Ho Chi Minh City also called Saigon -formerly 1970s

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh), commonly known as Saigon (Vietnamese: Sài Gòn) or by the abbreviations HCMC or HCM, is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

History

Prey Nokor

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What is today known as Ho Chi Minh City began as the Khmer fishing village of Prey Nokor. The village was situated on swampland and remained in the hands of the Khmer (Cambodians) for many centuries until floods of Vietnamese immigration arrived during the 17th Century A.D. The immigrants first came in 1623 with permission from the Cambodian king, but later waves came uninvited, while Cambodia was too weakened by a war with Thailand to stop them.

Early Saigon

In 1698, Prey Nokor, and the whole lower Mekong river delta, was formally annexed by Vietnam and became known as Saigon.Prey Nokor had been the Khmer's most important sea port, and its loss isolated them from international commerce on the South China Sea. Saigon was a great gain to Vietnam, however, and soon grew into a major settlement.

French Saigon

After more than a century and a half under Vietnamese rule, Saigon fell to an invading coalition of French and Spanish forces in 1859 and then became part of the colony of French Indochina. Under French rule, Saigon was filled with Western architecture, and French villas still remain in the city to this day. French immigrants also filled Saigon and accounted for nearly 10% of the population by 1929.

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When France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, Saigon and French Indochina came under the administration of Vichy France, but within a matter of months, the Japanese had taken control. Technically, the Japanese and Vichy France "co-ruled" Saigon, but it was Japan that truly ran things.

In 1945, the Communist Viet Minh led by Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam independent and soon began a guerrilla war against the restored French colonial government. Capitalist Vietnamese declared their own state in 1949, with its capital in Saigon, re-establishing the former Vietnamese emperor until the Republic of Vietnam was declared in 1956. In 1954, the French relinquished control of Vietnam and left the Viet Minh in control of North Vietnam and the non-Communists in control of South Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City

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During the 40's, the U.S. had supported the Viet Minh against the Japanese. During the 50's, they supported the French against all rebels. During the 60's, the United States defended South Vietnam against incursions from the Communist North. On April 30th, 1975, however, the U.S. ended all involvement in Vietnam, and the Viet Minh took Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.

After the "Fall of Saigon," which the victors called the "Liberation of Saigon," many Saigon residents fled to the U.S. and elsewhere, creating a Vietnamese diaspora. While in this sense the city shrank, it grew in that its borders were expanded to include its suburbs and its whole province. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, having eight million inhabitants, and is the nation's economic hub, accounting for 20% of national GDP. The city also attracts many tourists, especially to its French District, museums and its numerous cinemas.

People

In 2015, Ho Chi Minh City was estimated to contain 8.2 million residents, which was up from 7.4 million in 2010 and 5.3 million in 2000. Thus, the city is both large and growing, but in one respect, it is smaller than it seems — the official statistics include both registered residents and migrant workers. On the other hand, the city is actually larger than the official resident count in that its metropolitan area includes over 10 million people. Finally, we can add over three million tourists to the total number of people actually present in Ho Chi Minh City during any given year.

Ethnic Composition

The vast majority (nearly 94%) of "Saigonese" — the usual designation for the people of Ho Chi Minh City — are ethnically Vietnamese. The largest minority by far is the longstanding Chinese population (5.7%), which is concentrated in Cholon and a few other districts of the city. The Chinese are referred to as "Hoa," and more of them live in Ho Chi Minh than in any other part of Vietnam. There is also a small group of Cambodians, also known as Khmer, in the city (0.3%).

Languages Spoken

While nearly all Saigonese speak the Vietnamese language, the Hoa speak a variety of Chinese dialects, including Cantonese and Hainanese. Very few Hoa, however, speak Mandarin. Due to the prevalence of tourism and commerce in Ho Chi Minh City, there are also a good deal of people speaking English as a second language.

Major Religions

The three Eastern Religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are the most popular belief systems in Ho Chi Minh, and all three are frequently observed in the very same temples. Both ethnic Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese tend to practice these three dominant religions. There is also, however, a Roman Catholic community that constitutes about 10% of the population, besides smaller numbers of Protestants, Hindus, Muslims and Baha'i.

Economic Employment

The eight percent of the Vietnamese population who live in Ho Chi Minh City are responsible for 20% of national GDP, 28% of industrial production and a third of the nation's shipping tonnage. Per capita GDP was measured at $5,100 in 2014. which was much higher than the national average of $2,052. The industries engaged in are very diverse, including such areas as agriculture, mining, processing of seafood, construction, banking, commerce and tourism. The local economy is 51% service-based, 48% forestry and agriculture and one percent "everything else." Vietnam being a Communist country, it should not be surprising to learn that 33% of the Ho Chi Minh economy is state-owned and only five percent is in the private sector. However, the big surprise is that the remainder (62%) is fueled by foreign investments.

Climate

Ho Chi Minh City's climate is classified as tropical wet and dry, meaning that it is warm all year round and divided into two distinct seasons, the wet season and the dry season, rather than spring, summer, fall and winter. The rainy season lasts from May through October, and the dry season runs from December to April.

Precipitation and Humidity

Over 1,800 mm (70 in) of rain falls during the wet season, and there are about 150 rain days per year. Wet-season months see between 200 and 300 mm (8.5 to 12.5 in) of rain on average, with the wettest month being September, which receives an average rainfall of 327.1 mm (12.9 in). Dry season months vary more in how much rainfall they see. The transitional month of November gets 117 mm (4.6 in), while the "semi-transitional" months of December and April get around 50 mm (2 in). The three driest months are: January, with 14 mm (0.5 in) of rain; February, with 4.1 mm (0.16 in); and March, with 10.5 mm (0.4 in).

Seventy percent of rain days include a thunderstorm, but rain showers usually only last for a couple hours. Most tourists visit between November and March to avoid the wet season, though it is not hard to "schedule around the raindrops" in most cases. From July to November is typhoon season, which also tends to shrink the tourist crowds.

The average humidity level averages from 78% to 82% throughout the year, but it is not uncommon for it to range from a comfortable 46% to a "very humid" 98%. Only rarely, however, does it reach 100% or drop below 36%.

Temperature, Sunshine, and Wind

The average daily mean is 28º C (82º F), and temperatures are relatively stable throughout the entire year. Average daily highs range from 31º C (87º F) in December to 34.5º C (94º F) in April. Average daily lows run from 21º C (70º F) in January to 26º C (78º F) in April. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Ho Chi Minh City is 40º C (104º F), and the lowest temperature on record is 14º C (57º F).

Ho Chi Minh City gets from 2,400 to 2,700 hours of sunlight every year. The median cloud cover ranges from 39% to 79%, and because of the city's relative nearness to the Equator, daytime hours vary little (always within 45 minutes of 12 hours). Rainy season months all get less than 200 hours of sunlight, the lowest being September, which has only 162 hours of sunshine. Dry season months all get above 200 hours of sun, the sunniest month being March, which has 272 hours.

Wind speeds, on average, range from zero to seven meters-per-second, and rarely exceed 11. This means that you typically see anything from calm to a moderate breeze but rarely a strong breeze. August is the windiest month, and both June and July are also relatively windy. Thus, summer is the best time for surfing, sailing, kite-surfing and wind-surfing.

Get in

By plane

Tan Son Nhat (Tân Sơn Nhất) (IATA: SGN | ICAO: VVTS) is Vietnam's largest international airport. There are two terminals: the shiny, pleasant international terminal which took over all international flights from 2007, and the old but functional domestic terminal 200 metres away. The airport is conveniently located about eight kilometres from the heart of the city. The international terminal used to offer duty free shopping after you landed, but that ended in early 2010 – purchase such items at the airport from which you are departing to visit Vietnam. Both terminals have limited food offerings at high prices once you pass immigration on youroutbound journey. Note that airport shops and food outlets past immigration list prices in US-Dollars, and will take your Dong at grossly unfavorable rates. Thus, do not plan on spending any leftover dong at the airport.