It is a typical question that almost every traveler visiting Vietnam may ask. Arriving in this Vietnam’s southern city, you may get confused when half of the population calls it “Ho Chi Minh City” and the other half is familiar with the name “Saigon.” The answer is that both Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon are correct.
A Brief History of Ho Chi Minh City
According to the Khmer Chronicle, Saigon was initially a small fishing harbor known as Preah Reach Nokor, which meant “Royal City” of Cambodia in the early 17th century. Due to the settlement of the Nguyen Dynasty at the end of the 1600s, this well-off land became Vietnam’s territory.
During the French colonial occupation since 1859, Saigon was The Pearl of The Far East because of its wealth and many Western-style buildings. In 1679, communities of traders from China first arrived and established a new town called Cho Lon beside Saigon, where trade flourished until 1931. These two cities remained separate as far as South Vietnam’s independence from France in 1955, and they were united right after that under the name Saigon.
Saigon – the Other Name of the City
What does Saigon mean?
The word “Saigon” first appeared in 1776 in a document of Le Quy Don, a Vietnamese scholar, but the name might have appeared long before that. There are many ways to explain the meaning of the word Saigon. One of the theories was based on the book Dai Nam Quoc Am Tu Vi of Huynh Tinh Cua. In this book, they mentioned that “Sai” means firewood, “Gon” is the name of the kapokier (a type of plant), which was very popular in the area back then. Thus, the term “Saigon” became the name of this city.
When was the city named Ho Chi Minh City?
Ho Chi Minh was the first leader of North Vietnam, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. From 1965 to 1975, Saigon functioned as the capital of The Republic of Vietnam. When the Northern Vietnamese Army gained control on April 30th, 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City to honor Uncle Ho’s sacrifice and leadership in the revolution. This country’s north and south regions could finally reunite, which brought an end to the Vietnam War.
About Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Today
People in Vietnam usually call Ho Chi Minh City “Saigon” as a habit because it is a shorter way to address the city. The “SGN” abbreviation is the code for flights from or to Ho Chi Minh City.
As if it was not confusing enough, “Saigon” differs for many locals. If the locals live in the city, they will interpret “Saigon” as “District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City”. Vietnamese from other regions will associate “Saigon” as “Ho Chi Minh City”.
Even though time flies and the name has changed, some things remain the same in this metropolis. And the easy-to-see is the scooter – the main transportation of the citizen for decades. If you want a new experience in Ho Chi Minh City, traveling on a scooter with a local guide is worth considering.
Most famous tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City are from the 19th century when the city was still called Saigon. So, even now, you will likely hear the term Saigon attractions more often on your trip; the Saigon Post Office, for instance.
Summary of Ho Chi Minh City vs Saigon: Which Name Is Correct?
The city’s name, Saigon, was adjusted to Ho Chi Minh City to mark a significant milestone in the nation’s history from 1975. But both names are still used interchangeably. Traveling to this city will still bring good memories back home because of its cultural diversity and friendly locals.