Ho Chi Minh City has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a small fishing village called Prey Nokor—with a population of about 7.2 million people, it is now Vietnam’s largest city. During French occupation it became Saigon, which is still commonly used by the Vietnamese and can be seen on shop signs throughout the city; in the north, however, it is strictly referred to as Ho Chi Minh City. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Gia Ðinh province and two neighboring districts were combined with Saigon to create Ho Chi Minh City, honoring the Communist leader who had died in 1969.
Ho Chi Minh City is a seamless blend of history and modern commercial energy; it is no wonder that the city’s population grows by 200,000 each year. From the enduring, narrow alleyways to the wide, historic boulevards, Ho Chi Minh City has an identity that is all its own. Historic French architecture adorns much of the city and prominent landmarks, such as Reunification Palace or Notre-Dame Cathedral, can be found in its jewel-like city center. Ho Chi Minh City’s beauty and vitality are infectious.