Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Sai Gon or by the abbreviations HCMC or HCM, is the biggest city in Vietnam. Under the name Sai Gon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the Republic Of Vietnam (South Vietnam) from 1954 to 1975. In 1976, Sai Gon merged with the surrounding province of Gia Dinh and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City. However, the name Sai Gon - formally known as District 1 - is still used commonly.
Today, the city's core is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. The most prominent structures in the city center are Reunification Palace, City Hall, Municipal Theatre, City Post Office, State Bank Office, City People's Court and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Some of the historic hotels are the Hotel Majestic, dating from the French colonial era, and the Rex Hotel, Caravelle Hotel some former hangouts for American officers and war correspondents in the 1960s and 1970s.
With a big population now, Ho Chi Minh City is in need of vast increase in public infrastructure. To meet this need, the city and central governments have embarked on an effort to develop new urban centers.
Ho Chi Minh City is the most important economic center in Vietnam as it accounts for a high proportion of Vietnam's economy. Ho Chi Minh City plays an important driving impetus of economy of Vietnam.
The economy of Ho Chi Minh City covers different fields, from mining, seafood processing, agriculture, construction to tourism, finance, industry, trading. The consumption demand of Ho Chi Minh City is much higher than other provinces and municipalities of Vietnam, 1.5 times higher than that of Ha Noi.
About 300,000 businesses, including many large enterprises, are involved in high-tech, electronic, processing and light industries, also in construction, building materials and agro-products. Also crude oil is a popular economic base in Ho Chi Minh City. Investors are still pouring money into the city.
There are 171 medium and large scale markets, several supermarket chains, shopping malls, fashion, and beauty centers. Additional malls and shopping plazas are being developed within the city. Over 50 banks with hundreds of branches and about 20 insurance companies are also located inside the city. The first stock exchange in Vietnam was opened in the city in 2001.
Ho Chi Minh City is home to hundreds of cinemas and theatres, with cinema and dramatic ticketing revenue accounts for 60-70% of Vietnam’s total revenue in this industry. Unlike other dramatic teams in Vietnam’s provinces and municipalities, those in Ho Chi Minh City live on their own income and keep their theaters active everyday, and are not subsidized by the Vietnamese government. The city is home to most of the private movie companies in Vietnam.