Change of names
Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t always named like this. In fact, the name of the biggest city in Vietnam has changed names many times throughout history. Before it was Saigon, it was also called Prey Nokor (“Forest City”) or Preah Reach Nokor (“Royal City”) and used to be a small fishing village of the Khmer folk. But when the Vietnamese took over, they changed the name to Gia Dinh. Later on, when the French colonized Vietnam from 1862, it changed name to Saigon. When the Vietnam war ended in 1975, the city was renamed after the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. Today, people know it as both Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City. There’s even parts in the city that informally calls it Saigon still.
It’s a cash economy
Even though Ho Chi Minh City is modern, it still thrives on cash economy, just like the rest of Vietnam. Although there’s more and more places where you can pay with card, cash is still king here. Try to convert as much money you think you’ll spend to the Vietnamese dong when you’ve landed. It can be difficult to get a hold of it outside the country. If you go to markets for example or want to buy street food, you’ll have to pay with cash. The same goes for taxis, buses and sometimes even buying tickets for night buses.
It’s a multicultural city
Many people assume that there’s only Buddhists in Vietnam, but in Ho Chi Minh City you can also find Taoism and Confucianism. What’s also more fascinating is that all three religions are practiced in the same temples. Besides these religions, you can also find Roman Catholics here, who makes up about 10% of the city’s population. There’s also other minority groups including Baha’i faith, Hindus, Protestants and Muslims.
Ho Chi Minh City has an expanding education sector
… Especially when it comes to higher education. Some of the most distinguished universities include Vietnam National University, The University of Economics and Law, The International University and the University of Technology. The city is also home to several campuses for international education institutes such as RMIT University.
You can still notice the French Influence
Just like in many parts of Vietnam, there’s still traces after the French colonized Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City has a few beautiful old French buildings such as the famous Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral that was built in the 19th century, Saigon Central Post Office, that was designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1886, the Reunification Palace, City Hall, Hotel Majestic and Municipal Theatre, which is also called Opera House.
It’s a very modern city
Not only is Ho Chi Minh City the largest city in Vietnam, it’ also one of the most modern cities in the country that has seen rapid development in the past few decades. In 2005, it accounted for 20.2% of Vietnam’s GDP and 28% of the industrial output. The rest of Vietnam may be cheap, but Ho Chi Minh City is actually Asia’s 50th most expensive city to live in. Prices for accommodation can be quite pricey, especially if you want to live the city center.
The beach is closer than you think
Living in the big city can feel stressful at times so why not hit the beach when you want to relax? Luckily, you’re never too far away from the beach if you’re in Ho Chi Minh City. It only takes about 2 hours to get to Vung Tau beach for example, or you can even jet off to Phu Quoc Island, which is also located in the south.
Coffee culture is strong
Vietnam is the second biggest exporter of coffee in the world and are known to be avid coffee drinkers themselves. The Vietnamese coffee is quite strong, but locals usually drink it with some condensed milk. You can also find other types of coffee such as the Vietnamese specialty ‘egg coffee’ or the coconut coffee. In Ho Chi Minh City, the café scene is thriving and you can find everything from local small cafés to modern, hip coffee shops.
Bui Vien is backpacker’s paradise
If you’re going to Ho Chi Minh City and want to party with both travelers and locals, you should check out Bui Vien. Many people has compared it to the infamous ‘Khao San Road’ in Bangkok because of the pubs and bars (and all the travelers).
Now when you know a few fun facts about Ho Chi Minh City, it’s time to start packing your bags and travel to Vietnam! Just remember that if you need a visa, you should apply for it in good time. You can get a visa either by applying online or going to the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate. The online visas are called ‘Visa on Arrival’ and ‘E-Visa’. Please look at the terms before deciding on which visa fits you best.