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Ho Chi Minh City History

The city formerly known as Saigon has a bloody place in 20th century history. After becoming the capital of South Vietnam following the country’s division in the wake of the defeat of French colonialists, Saigon was the focus of much attention during America’s fight with Communist North Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was in Saigon where monk Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death in protest at the persecution of Buddhists in Catholic–controlled South Vietnam. His actions shone an international light on the country and led to the removal of President Diem. America’s war, however, was only just getting underway.

Throughout the Vietnam War, Saigon was seen as a safe hub for U.S. soldiers and government contractors. But when the city finally fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975, the gates of the Presidential Palace smashed by tanks, residents clamoured to leave with the last U.S. residents, many clinging to helicopters taking off from the roof of the American embassy.

The following year, Saigon’s name was changed to Ho Chi Minh City, named after the famed leader of the north, its status as capital city lost to Hanoi. The name Saigon, however, continues to be used by many Vietnamese to refer to the city.

There is so much more to Ho Chi Minh City than its place at the heart of the Vietnam War though. Ruled over by Chinese and Khmer settlers and colonised by the French and Spanish in the 19th century, this is a city now proud of its independence from outside powers.

Following the Vietnamese government’s 1986 policy of doi moi which saw the economy opened up over ten years after the end of the war, Ho Chi Minh City began to boom. With locals able to run their own businesses and Chinese money flowing into the city, Saigon has become one of South East Asia’s most vibrant metropolises, its skyscrapers and bustling streets a sign of this city’s will to overcome the worst adversity.

Did you know?
• The U.S. military held daily press conferences, known as ‘5pm Follies’, at the upscale Rex Hotel.
• Saigon only became one city in 1955, when it was merged with neighbouring Cholon.
Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam from 1954-1975.

Featured Hotels

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Caravelle Hotel

The Caravelle Hotel is located in the heart of the commercial and entertainment area and offers 335 large and stylish rooms. It is one of the most famous addresses in Ho Chi Minh City as it was one of the gathering places for war correspondents during the Vietnam War and the rooftop Saigon Saigon Bar is still popular for its bird's eye views of the city.

Grand Hotel

Hulking ex-Yugoslav monolith with a cavernous interior, stay at Pristina's famous Grand Hotel for a retro trip down Eastern Bloc's memory lane. Blessed with the most central location in Pristina on Nënë Tereza.

Windsor Plaza Hotel

A perfect place for those who want the comfort of a luxury hotel without the pain of paying for it. Located in Cholon, this 25-floor hotel has stunning views across the city and the rooms are large and smart with excellent facilities. The bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown surround the hotel and the hotel itself has its own shopping plaza and nightclub. On request services include airport transfers, 24-hour in-room dining, a 24-hour business centre and a 24-hour multilingual concierge.

Elios Hotel

A good-value, 3-star hotel located in the Pham Ngu Lao area, which has excellent facilities, including free wireless internet throughout. The rooms are smart and comfortable. There is a rooftop restaurant and bar with fabulous views across the city and the staff can help with tour and transport reservations.

Lavender Hotel

One of the few boutique hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, the Lavender is located behind Ben Thanh Market. As the name suggests the theme is lavender and the rooms are modern and stylish with excellent facilities. It has an excellent 8th floor restaurant and bar with outside terrace with views across the city.

Intercontinental Asiana Saigon

This hotel in Ho Chi Minh City is a new gleaming landmark with stunning views across the city and ideally placed close to the colonial Notre Dame Cathedral and the old Post Office. Its smart 305 rooms form part of the Kumho Asiana Plaza where guests can browse in the luxury retail outlets. The hotel features a refreshing outdoor swimming pool, 24-hour gym and a business centre.