Ho Chi Minh City
Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
|— Centrally-governed city —|
|Top: Ho Chi Minh City skyline;Ben Thanh Market
Bottom: City Hall; view from Reunification Palace
|Nickname(s): Paris in the Orient, the Pearl of the Orient, the Pearl of the Far East|
|Location in Vietnam and Southern Vietnam|
|- Total||dunams (2,095 km2 / 809.23 sq mi)|
|Population (Census April 1, 2009)|
|- Total||7,162,864 (1st in Vietnam)|
|- Urban density|
|- Rural density|
|- Metro density|
|Area code(s)||+84 (8)|
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh pronunciation (help·info)), also known as Saigon (Vietnamese: Sài Gòn pronunciation (help·info)) is the largest city in Vietnam. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer sea port prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century.
Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent state of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. In 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Hồ Chí Minh City (although the name Sài Gòn—formally known as District 1—is still commonly used.)
The metropolitan area, which consists of the Hồ Chí Minh City metropolitan area, Thủ Dầu Một, Dĩ An, Biên Hòa and surrounding towns, is populated by more than 9 million people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam and the countries of the former French Indochina. The Greater Ho Chi Minh City Metropolitan Area, a metropolitan area covering most parts of Đông Nam Bộ plus Tiền Giang and Long An provinces under planning will have an area of 30,000 square kilometers with a population of 20 million inhabitants by 2020. According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Economist Intelligence Unit and ECA International, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked 69th on the list of world's most expensive cities and the 3rd most expensive city of South-East Asia (after Singapore and Hanoi).
After Prey Nokor was settled by Vietnamese refugees from the north, in time it came to be known unofficially as Sài Gòn. There is much debate about the origins of the Vietnamese name, Sài Gòn, the etymology of which is analyzed below.
However, before the French colonization the official Vietnamese name of Saigon was Gia Định (Chữ Nôm: 嘉定). In 1862, the French discarded this official name and adopted the name "Saigon", which had always been the popular name, although it was still written as 嘉定 on sinitic maps until at least 1891.
The Vietnamese name, Sài Gòn, is sometimes written in two words, which is the traditional convention in Vietnamese spelling. However, the name is sometimes written as “SaiGon” or “Saigon” in order to save space or give it a more Westernized look.
A frequently heard, and reasonable, explanation is that Sài is a Chinese loanword (Chinese: 柴, pronounced chái in Mandarin) meaning “firewood, lops, twigs; palisade”, while Gòn is another Chinese loanword (Chinese: 棍, pronounced gùn in Mandarin) meaning “stick, pole, bole”, and whose meaning evolved into “cotton” in Vietnamese (bông gòn, literally “cotton stick”, i.e., “cotton plant”, then shortened to gòn).
Another explanation is that the etymological meaning “twigs” (sài) and “boles” (gòn) refers to the dense and tall forest that once existed around the city, a forest to which the Khmer name, Prey Nokor, already referred.