What we now call Ho Chi Minh City first began as a small fishing village called Prey Nokor or “Forest Kingdom.” The area was originally nothing but swampland and was taken up by the Khmer people for centuries before the Vietnamese arrived. Colonization by Vietnamese settlers began in the 17th century and this presence isolated the Khmer, who became a minority in the region. The control of Prey Nokor by the Vietnamese restricted Cambodian access to this important port and entry to the South China Sea.
By the 19th century, Saigon was conquered by France and its heavy French influence was reflected in the architecture, earning it the name the “Paris in the Orient” or “the Pearl of the Far East”.
Saigon later became the capital of the State of Vietnam in 1949. After the government was renamed as the Republic of Vietnam, Saigon was known as the capital of the South of Vietnam. The city’s name was altered first to Sai Gon and then later to Ho Chi Minh City. Now only the urban districts are known as Saigon, while the rest of the city is known by its current name- Ho Chi Minh City.