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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Ho Chi Minh Travel Guide
Ho Chi Minh Travel Guide and Ho Chi Minh Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
'Through the Bamboo Curtain'

Ho Chi Minh City is still called ‘Saigon’ by locals and travellers, despite the official name change in 1975. Situated in southern Vietnam, on a huge curved part in the Saigon River, it's presently the Vietnam's business centre. The Communist government, who took power of Vietnam in 1975, suppressed the natural entrepreneurial spirit of the Saigonese. The economy declined dramatically until recovery began in the 1990s. Once again, there is a dynamic feel to the city with the people purposefully conducting business. They have embraced the opportunities offered to them due to the presence of many multinational companies that have poured in from elsewhere within the region and Europe and Australia, but the city still maintains its clearly Asian feel.

The city may not have the charm and luxury of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, but the lively streets and riverside activity make it exhilarating and thrilling. Spectacular high-rise buildings with their sparkling windows in the sunshine, tower over the shabby French colonials tucked away at their feet. Saffron-robed monks collect alms while walking past glitzy car showrooms and karaoke bars. Street children laugh happily as they shine the shoes of businessmen shouting into their mobile phones, trying to make themselves heard above the thousands of motorbikes buzzing noisily around the city.

The city has experienced 25 years of peace after decades of turmoil. Saigon was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina, present-day south Vietnam, in 1862. The French expanded and reformed the city with wide boulevards and charming architecture still in evidence at present. When they were defeated in battle in 1954 according to many years of struggle by the Vietnamese against the colonial yoke – Vietnam was divided in half. Saigon became the capital of the Republic of South Vietnam but almost instantly Communist North Vietnam, under president Ho Chi Minh, tried to overthrow the South Vietnamese government. Then the Americans arrived – bringing the ‘Vietnam War’ global notoriety – in an attempt to block a Communist takeover, but the North succeeded and in 1975 all of Vietnam came under Communist rule from Hanoi. Widespread inflation and poverty followed. Then in 1986, the government introduced doi moi, the Vietnamese equivalent of perestroika, and relaxed hold on the people allowing them to run their own businesses.

The city skyline reflects this – in the last ten years it has dramatically changed from a low-rise cityscape to one whose central area, District 1, is dotted with sparkling skyscrapers housing international hotels, companies and apartments.

The wide Saigon River curves down the city's eastern part and is the crucial link to the sea. This, including a good selection of air routes to the rest of Asia and beyond, has enticed capitalists in industries which include oil, gas, textiles, marine products and agriculture. Tourism is currently a huge earner for the government, up-lifted by a 20% increase in arrivals in 2000 and additional 10% in 2001 to 2.3 million. This is bettered by the climate, since Ho Chi Minh City is an all year-round destination and even the hard rains of the rainy season (May to October) end in a couple of hours, when the sun shines again and the city feels refreshed.
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