City on the Sài Gòn River, near the fertile Mekong River Delta. The country's largest city.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is an important commerical and economic center, with modern port facilities.
Since the Vietnamese government initiated its doi moi, or economic renovation, policy in 1986, Ho Chi Minh City has experienced considerable growth and attracted many foreign investors. Close to half of the country's privately owned factories operate in Ho Chi Minh City. The government invested heavily in the city's infrastructure, and the city recently issued the country's first municipal bonds to finance road construction in the region. Ho Chi Minh City's principal products include processed foods such as rice, coffee, and frozen shrimp; textiles; glass, plastic, and paper goods; machinery; chemicals; and building materials.
The downtown area, still referred to as Saigon, has broad tree-lined boulevards with 19th-century colonial edifices including Notre Dame Cathedral (1883); the former Saigon City Hall, now the offices of the People's City Committee; and hotels dating from the colonial era. The city also has many religious structures including the Giac Lam Pagoda (1744); a Chinese temple known as the Emperor of Jade Pagoda (1909); and the Moriamman Hindu Temple, built at the end of the 19th century. Cholon, an old Chinese community annexed by the city in 1932, has narrow streets and crowded markets. Other points of interest in the city include the Ben Tahn market and the botanical gardens.
The city was occupied by the Annamese (Vietnamese) in the late 17th century and subsequently became an important commercial center. The French captured it in 1859, and under French rule, when it became widely known as Saigon, the city was made first the capital of the colony of Cochin China and later of all French Indochina. During World War II (1939-1945) Saigon was controlled by the Japanese. The French reestablished authority following the war, and after they agreed in 1954 to withdraw from the country, Vietnam was divided into North and South Vietnam, with Saigon becoming the capital of South Vietnam.
In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, the city was the scene at times of heavy fighting. Its population grew rapidly with the introduction of refugees, in addition to the many United States troops and officials stationed there. In 1975, at the end of the war, the North Vietnamese captured Saigon, and in 1976, when Vietnam was reunified, its name was changed to Ho Chi Minh City in honor of Ho Chi Minh, the former president of North Vietnam. When Communist forces took over the city in 1975, its population decreased as some residents fled the country and others were resettled in rural areas by the government. Businesses were nationalized, and efforts were made to reduce the city's dependence on foreign imports. New industries and businesses developed, such as furniture and carpet production, that used raw materials that could be obtained from within the country. Population (1992 estimate) 4,000,000.
The city is served by major railroads and highways and by an international airport.
Major cities near Ho Chi Minh: