In the 15th century, the region surrounding Saigon was mainly comprised of swamps and marshes. By the early 1700 's, a township named Sai Con had been established and it eventually became a strategic port for trade and commerce.
In the mid 19th century, the French and Spanish invaded the city, this lead to a long struggle with the French and then the Americans. Saigon, as it was then known, became the hub for the resettlement of many of the people fleeing the communist government in the North.
In the 60's and 70's, Saigon was bustling with commerce and business. It was the cultural center and the capital city of South Vietnam. Already heavily influenced by the French in terms of culture and style, the city had the air of a French provincial town with a Vietnamese twist and was dubbed the "Pearl of the Orient" by the foreign press. The city was alive with the activities and cultural diversity that could rival any Asian city of the time. Consequently, American soldiers found Saigon irresistible with all the temptations of the nightclubs and go-go bars. It was a cultural soup that contained many attractions to lure a GI into spending his money; many soldiers were stationed in Saigon and many more would come for the R&R (rest and relaxation).
After the fall of South Vietnam to communism in 1975, the new government renamed the city Ho Chi Minh City and closed the door to the rest of the world. Although now recognized worldwide as Ho Chi Minh City, the city is still lovingly referred to as Saigon by many in Vietnam.