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Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon or by the abbreviations HCMC or HCM, is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).


Early Saigon
In 1698, Prey Nokor, and the whole lower Mekong river delta, was formally annexed by Vietnam and became known as Saigon. Prey Nokor had been the Khmer’s most important sea port, and its loss isolated them from international commerce on the South China Sea. Saigon was a great gain to Vietnam, however, and soon grew into a major settlement.

French Saigon
After more than a century and a half under Vietnamese rule, Saigon fell to an invading coalition of French and Spanish forces in 1859 and then became part of the colony of French Indochina. Under French rule, Saigon was filled with Western architecture, and French villas still remain in the city to this day. French immigrants also filled Saigon and accounted for nearly 10% of the population by 1929.

When France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, Saigon and French Indochina came under the administration of Vichy France, but within a matter of months, the Japanese had taken control. Technically, the Japanese and Vichy France “co-ruled” Saigon, but it was Japan that truly ran things.

In 1945, the Communist Viet Minh led by Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam independent and soon began a guerrilla war against the restored French colonial government. Capitalist Vietnamese declared their own state in 1949, with its capital in Saigon, re-establishing the former Vietnamese emperor until the Republic of Vietnam was declared in 1956. In 1954, the French relinquished control of Vietnam and left the Viet Minh in control of North Vietnam and the non-Communists in control of South Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City
During the 40’s, the U.S. had supported the Viet Minh against the Japanese. During the 50’s, they supported the French against all rebels. During the 60’s, the United States defended South Vietnam against incursions from the Communist North. On April 30th, 1975, however, the U.S. ended all involvement in Vietnam, and the Viet Minh took Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.

After the “Fall of Saigon,” which the victors called the “Liberation of Saigon,” many Saigon residents fled to the U.S. and elsewhere, creating a Vietnamese diaspora. While in this sense the city shrank, it grew in that its borders were expanded to include its suburbs and its whole province. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, having eight million inhabitants, and is the nation’s economic hub, accounting for 20% of national GDP. The city also attracts many tourists, especially to its French District, museums and its numerous cinemas. To explore Ho Chi Minh city, you can book a transfer service to go around.

Ho Chi Minh City’s climate is classified as tropical wet and dry, meaning that it is warm all year round and divided into two distinct seasons, the wet season and the dry season, rather than spring, summer, fall and winter. The rainy season lasts from May through October, and the dry season runs from December to April.

Precipitation & Humidity
Over 1,800 mm (70 in) of rain falls during the wet season, and there are about 150 rain days per year. Wet-season months see between 200 and 300 mm (8.5 to 12.5 in) of rain on average, with the wettest month being September, which receives an average rainfall of 327.1 mm (12.9 in). Dry season months vary more in how much rainfall they see. The transitional month of November gets 117 mm (4.6 in), while the “semi-transitional” months of December and April get around 50 mm (2 in). The three driest months are: January, with 14 mm (0.5 in) of rain; February, with 4.1 mm (0.16 in); and March, with 10.5 mm (0.4 in).

Seventy percent of rain days include a thunderstorm, but rain showers usually only last for a couple hours. Most tourists visit between November and March to avoid the wet season, though it is not hard to “schedule around the raindrops” in most cases. From July to November is typhoon season, which also tends to shrink the tourist crowds.

The average humidity level averages from 78% to 82% throughout the year, but it is not uncommon for it to range from a comfortable 46% to a “very humid” 98%. Only rarely, however, does it reach 100% or drop below 36%.

Temperature, Sunshine & Wind
The average daily mean is 28º C (82º F), and temperatures are relatively stable throughout the entire year. Average daily highs range from 31º C (87º F) in December to 34.5º C (94º F) in April. Average daily lows run from 21º C (70º F) in January to 26º C (78º F) in April. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Ho Chi Minh City is 40º C (104º F), and the lowest temperature on record is 14º C (57º F).

Ho Chi Minh City gets from 2,400 to 2,700 hours of sunlight every year. The median cloud cover ranges from 39% to 79%, and because of the city’s relative nearness to the Equator, daytime hours vary little (always within 45 minutes of 12 hours). Rainy season months all get less than 200 hours of sunlight, the lowest being September, which has only 162 hours of sunshine. Dry season months all get above 200 hours of sun, the sunniest month being March, which has 272 hours.

Wind speeds, on average, range from zero to seven meters-per-second, and rarely exceed 11. This means that you typically see anything from calm to a moderate breeze but rarely a strong breeze. August is the windiest month, and both June and July are also relatively windy. Thus, summer is the best time for surfing, sailing, kite-surfing and wind-surfing.