Ho Chi Minh City? Or Saigon? Or HCMC?
Saigon (Sài Gòn in Vietnamese) was merged with the surrounding province in 1976 and renamed Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate the reunification of north and south at the end of the Vietnam War. While Ho Chi Minh City is the new official name of the city, Saigon is still used daily by many Vietnamese, particularly in the south. Southern Vietnamese people living in the suburbs of the city often refer to their area as part of Ho Chi Minh City, while Saigon is used in reference to the urban heart and areas around District 1. This is because the surrounding provinces were not a part of Saigon before the merger and name change in 1976.
“Saigon, as it’s known to all but city officials, is Vietnam at its most dizzying: a high-octane city of commerce and culture that has driven the whole country forward with its limitless energy. It is a living organism that breathes life and vitality into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride. Saigon is a name so evocative that it conjures up a thousand jumbled images. Wander through timeless alleys to ancient pagodas or teeming markets, past ramshackle wooden shops selling silk, spices and baskets, before fast-forwarding into the future beneath sleek skyscrapers or at designer malls, gourmet restaurants and minimalist bars. The ghosts of the past live on in the churches, temples, former GI hotels and government buildings that one generation ago witnessed a city in turmoil, but the real beauty of Saigon’s urban collage is that these two worlds blend so seamlessly into one.” (Lonely Planet)
And I pretty much did nothing while I was there.
With my disappointment in Phu Quoc and knowing I was stepping on a plane the next day (for what would turn out to be 43 hours thanks to Frontier Airline’s horrendous service…), by the time I got to Ho Chi Minh City, I was pretty over travelling. It had been an incredible six weeks, but knowing I had such little time in HCMC anyway, I couldn’t get motivated to want to explore. Instead, I treated myself to a room at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza and after wandering around the city for an hour looking for a few t-shirts, I spent the rest of my time between the 16th floor rooftop pool/bar (I am a total sucker for rooftop pools/bars…) and beautiful restaurants downstairs.
It was the perfect end to that six week trip.