Ho Chi Minh and Surrounds
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochin-china and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam from 1955–75. South Vietnam, as an anti-communist, capitalist republic, fought against the communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, with aid from the United States and countries including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. Saigon fell when it was captured by the communists on 30 April 1975, ending the war with a Communist victory. Vietnam was then turned into a communist state with the South overtaken.
On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after Hồ Chí Minh (although the name Sài Gòn is still commonly used). The city center is situated on the banks of the Saigon River, 60 kilometers (37 mi) from the Indochine and 1,760 kilometers (1,090 mi) south of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The metropolitan area, which consists of the Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area, Thủ Dầu Một, Dĩ An, Biên Hòa and surrounding towns, is populated by more than 9,000,000 people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam. The population of the city is expected to grow to 13.9 million in 2025. The Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area, a metropolitan area covering most parts of Đông Nam Bộ plus Tiền Giang and Long An provinces under planning, will have an area of 30,000 square kilometers with a population of 20 million inhabitants by 2020.
According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Economist Intelligence Unit and ECA International, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked 132 on the list of world's most expensive cities for expatriate employees. Ho Chi Minh City is the economic center of Vietnam and accounts for a large proportion of the economy of Vietnam. Although the city takes up just 0.6% of the country's land area, it contains 8.34% of the population of Vietnam, 20.2% of its GDP, 27.9% of industrial output and 34.9% of the FDI projects in the country in 2005. In 2005, the city had 4,344,000 laborers, of whom 130,000 are over the labor age norm (in Vietnam, 60 for male and 55 for female workers). In 2009, GDP per capita reached 2,800 US$, compared to the country’s average level of $1042 USD. Today, the city center is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. Majority of these tourist spots are in District 1 and are a short leisurely distance away from each other. The most prominent structures in the city center are Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất), City Hall (Ủy ban nhân dân Thành phố), the Municipal Theatre (Nhà hát thành phố, also known as the Opera House), City Post Office (Bưu điện thành phố), State Bank Office (Ngân hàng nhà nước), City People's Court (Tòa án nhân dân thành phố) and Notre-Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà). Some of the historic hotels are the Hotel Majestic, dating from the French colonial era, and the Rex and Caravelle hotels are former hangouts for American officers and war correspondents in the 1960s/70s. It was approximated 4.3 millions tourist visited Vietnam in 2007, and 70 percent, about 3 millions came to visit Ho Chi Minh city. In 2007, the number of tourists that came to the city increased up to 12 percent compared to 2006, and the tourism industry revenue increased to 19,500 billion VND, up 20 percent.
The city has various museums, such as the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History, the Revolutionary Museum, the Museum of Southeastern Armed Forces, the War Remnants Museum, the Museum of Southern Women, the Museum of Fine Art, the Nha Rong Memorial House, and the Ben Duoc Relic of Underground Tunnels. The Củ Chi tunnels are northwest of the city in Củ Chi district. The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, in District 1, dates from 1865. Aside from the Municipal Theatre, there are other places of entertainment such as: the Bến Thành and Hòa Bình theatres and the Lan Anh Music Stage. The Đầm Sen Tourist and Cultural Park, Suối Tiên Amusement and Culture Park, and Cần Giờ's Eco beach resort are three recreational sites inside the city which are popular with tourists. Ho Chi Minh City is home to hundreds of cinemas and theatres, with cinema and dramatic ticketing revenue accounting for 60–70% of Vietnams total revenue in this industry. Unlike other dramatic teams in Vietnams provinces and municipalities, residents of Ho Chi Minh City keep their theaters active without being subsidized by the Vietnamese government. The city is home to most of the private movie companies in Vietnam. Like many of Vietnams smaller cities, the city boasts a multitude of restaurants serving typical Vietnamese dishes such as phở or rice vermicelli. Backpacking travelers most often frequent the "Western Quarter" on Phạm Ngũ Lão Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.