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Situated on the banks of the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City has gone by several names over the centuries, most recently in 1975.
Ho Chi Minh City was originally founded as Prey Nokor, a small fishing village and main port of Cambodia under the Khmer, in the 16th century. The name Prey Nokor means "forest city" or "forest land" and referred to the swampy forests upon which it was founded. In the 17th century, Vietnamese settlers flocked to Prey Nokor and by 1698, Nguyen Huu Canh, a Vietnamese noble was sent to expand Prey Nokor into a Vietnamese settlement. By that time, Prey Nokor had became known as Gia Dinh officially, but Sai Gon more popularly (Sai Gon coming from obscure etymology but most assuredly referring to the forestry area of the city).
In 1859, the French conquered Saigon and incorporated it as the capital into the newly-formed French colony of Cochinchina, which later became French Indochina and subsequently South Vietnam. There, the French labelled Prey Nokor Saigon. The French architectural style is visible in many of the remaining nineteenth century buildings, for example the Museum of Fine Arts and the Ho Chi Minh City Museum.
During the Vietnam-American War, Saigon was the capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) until its unification with the North Vietnamese in 1975 which united the two halves. It was subsequently renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honour of the pseudonym of the Vietnamese guerilla leader-Ho Chi Minh (real name Nguyen Tat Thanh).
Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, larger than even the capital Hanoi, with more than 8 million people, and hosts the largest number of businesses in Vietnam - over 300,000. It is climbing, slowly but surely, into the new millennium.