|Location: SouthernArea: 2,095 km2
Ethnicities: Kinh, Khmer, Hoa
|Calling code: 067 |
|Town and Districts|
|Urban districts:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 11, 12, Tan Binh, Binh Thanh, Phu Nhuan, Thu Duc, Go Vap, Binh Tan,Tan Phu. Suburban districts: Nha Be, Can Gio, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi, Binh Chanh. |
|General Information |
|Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, lies between the Mekong Delta and South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City is located at 10o45'N, 106o40'E in the southeastern region of Vietnam, 1,760 km (1,094 miles) south of Hanoi. The average elevation is 19 meters (63 feet) above sea level. It borders Tay Ninh and Binh Duong provinces to the north, Dong Nai and Ba Ria - Vung Tau provinces to the east, Long An Province to the west and the South China Sea to the south with a coast of 20 km in length. The city covers an area of 2,095 km2 (809 sq. mi) (0.63% of the surface of Vietnam), extending up to Cu Chi (20 km from the Cambodian border), and down to Can Gio on the East Sea coast. The distance from the northernmost point (Phu My Hung Commune, Cu Chi District) to the southernmost one (Long Hoa Commune, Can Gio District) is 120 km, and from the easternmost point (Long Binh Ward, District Nine) to the westernmost one (Binh Chanh Commune, Binh Chanh District) is 46 km. |
Ho Chi Minh City began as a small fishing village known as Prey Nokor. The area that the city now occupies was originally swampland, and was inhabited by Khmer people for centuries before the arrival of the Vietnamese.
In 1623, King Chey Chettha II of Cambodia (1618-1628) allowed Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Trinh-Nguyen civil war in Vietnam to settle in the area of Prey Nokor, and to set up a custom house at Prey Nokor. Increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers, which the Cambodian kingdom, weakened because of war with Thailand, could not impede, slowly Vietnamized the area. In time, Prey Nokor became known as Saigon.
In 1698, Nguyen Huu Canh, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyen rulers of Hue to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the area, thus detaching the area from Cambodia, which was not strong enough to intervene. He is often credited with the expansion of Saigon into a significant settlement. A large Vauban citadel called Gia Dinh has been built, which was later destroyed by the French over the Battle of Chi Hoa.
Conquered by France in 1859, the city was influenced by the French during their colonial occupation of Vietnam, and a number of classical western-style buildings in the city reflect this. So much so that Saigon was called "the Pearl of the Far East" (Hon Ngoc Vien Dong) or "Paris in the Orient" (Paris Phuong Dong).
In 1954, the French were defeated by the Communist Viet Minh in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and withdrew from Vietnam. Rather than recognizing the Communists as the new government, they gave their backing to a government established by Emperor Bao Dai. Bao Dai had set up Saigon as his capital in 1950. At that time Saigon and the city of Cholon (Cho Lon), which was inhabited primarily by Vietnamese Chinese, were combined into one administrative unit, called the Capital of Saigon (Do Thanh Sai Gon in Vietnamese). When Vietnam was officially partitioned into North Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam), the southern government, led by President Ngo Dinh Diem, retained Saigon as its capital.
At the conclusion of the Vietnam War, on April 30, 1975, the city came under the control of the Vietnam People's Army. In the U.S. this event is commonly called the "Fall of Saigon," while the communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam call it the "Liberation of Saigon."
In 1976, upon the establishment of the unified communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the city of Saigon (including Cholon), the province of Gia Dinh and 2 suburban districts of two other nearby provinces were combined to create Ho Chi Minh City in honour of the late communist leader Ho Chi Minh. The former name Saigon is still widely used by many Vietnamese, especially in informal contexts. Generally, the term Saigon refers only to the urban districts of Ho Chi Minh City. The word "Saigon" can also be found on shop signs all over the country, even in Hanoi. In terms like "Saigon Fashion" or "Saigon Style" the word "Saigon" is employed to connote chicness and modernity.
Today, the city's core is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. The most prominent structures in the city center are Reunification Hall, City Hall, City Theater, City Post Office, Revolutionary Museum, State Bank Office , City People's Court and Notre-Dame Cathedral .
Ho Chi Minh City is home to a well-established ethnic Chinese population. Cholon, now known as District 5 and the parts of Districts 6, 10 and 11, serves as its Chinatown.
With a population now exceeding 7 million , Ho Chi Minh City is in need of vast increase in public infrastructure. To meet this need, the city and central governments have embarked on an effort to develop new urban centers. The two most prominent projects are the Thu Thiem city center in District 2 and the Phu My Hung New City Center in District 7 where various international schools such as Saigon South International, the Japanese school, Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Taiwan and Korea schools are located.
Traditional Vietnamese Name
The Vietnamese name of Saigon was Gia Dinh before French colonization. In 1862, the French discarded this official name and adopted "Saïgon", which had always been popular as Sai Gon. From an orthographic point of view, the Vietnamese name Sai Gon is written in two words, which is the traditional convention in Vietnamese spelling. Some people, however, write the name of the city as Sai Gon or Saigon in order to save space or give it a more westernized look.
The population of Ho Chi Minh City, as of the October 1, 2004 Census, was 6,117,251 (of which 19 inner districts had 5,140,412 residents and 5 suburban districts had 976,839 inhabitants). In the middle of 2005 the city's population was estimated to be 6,239,938 (of which 19 inner districts had 5,240,516 residents and 5 suburban districts had 999,422 inhabitants), or about 7.4% of the total population of Vietnam; making it the highest population-concentrated city in the country. As an administrative unit, its population is also the largest at the provincial level. As the largest economic and financial hub of Vietnam, HCMC has attracted more and more immigrants from other Vietnamese provinces in recent years; therefore, its population is growing rapidly. From 1999 - 2004, the city population has increased by about 200,000 people per year.
The majority of the population are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) at about 90%. Other ethnic minorities include Chinese (Hoa) with 8%, (the largest Chinese community in Vietnam) and other minorities (Khmer, Cham, Nung, Rhade) 2%. The inhabitants of Ho Chi Minh City are usually known as "Saigonese" in English, "Saigonnais" in French and "Dan Sai Gon" in Vietnamese.
The Kinh speak Vietnamese with their respective regional accents: Southern (about 50%), Northern (30%) and Central Vietnam (20%); while the Hoa speak Cantonese, Teochew (Chaozhou), Hokkien, Hainanese and Hakka dialects of Chinese (only a few speak Mandarin Chinese). A varying degree of English is spoken especially in the tourism and commerce sectors where dealing with foreign nationals is a necessity, so English has become a de facto second language for some Saigonese.
According to some researchers the religious breakup in HCMC is as follows: Buddhism (all sects) 50%, Roman Catholic 12%, Protestant 2%, others (Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, Islam, Hinduism) 2%, and no religion or unknown 34%.
Ho Chi Minh City is the most important economic center in Vietnam. Some 300,000 businesses, including many large enterprises, are involved in high-tech, electronic, processing and light industries, also in construction, building materials and agro-products. Currently, the city has 15 industrial parks (IP) and export-processing zones (EPZ), in addition to the Quang Trung Software Park and the Sai Gon Hi-tech Park (SHTP). There are 171 medium and large scale markets, tens of supermarket chains, dozens of luxury shopping malls and many modern fashion or beauty centers. Over 50 banks with hundreds of branches and about 20 insurance companies are situated inside the city. The first Stock Exchange of Vietnam was opened in the city in 2001.
In 2005, the city's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at USD 11.6 billion, or about USD 1,850 per capita, (up 12.2% on 2004) and accounting for 20% GDP of the country. The GDP calculating Parity Purchasing Power method (PPP), attained USD 56 billion, or about USD 8,900 per capita (approximately 3.5 times higher than the country's average). The city's Industrial Product Value was USD 5.6 billion, equivalent to 30% of the whole nation. Export - Import Turnover through HCMC ports took USD 29 billion, or 40% of the national total. Ho Chi Minh City has also contributed about 30% to the national budget's revenue annually.
The higher education in Ho Chi Minh City is quite developed, concentrating about 50 universities and colleges with a total of over 300,000 students in such places as: HCMC National University with 35,000 students, the most important university in the Southern Region, consisting of 6 main member schools: The University of Natural Sciences (formerly Saigon College of Sciences); The University of Social Sciences and Humanities (formerly Saigon College of Letters); The University of Polytechnic (formerly Phu Tho National Institute of Technology); The International University, Faculty of Economics and the newly-established University of Information Technology.
Some other important higher education establishments include: HCMC University of Pedagogy, University of Economics, University of Architecture, University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Nong Lam University (formerly University of Agriculture and Forestry), University of Law, University of Technical Education, University of Banking, University of Transport, University of Industry, Open University, University of Sports and Physical Education, University of Fine Art, University of Culture and the Conservatory of Music.
The health care system of the city is relatively developed with a chain of about 80 publicly owned hospitals or medical centers and dozens of privately owned clinics. These establishments are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment. The 1,400 bed Cho Ray Hospital, upgraded by Japanese aid and the French-sponsored Institute of Cardiology, are among the top medical facilities in Indochina. The Hoa Hao Medical Diagnosis Center (Medic) and FV Hospital have recently attracted many clients, including foreigners, because of their good quality of service and modern equipment. Patients come from cities in nearby provinces and Cambodia as well.