Saigon Port serves Vietnam's biggest city and the capital of Cochincina, a French protectorate from 1862 until 1954, and of South Vietnam from 1954 until 1975. Saigon Port lies on the Song Sai Gon (Saigon) River about 80 kilometers north of the Mekong River Delta and the South China Sea. After a century of French colonial rule of Siagon Port and influenced by the United States over almost two decades, Saigon Port retains many of the features of a European city, although its character has changed since the unification of Vietnam. In 2004, over 3.4 million people lived in Saigon Port.
Saigon Port is Vietnam's most important economic center, accounting for a fifth of the nation's Gross Domestic Product and almost a third of its industrial production. Saigon Port industries are widely diverse and range from mining, processing seafood, agriculture, and construction to trade, industry, finance, and tourism. The local Saigon Port economy is largely dependent on the service sector and construction. Foreign investment in Saigon Port continues to increase, aimed at hi-tech activities and services. In 2007, Saigon Port received three million foreign tourists and more than 50 million metric tons of cargo.
Saigon Port was founded in 1860 under the French. Called Saigon Commercial Port, it was located along the Saigon River. In 1975, it was renamed Saigon Port.
Saigon Port was a small fishing village called Prey Nokor in a swampland before Vietnam annexed the territory in the 17th Century. Before annexation, it was inhabited by the Khmer people for many centuries. Khmer legends claim that the region was transferred to Vietnam as a dowry when a Vietnamese princess married a Khmer prince to stop the pillage of Khmer villages.
King Chey Chettha II of Cambodia accepted refugees from Vietnam who were fleeing the Trinh-Nguyen civil war. Settling the area of Prey Nokor village, a customs house was established at the ancient Saigon Port. Weakened by war with Thailand, the Cambodian king was not able to slow the flow of Vietnamese settlers into Saigon Port area. Over time, the village of Prey Nokor became known as Saigon.
In 1698, the Nguyen rulers of Hue sent nobleman Nguyen Huu Canh to establish a Vietnamese administration in Saigon Port, thereby taking the area from Cambodia. The weakened Cambodian king was not able to stop the move. Soon, the Gia Dinh citadel was built to protect the town, although it was later destroyed by the French.
The French conquered the region in 1859, and many European-style buildings appeared in Saigon Port. In fact, there were so many such buildings in Saigon Port that it was called the "Paris of the Orient."
In 1949, the former Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai , made Saigon Port the capital of the State of Vietnam. When the revolutionary Vietminh took control of the northern part of the country in 1954, it became common to call Saigon Port and surrounding region as South Vietnam. When Bao Dai was dethroned in 1955, the government adopted the name of the Republic of Vietnam, and made Saigon Port its capital.
After the end of the United States' era of the Vietnam War in 1975, the Vietnamese People's Army took control of Saigon Port. In 1976 when the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was unified, Saigon Port became Saigon Port. The capital of the unified Vietnam is Hanoi, some 1760 kilometers to the north of Saigon Port.
The old name of Saigon is still in common use in the city, particularly in informal situations. However, "Saigon" tends to describe only the urban districts of Saigon Port. Estimates predict that by 2020, the Greater Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area will cover about three million hectares and contain a population of 20 million residents.