Like many cities
in Vietnam, Saigon did not escape the wrath of war. Since the
beginning, Saigon has had quite a traumatic
history. There are many citations to the birth of Saigon
and the origin of its name. In the 15th century, this area were swamps, marshes
and thick forests. By the early 17th century, a small township was formed.
According to one theory, Saigon or Sai Con has its root in a Khmer word Prei
Kor (Kapok Tree Forest).
In the mid 19th century, the French with the aid of the Spanish invaded this port city and destroyed the fort. This event was the precursor to the long struggle between the people of Vietnam and France leading to the historical defeat of the French in 1954. In the years after the defeat of the French, Vietnam was divided into two separate countries and Saigon became the hub of resettlement for many as people from north and central Vietnam immigrated south.
In the 60's and 70's, Saigon was bustling with commerce and business. It was the cultural center and the capital city of South Vietnam. Already heavily influenced by the French in terms of culture and style, the city had an air of a French provincial town with a Vietnamese twist. Saigon was dubbed the "Pearl of the Orient" by the foreign press. The city was alive with activities and cultural diversity that rivaled any Asian city at the time.
After the fall of South Vietnam to communism in 1975, the city and many of its inhabitants were in a state of chaos and turmoil. In 1976, the new government renamed the city Ho Chi Minh City and shut its door to the rest of the world. Although recognized world wide as Ho Chi Minh City, to the people of Vietnam, the city is still lovingly referred to as Saigon.