Saigon Hotel Vietnam Accommodation - Ho Chi Minh Guide  
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Saigon Hotel Vietnam Accommodation - Ho Chi Minh Guide

Ho Chi Minh City is still more commonly referred to as ‘Saigon’ by locals and visitors alike, despite the official change of name in 1975. Located in the south of Vietnam, on a huge bend in the Saigon River, it is now the economic centre of the country. The Communist government, who took control of the whole of Vietnam in 1975, tried to suppress the natural entrepreneurial tendencies of the Saigonese and the city went through the economic doldrums until recovery started in the 1990s. Once again, there is a dynamic feel to the city with the population purposefully going about its business. The people have embraced the opportunities offered to them as a result of the presence of the many multinational companies that have poured in from elsewhere within the region and from Australia and Europe, but the city has still managed to retain its distinctly Asian feel.

Ho Chi Minh City may not have the charm and elegance of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, but there is something invigorating and intoxicating about the bustling streets and waterside activity. Dramatic high-rise buildings, their windows sparkling in the sunshine, dominate the shabby French colonial ones that are tucked away at their feet, while saffron-robed monks collecting alms walk past glitzy car showrooms and karaoke bars. Street children laugh constantly as they shine the shoes of businessmen shouting into their mobile phones, trying to make themselves heard above the cacophony of the thousands of motorbikes buzzing around the city.

Ho Chi Minh City has enjoyed 25 years of peace following decades of unrest. Saigon became the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina, the southern part of present-day Vietnam, in 1862. The French extended and rebuilt the city with broad boulevards and graceful architecture still in evidence today. When they were finally defeated in battle in 1954 following many years of struggle by the Vietnamese against the colonial yoke –Vietnam was divided into two. Saigon became the capital of the Republic of South Vietnam but almost immediately Communist North Vietnam, under the leadership of its president, Ho Chi Minh, began an attempt to overthrow the South Vietnamese government. The Americans stepped in – bringing the ‘Vietnam War’ global notoriety – in an attempt to prevent a Communist takeover, but the North succeeded in 1975 and the whole of Vietnam came under Communist rule from Hanoi. Massive inflation and poverty followed until 1986 when the government introduced doi moi, the Vietnamese equivalent of perestroika, relaxing its hold on the people and allowing them to run their own businesses.

The skyline of the city reflects this – as it has changed dramatically within the last ten years from a low-rise cityscape to one whose central area, District 1, is dotted with glittering skyscrapers housing international hotels, apartments and companies. The wide Saigon River meanders through the east of the city and is the all-important link to the sea. This, as well as the range of air routes to the rest of Asia and beyond, has attracted investors in industries such as oil, gas, textiles, agriculture and marine products. Tourism is now a big earner of hard currency for the government, boosted by a 20% increase in arrivals in 2000 and another 10% in 2001 to 2.3 million. This is helped by the climate, as Ho Chi Minh City is an all year-round destination and even the violent rainfalls of the rainy season (May to October) are over in a couple of hours, when the sun shines again and the city feels refreshed.


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