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Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City general informationSaigon, the second largest city in Vietnam and its economic center, is an electric and vibrant city of 8-million inhabitants. Swarms--literally--of bicycles, motorbikes, Pedi-cabs (called ‘cyclos’ in Vietnam) and other vehicles move in vast waves as if in a prearranged ballet of motion, constant animation and seeming chaos. Originally founded by the French in 1863, its now well worn French colonial veneer hints at times past while throbbing to rhythms and beats of the modern era. If only for a day, Saigon is a must see city for any visit to Vietnam.

Originally established as a Khmer trading post, more than 300 years ago, Ho Chi Minh City was destined for greater things. By the 18th century, the city, then named Saigon, had become the provincial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. However, in the second half of the 19th century, control over the city passed to the French, and Saigon became the capital of French Cochinchina. This was a period of much infrastructural and architectural development, during which Saigon earned the epithet, “Paris of the Orient.” Many buildings of this era are in good condition even today. In 1954, the city was proclaimed the capital of South Vietnam. The ensuing war with the US lasted until 1975, when North Vietnam took over Saigon and renamed it Ho Chi Minh City.

Today, under growing economic and cultural liberalization, the city has entered a period of modernization and is constantly evolving and reinventing itself. Populated by an estimated 8 million people, the city is rapidly becoming the hub of manufacturing, entertainment, and cuisine in Vietnam. Upscale restaurants and cafe  offering a range of international delicacies are opening every day, while bars, clubs, and discos are at the center of a thriving nightlife. The best place to catch the action is Dong Khoi. Attracting many tourists, the area is home to historical buildings and museums, sophisticated shops, and roadside cafes, as well as people of all ages zipping around noisily on motorbikes that often cause gridlock on the streets.

Exploring Ho chi Minh City
The most prominent area in the city is around Dong Khoi Street in District 1, boasting fashionable shops, museums, and fine dining. It also features examples of French-colonial structures, such as the Municipal Theater, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the General Post Office. To the north are sprawling residential areas and the historic Jade Emperor Pagoda, known for its exquisite architecture and ornate carvings. To the west lies Cho Lon or China Town, home to the ethnic Chinese or Hoa this is the best place to find herbs, traditional Chinese medicines, and the other goods, as well as some of the city's most ancient pagodas.

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