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City Statistics

Location: Situated on the Saigon River in southern Vietnam.
Country dialling code: 84.
Population: 5.6 million (metropolitan area).
Ethnic mix: 80% Viet, 20% ethnic Chinese.
Religion: 60% Buddhist, 8% Catholic; the remainder being a mix of Protestant, Confucian, Taoist, Islam, Hindu and Caodai.
Time zone: GMT + 7 (GMT + 6 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz; round two-pin plugs are standard.
Average January temp: 27°C (81°F).
Average July temp: 29°C (84?F).
Annual rainfall: 1983mm (78 inches).

Geography And Climate

Ho Chi Minh City (former Sai Gon) is situated by the Sai Gon River in the centre of the Cuu Long delta and the Southeastern part of South Vietnam. The city is located 1725 km south of Hanoi and 50 km west of the Eastern Sea.

Ho Chi Minh City has 12 km of coastline. The port of Sai Gon was built in 1862. At present, it is accessible to 50,000 tone vessels, which is one of its advantages.

Ho Chi Minh City is a century old city. From this city, highways run to all Southern provinces. The terminal station of the trans-Vietnam railway is located in Ho Chi Minh City. The city is also a cluster of hundreds of small rivers and channels watering the Cuu Long delta. Tan Son Nhat airport is the largest and most important airport of Vietnam, located 7km from the city.

The climate in Ho Chi Minh City is distinctively seasonal. The dry season lasts from November to April, when there is much sunshine and dry wind. The average temperature is 26°C. The rainy season begins in May and ends in October characterized by sudden heavy rains. The average temperature is 29°C. In general, the climate of Ho Chi Minh City is tropical, it is hot but mild thanks to the sea. Humidity is 80%, low when compared with other regions of the country.


Some 300 years ago, at the beginning of the 17th century, the Vietnamese fleeing the insecurity resulting from the continuous wars between the two rival families, the Nguyen and the Trinh lords, came and settled in the Mekong Delta. They cleared new lands, which became Gia Dinh province at the beginning of the 19th century. On a bank of the Ben Nghe River there appeared an urban centre, Ben Nghe, including a big market, Cho Lon, and a street, Sai Gon. It was the embryo of the present city of Sai Gon-Cho Lon.

In 1790, the citadel of Gia Dinh (Saigon) was built. It was razed to the ground after an unsuccessful rebellion against the king. Another citadel of minor importance was built. In 1859, with the support of the population, the royal troops resisted French aggression for two months, entrenching themselves inside the citadel. When the latter was destroyed by the enemy, the royal troops built the big post at Chi Hoa, which was soon overrun. In spite of the capitulation of the Court of Hue, the Saigonese population rose up against the invaders and supported the resistance put up by such patriots as Truong Dinh and Ho Xuan Nghiep.

Nam Ky (Cochinchina) and Saigon were the scene of seething patriotic movements at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Many patriots took part in the Dong Du movement. They went to Japan in search of a way for national liberation. Others joined the Viet Nam Quang Phu Hoi (Association for the Restoration of Vietnam).

Secret societies with mystical character such as Thien Dia Hoi (Heaven and Earth Society) made their appearance. In 1916, the members of Thien Dia Hoi attacked the Residence of the Nam Ky Governor and the Saigon Central Prison. The insurrection was stamped out.

After the World War I, political parties and groupings with a bourgeois democratic tendency saw the light of day. New forms of struggle appeared: attacks on the colonial power in the press, strikes in factories and markets, demonstrations to demand democratic liberties.

The campaign demanding an amnesty for the patriot Phan Boi Chau (1925) and the unrest accompanying and funeral ceremony of the patriot Phan Chu Trinh (1926) had a powerful impact on the people of Saigon.

In 1930, the Indochinese Communist Party was founded with strong support and many bases in Saigon. Its Central Committee was headquartered in the city itself.

In the years 1930-35, during an ebb of the revolutionary tide, there were nonetheless continuous demonstrations and strikes in factories and markets in Saigon.

From 1936 to 1939 a powerful democratic movement spread all over the country, Saigon played a leading role. From 1937 onwards, the workers and other sections of the population carried on a struggle for the convening of an Indochinese Congress, a kind of "States-General", to express their demands.

The World War II broke out. France surrendered to the German fascists. Vietnamese patriots were repressed. War broke out between the French and the Thai. Preparations were made by the ICP for launching an insurrection. Many Vietnamese serving in the French colonial army were won over to the national cause. In November 1940, local leaders of the Party, under pressure from patriots, gave the order for an insurrection to be launched on the 23rd of that month all over Nam Ky with Saigon as the epicenter. But the revolt was nipped in the bud. In Saigon the insurrection never got under way while in the provinces, the masses rose up. Eventually, the uprising failed.

Militants who were able to avoid repression, prisoners who escaped from the penal settlements and new Party members set to work to rebuild the revolutionary bases in Saigon. The Party Central Committee instructed the leaders of Saigon to accelerate the building up of their forces for a general insurrection under the leadership of the Viet Minh throughout the country. The Vietnam Trade Union Federation (in Nam Ky) was established with more than 300 grassroots organizations in Saigon alone. Through the agency of the progressive intellectuals who were leading the Thanh Nien Tien Phong (Vanguard Youth), the Party leaders in Saigon were able to take that important organization in hand, educating it and directing it toward resistance against Japanese fascism and French colonialism. On August 25, 1945, the seizure of power in Saigon was rapidly effected, one week after the victory of the revolution in Hanoi.

Helped by the British, the French colonialists came back to South Vietnam. As early as September 23, 1945, the Resistance Committee of the Saigon-Cholon Region was set up. It issued an order for non-collaboration with the colonialists and called on the townspeople to unite in resistance. Barricades were erected. In December, a French Expeditionary corps landed in Saigon, broke through our encirclement and penetrated into the provinces where the revolutionary forces had built up their resistance bases.

On December 19, 1946, resistance spread throughout Vietnam. The battle of Saigon had now grown into a general struggle waged all over the country from North to South. At the end of 1948, the Military Command of Saigon-Cholon was set up. Its bold and ingenious armed actions provided the backing for the struggle of the townspeople particularly workers and students. On January 12, 1950, 500,000 people took part in the funeral of the student Tran Van On, killed by the police. On March 19, half a million people demonstrated to demand the departure of two U.S. warships, which had called at Saigon to intimidate the resistance. After 1950, especially after their bitter defeat along the Vietnam-China border, the French stepped up repression. But the many-faceted struggle put up by the people of Saigon was continually marked by remarkable feats of arms (in June 1959, destruction of one million litres of petrol and 100,000 tonnes of arms and ammunition, etc.).

The Americans relieved the French. Washington worked hard to turn Saigon into the most important and best fortified bastion of U.S. neocolonialism. The city became a giant military complex with Tan Son Nhat airbase, the motorway from Saigon to Bien Hoa, the naval base, the Nha Be storage complex. It had all the typical attributes of a neo-colonialist economy: an industry completely dependent on foreigners, finance and commerce grafted on U.S. aid and a consumer society flooded with American and other Western products.

But Saigon remained the main theatre of the South Vietnamese people's struggle against the Americans. As early as August 1, 1954, 50,000 people took to the streets to voice their aspirations for peace, independence and national reunification. The Peace Movement was set up, followed by the movement for North-South consultations with a view to general elections. In co-ordination with armed popular uprising from 1959 onward, Saigon waged a large-scale campaign against the dictatorship of Ngo Dinh Diem. The slogans put forward by the National Front for Liberation (founded in 1960) helped rally broad forces.

Washington intensified its armed intervention by launching the Special war (1961). In the wake of the workers' movement, the struggle of the Saigon population, with students as the motivating force, gained in strength. In May 1963, a new stage began with the struggle launched by Buddhists. In June, the monk Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death in the heart of Saigon. In November, Ngo Dinh Diem fell. The military and civilian dictators who came after him could not control the situation in Saigon (in 1964, tens of thousands of demonstrators seized Saigon Radio, attacked the U.S. aircraft-carrier Card, and Nguyen Van Troi, a young electrician attempted on the life of Mc Namara).

In 1965, the Pentagon embarked upon the Limited war, sending half a million GI's to South Vietnam. The Thieu-Ky puppet administration proclaimed a state of war. Workers, students and intellectuals struggled for the defense of national culture and independence. On April 7, 1966, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated. Commando actions increased (attacks on Tan Son Nhat and shelling of the parade ground as a military parade was taking the place in front of the Independence Palace).

On the Tet of 1968, helped by the population, the Liberation Armed Forces mounted attacks right in the heart of the city, putting out of action 47,000 enemy troops.

Nixon's policy of Vietnamization of the war did not fare any better. Saigon seethed with patriotic anger in spite of gradual withdrawal of the GI's. In 1971, a front against the U.S. and Thieu, broader and more united than ever, was formed during the parliamentary and presidential elections. Thieu found no other way out than to increase the reactionary nature of his regime. Under pressure of public opinion, Thieu was forced to agree to the signing of the Paris Agreement, although with the intention of sabotaging it later.

To put an end to the protracted war waged by Thieu and the USA, the Liberation Forces launched in the spring of 1975 a big offensive which - supported by popular uprisings - led to the liberation of Saigon and South Vietnam as a whole. Buon Me Thuot (Tay Nguyen Plateaus), Hue, Da Nang, Quang Ngai, Nha Trang, and Da Lat fell in less than one month. On March 28, General Wayand, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, came to Saigon to plan the setting up of a new line from Phan Rang to Can Tho to cover the capital and the whole Mekong Delta. In spite of stubborn resistance, the key position of Xuan Loc was stormed, Phan Rang, Phan Thiet were captured and the Eastern Front broken (April 14 to 25). Highways leading to Saigon were cut off.

On April 30, 1975, at 11.30 a.m., the flag of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam was hoisted atop the Presidential Palace.

On June. 2, 1976, the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam solemnly gave Saigon the name of Ho Chi Minh City.

Tourist Spots

Not only a commercial centre, Ho Chi Minh City is also one of the most important tourist zones of Vietnam. Tourists may start their travels from Ho Chi Minh City to the Cuu Long delta with vast paddy fields and peaceful villages on both sides of channels overshadowed by coconut canopies. These channels may lead tourists to floating markets or to their remote mangrove forests in the southernmost part of the country. Other beautiful landscapes are the Thap Muoi field with natural birds sanctuaries, the Phu Quoc island or the beaches at Vung Tau. If going north, tourists will reach Da Lat that is next to the large basalt Central Highlands.

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