Where does the name Saigon come from?

Sai Gon is the very old name of the city. It was first used in 1776 by the Vietnamese people who lived here. For 200 years, this name was widely accepted and recognized. But in 1975, everything changed. That was the year when the Vietnam War ended and the communist government took over the whole country. They decided to rename the city after their leader, Ho Chi Minh, who had died six years earlier.

ho chi minh city or saigon

The old Saigon

The history

So, who is Ho Chi Minh? He was a revolutionary figure who fought for Vietnam’s independence from foreign powers. He was born in 1890 and at the age of 21, he left Vietnam to travel the world and learn how to free his country from colonialism. He worked as a cook on a cruise ship and visited many countries, including France, England, America, China, and Russia. He also joined various political movements and adopted different names to avoid being caught by his enemies.

ho chi minh city or saigon

The great leader of Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh

In 1941, he returned to Vietnam and led a resistance movement against the Japanese, who had occupied the country during World War II. With the help of the Soviet Union and China, he defeated the Japanese and declared Vietnam’s independence in September 1945. But his struggle was not over yet. The French, who had colonized Vietnam for almost a century, refused to give up their claim and tried to regain control. Ho Chi Minh and his army, called the Viet Cong, fought against the French for nine more years until they finally surrendered in 1954 after a decisive battle in Dien Bien Phu.

ho chi minh city or saigon

Dien Bien Phu battle

However, Vietnam was not united as one country. Under the influence of the Cold War, it was divided into two parts at the 17th parallel: North Vietnam, which was communist and supported by China and the Soviet Union, and South Vietnam, which was democratic and backed by the United States and its allies.

The two sides soon clashed over their different ideologies and visions for the future of Vietnam. The United States sent a lot of money, weapons, and military advisors to help the South Vietnamese government, but the North Vietnamese were still winning. In 1965, the United States decided to escalate the war and sent its own troops to fight in Vietnam. The war lasted for 10 more years and caused millions of deaths and injuries, as well as environmental and social damage.

ho chi minh city or saigon

Saigon city in 1975

In April 1975, the United States withdrew from Vietnam and the North Vietnamese army captured Sai Gon, the capital of South Vietnam. The war was over and Vietnam was reunified under the communist regime. In 1976, they officially changed the name of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City, in honor of their national hero who had devoted his life to the cause of Vietnam’s liberation.

The city now

So, what do people call this city today? Well, it depends on who you ask and where you are. Generally speaking, older people in the South, especially those who supported the South Vietnamese government or suffered under the communist rule, prefer to call it Saigon. They have a strong attachment to the old name and the old memories. Younger people, on the other hand, don’t really care about the name. They use both Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon interchangeably, depending on the context and convenience.

ho chi minh city or saigon

The modern and vibrant of Ho Chi Minh City

You should also know that there are many people from the North who live in the South now. They may call it Ho Chi Minh City or Sai Gon, depending on their preference and habit. When you are in the North, people usually call it Ho Chi Minh City, or just Saigon because it’s shorter and easier to say.

Most people don’t have any problem with either name and respect each other’s choice. The only ones who get angry are probably those who have a personal or political grudge against the communist government or Ho Chi Minh. They may have lost their family, property, or freedom because of the war or the aftermath. They may have fled the country by boat and faced many dangers and hardships. They may have a different view of Ho Chi Minh, either as a great leader or a terrible dictator.

ho chi minh city or saigon

Then and now of Ho Chi Minh City

We personally think Ho Chi Minh deserves a lot of respect, because he dedicated his life to fight for Vietnam’s freedom. No Vietnamese should forget that he freed the country from the French and the Japanese. But we also understand that not everyone agrees with us and that’s okay. Everyone has their own opinion and perspective. What matters is that we all love this city and this country, no matter what we call it.

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ho chi minh city or saigon

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