themselves. The name Saigon is mostly used to refer to HCM City 1 district, or old Saigon.

The Japanese occupied Saigon in 1940, where the Japanese surrendered in the 1945 riots. The riots were led from Hanoi by Viet Minh troops led by Ho Chi Minh himself. With the departure of the Japanese, the French were able to regain control of the city, but on 19 December 1946 the first Indo-China war began, involving Viet Minh and French troops. On 4 June 1949, French President Vincent Auriol signed an agreement returning Cochinchina to Vietnam. The war ended in 1954 with the Geneva Conference, where the country was divided into North and South Vietnam. Saigon then became the capital of South Vietnam. The second Indo-China war started on 1 Nov. In 1955, what is also known as the Vietnam War officially became the Vietnamese Civil War. The war ended on 30 April 1975 with the liberation of Saigon and the US withdrawal. In 1976 Saigon officially became Ho Chi Minh City.


The climate in Ho Chi Minh City, as elsewhere in the southern part of Vietnam, is tropical and is divided into two main seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. It can rain from May to October but does not have to. These are in fact refreshing showers of a few hours at the most, and then the sun comes out again. The dry period is from December to April. The average annual temperature is 28°C.

Read more: Hanoi – Vietnam Capital


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