Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named and still informally known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam by population. Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam 1955–75. On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after revolutionary leader Hồ Chí Minh (although the name Sài Gòn is still widely used).
The current official name, Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, adopted in 1976 and abbreviated Tp. HCM, is translated as Ho Chi Minh City, abbreviated HCMC. The name commemorates Ho Chi Minh, the first leader of North Vietnam. This name, though not his given name, was one he favored throughout his later years.
Ho Chi Minh location
Ho Chi Minh City is located in the south-eastern region of Vietnam, 1,760 km (1,090 mi) south of Hanoi. The average elevation is 19 m above sea level. It borders Tây Ninh Province, Bình Dương Province, Đong Nai Province, Ba Ria–Vung Tau Province, Long An Province and the East Sea to the south with a coast 15 km (9 mi) long. The city covers an area of 2,095 km2 (0.63% of the surface of Vietnam), extending up to Cu Chi District (12 mi or 19 km from the Cambodian border) and down to Cần Giờ on the South China Sea.
Sai Gon – Capital of the Republic of Vietnam
The Viet Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945 after a combined occupation by Vichy France and Japan, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. The Viet Minh-held sections of Vietnam were more concentrated in rural areas. Following the death of Franklin Roosevelt and the abandonment of anti-colonialist policies the U.S. supported France in regaining its control over the country, with effective control spanning mostly in the Southern half and parts of the Red River Delta region like Hanoi, Haiphong and Thái Bình.
Former Emperor Bảo Đại made Saigon the capital of the State of Vietnam in 1949 with himself as head of state. In 1954, the Geneva Agreement partitioned Vietnam along the 17th parallel (Ben Hai River), with the communist Việt Minh, under Ho Chi Minh, gaining complete control of the northern half of the country, while the Saigon government continued to govern the State of Vietnam which continued in the southern half of the country and the southern half gaining independence from France. The State officially became the Republic of Vietnam when Bảo Đại was deposed by his Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm in 1955 in the referendum. Saigon and Cholon, an adjacent city with mostly Sino-Vietnamese residents, were combined into an administrative unit known as the Capital City Saigon, or National Capital Saigon. South Vietnam was a capitalist and anti-communist state which fought against the communist North Vietnamese and their allies during the Vietnam War, with the assistance of the United States and other countries. On 30 April 1975, Saigon fell and the war ended.
Ho Chi Minh City is a municipality at the same level as Vietnam’s provinces, which is subdivided into 24 district-level sub-divisions. There are 5 rural districts: Cu Chi, Hoc Mon, Binh Chanh, Nha Be, Can Gio, and 19 urban districts.
The population of Ho Chi Minh City
Now about 9-11 million people. As an administrative unit, its population is also the largest at the provincial level. The majority of the population are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) at about 93.52%. Ho Chi Minh City’s largest minority ethnic group are the Chinese (Hoa) with 5.78%. Cholon – in District 5 and parts of Districts 6, 10 and 11 – is home to the largest Chinese community in Vietnam.
The inhabitants of Ho Chi Minh City are usually known as “Saigonese”. The Hoa (Chinese), in addition, speak a number of varieties of Chinese, including Cantonese, Teochew (Chaozhou), Hokkien, Hainanese and Hakka; only a few speak Mandarin Chinese.
The three most prevalent religions in Ho Chi Minh City are Mahayana Buddhism with Taoism and Confucianism (via ancestor worship), which are often celebrated together in the same temple, the Vietnamese and Han Chinese are strongly influenced by these traditional religious practices. There is a sizeable community of Roman Catholics (about 10% of the city’s population). Other minority groups include: Hòa Hảo, Cao Đài, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, and members of the Bahá’í Faith.
Flight to/from Ho Chi Minh City
The city is served by Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the largest airport in Vietnam in terms of passengers handled (with an estimated number of over 20 million passengers per year in 2016, 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 Thanh District, Dong Nai Province, about 40 km (25 mi) east of Ho Chi Minh City, Long Thanh Airport will serve international flights, with a maximum traffic capacity of 100 million passengers per year when fully completed; Tan Son Nhat Airport will serve domestic flights.
Transportation in Ho Chi Minh City
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 meters, although it is also common to agree on a price before taking a long trip, for example, from the airport to the city centre. Public buses run on many routes and tickets can be purchased on the bus. For short trips, “xe om” (literally, “hug vehicle”) motorcycle taxis are available throughout the city, usually congregating at a major intersection. 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 approximately 340,000 cars and 3.5 million motorcycles in the city, which is almost double compared with Hanoi. The growing number of cars tend to cause gridlock and contribute to air pollution. The government has called out motorcycles as the reason for the congestion and has developed plans to reduce the number of motorcycles and to improve public transport.
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 2019. This first line will connect Ben Thanh to Suoi Tien Park in District 9, with a depot in Long Binh. Planners expect the route to serve fewer than 160,000 passengers daily. A line between Ben Thanh and Tham Luong in District 12 has been approved by the government, and several more lines are currently the subject of feasibility studies.
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