Officially called Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh, the city changed its name from Saigon in 1975 following the fall of South Vietnam to the North. The downtown region of Ho Chi Minh (district 1) is still known as Saigon and many of the locals stubbornly continue to refer to the whole city by its previous name.
Located on the banks of the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam with an estimated population of over 6.5 million. Sometimes it can feel far more than that, especially as you try to cross the road in the middle of rush hour, but however frenetic the city can be, it still retains a wonderfully relaxed colonial feel and the lasting heritage and beauty of an ancient culture. Tree lined avenues and some timeless examples of French colonial architecture now rub shoulders with modern skyscrapers and trendy new shopping malls as this cosmopolitan city strives to establish itself as a major player in SE Asia.
Day trips from Ho Chi Minh include a fascinating, and potentially harrowing visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels in Tay Ninh. Home to the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War it is now possible to crawl through the (now widened) tunnels and learn some of the techniques used by the VC during the conflict.
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