Traveling on the train during Tet is like Christmas travel in the US – very hectic – and of course this trip is a constant learning experience. I arrived safely in bustling Ho Chi Minh City and am glad to be stationary for the next few days. It’s hot and sunny and I can’t wait to start exploring!
Hồ Chi Minh City
Hồ Chi Minh City (HCMC aka Sài Gòn) is the largest city in Vietnam and an exciting, fast-paced center of activity and contrast. The city is on the banks of the Saigon River about 37 miles from the South China Sea and 1,090 miles south of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital.
“Gleaming skyscrapers sit side by side with ramshackle buildings and crumbling colonial houses. Monks pass deluxe car showrooms collecting alms and walk along sun-baked streets crammed with honking motorbikes. The Saigon River is constantly crossed by small boats and ferries weaving their way through larger boats.”
Some of the formidable landmarks and sites in and around Ho Chi Minh City include:
- Presidential Palace
- Binh Tay Market
- Reunification Palace
- Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
- History Museum
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Dong Khoi Street Market
- Bitexco and Sun Wah Skyscrapers
- Vung Tau, Phan Thiet, and Mui Ne Coastal Areas
- Mekong Delta
“You can see Vietnam War sites by walking part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail which was a supply route for the North Vietnamese during the war. You can’t fail to be intrigued by the network of tunnels of Cu Chi excavated by the Viet Cong and from which they launched regular attacks on US forces. For a taste of life underground tourists can take a scramble through one of the narrow tunnels, specially widened for Western visitors.”
North and South Vietnam
“Under the name Saigon, HCMC was the capital of the French colony of Cochin-china and later of the independent State of South Vietnam from 1955-75. South Vietnam, as an independent anti-communist state, fought against the communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, with aid from the United States and other countries including Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea.
April 30, 1975, Saigon fell when captured by the communists, bringing an end to the War with its enemy’s victory. Vietnam was then turned into a communist state with the South overtaken. In 1976 Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Hồ Chí Minh City after the leader Hồ Chí Minh. The name Sài Gòn is still commonly used.”
The population of the Sài Gòn / Gia Định Province metropolitan area is more than 9,000,000 and includes residents of:
- Hồ Chí Minh City
- Thủ Dầu Một
- Dĩ An
- Biên Hòa and surrounding towns
- Đông Nam Bộ
- Tiền Giang
- Long An
It is the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam and the countries of the former French Indochina. By 2020 the area will have a projected population of 20 million inhabitants.