Ho Chi Minh City is a city that was once known as Prey Nokor and is the biggest city in the country of Vietnam. This city is located on the Saigon River, about thirty-seven miles from the South China Sea and one thousand miles south of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The city covers an area of eight hundred and nine miles and has a population of over seven million people. Ho Chi Minh City is a major economic center of Vietnam and it accounts for twenty percent of the Gross Domestic Product, twenty-seven percent of the industrial output and thirty-five percent of the Foreign Direct Investment in the country. In 2009, the Gross Domestic Product Per Capita in the city exceeded two thousand United States dollars as compared with the country’s average of seven hundred dollars. Ho Chi Minh City’s economy covers areas such as mining, agriculture, finance, seafood processing and tourism.
Ho Chi Minh City began its life as a fishing village named Prey Nokor. The area upon which the city is now located was once a vast swampland that was inhabited by the Khmer people for centuries before the Vietnamese arrived in the area. According to the folklore of the Khmer people, South Vietnam was given to the Vietnamese government as a dowry gift for the marriage of a Khmer prince to a Vietnamese princess. By the end of the seventeenth century, a Vietnamese noble named Nguyen Huu Canh was sent to the area to establish a Vietnamese administration, an action which cutting the area from Cambodia. Shortly after the name of the city was changed to Saigon. In 1859, the French conquered the city, and it was significantly influenced by this colonial occupation. In 1949, Emperor Bao Dai made Saigon the capital of Vietnam. When North Vietnam fell under the control of the Viet Minh, Saigon became the capital of South Vietnam in 1954. After the Vietnam War, Saigon fell under the control of the Vietnamese People’s Army, an even known in the United States as the “Fall of Saigon”. The next year, Saigon was merged with the province of Gia Dinh and Ho Chi Minh City was created. Locals, however still often refer to the city as Saigon, especially in informal contexts.
Today, Ho Chi Minh City is a beautiful city with a highly developed system of higher education. In the city are over eighty colleges and universities which have an enrollment of over four hundred thousand students. Important colleges and universities in the city include Vietnam National University at Ho Chi Minh City, The University of Sciences, University of Architecture, The University of Technology, Nong Lam University, Open University, University of Fine Art, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology at Vietnam, Saigon Institute of Technology and University of Sports and Physical Education. Ho Chi Minh City also has a developed health care system with about one hundred government owned hospitals and dozens of private clinics.
Ho Chi Minh City has a large number of attractions to attract tourists. A popular attraction in the city is the War Remnants Museum. This museum is located at 28 Vo Van Tan and contains an extensive collection of artifacts pertaining to the American portion of the Vietnam War. It was founded in 1975 and was originally known as the Museum of American War Crimes. The name was then changed to the War Crimes Museum, a name which it retained until 1994. Its current name is a reflection of the normalization of political relations between Vietnam and the United States. The War Remnants Museum has eight themed rooms that are spread over several buildings. There are also a yard where various pieces of military equipment are kept such as helicopters, jet fighters, Patton tanks and bombers. Exhibits here include the effects of Agent Orange, the use of tiger cages, napalm and various exhibits on certain battles.
Another impressive attraction in Ho Chi Minh City is the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica. This cathedral is located in the downtown area of the city and was founded by French colonist in the late nineteenth century. It contains two bell towers which are about one hundred and ninety feet high. All the materials that were used in the construction of this church came from France. In 1877, Bishop Isidore Colombert cermoniously laid the first corner stone. Over the next three years, work on the cathedral was performed at a brisk pace and by Easter of 1880, the church was completed. Fifteen years later, the two bell towers were added to the church. Each tower has six bronze bells with a combined weight of almost twenty-nine metric tons. On top of each tower was mounted crosses which were ten feet high, six feet wide and weighed around three hundred pounds each. Another attraction to see while in Ho Chi Minh City is the Municipal Theater, or Saigon Opera House as its otherwise known as. This theater was constructed in 1897 by Ferret Eugene, a French architect. It contains eight hundred seats and it was used as the Lower House of the South Vietnam assembly between 1956 and 1975. It would once again be converted back to a theater after the Vietnam War and in 1995 was fully restored.
Other attractions in the city include Saigon Tax Trade Center, Cu Chi Tunnel, Foot Massage Yuan, Cho Ben Thanh Market, La Maison de L’Apothiquaire, Reunification Palace, Ipa-nima, Saigon Central Post Office, Emperor Jade Pagoda, Dam Sen Water Park, Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam History Museum, Chinatown Ho Chi Minh City, Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater, Cao Dai Temple, Therapy Massage Ngoc Anh, Hotel de Ville, Hotel Continental, Binh Tay, Ben Nha Rong, Thien Hau Pagoda, La Cochinchine Luxury Spa, Temple of the Buddha’s Relic, Can Gio Island, Zen Plaza, Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Duc Minh Private Museum, Vinh Nghiem Temple, Dam Sen Park, Bach Dang River, Diamond Plaza, Phu Tho Racecourse, Tansonnhat International Airport, Southern Women’s Museum, Ton Duc Thang Museum, Quai Marina, Ho Chi Minh Square, Quoc Tu Pagoda and Cong Vien Van Hoa Park.