Motorcycle

A motorcycle (also called a motorbicycle, motorbike, bike, or cycle) is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.

Motorcycles are the most affordable form of motorised transport in many parts of the world, and for most of the world's population, they are also the most common type of motor vehicle. There are around 200 million motorcycles (including mopeds, motor scooters and other powered two- and three-wheelers) in use worldwide, or about 33 motorcycles per 1000 people. This compares to around 590 million cars, or about 91 per 1000 people. Most of the motorcycles, 58%, are in the developing countries of Asia, while 33% of the cars (195 million) are concentrated in the US and Japan. In the two countries of India and China, there are a total of only 6 million cars, but 71 million motorcycles. These numbers, worldwide, are dwarfed by the number of bicycles in use, estimated to be near twice the number of cars, or close to five times the number of motorcycles.

History
Arguably, the first motorcycle was designed and built by the German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt (since 1905 a city district of Stuttgart) in 1885. The first petroleum-powered vehicle was essentially a motorised bicycle, although the inventors called their invention the Reitwagen ('riding car'). It was designed as an expedient testbed for their new engine, rather than a true prototype vehicle. However, if a two-wheeled vehicle with steam propulsion is considered a motorcycle, then the first one may have been American. One such machine was demonstrated at fairs and circuses in the eastern U.S. in 1867, built by Sylvester Howard Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts.

In 1894, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first motorcycle available for purchase. In the early period of motorcycle history, many producers of bicycles adapted their designs to accommodate the new internal combustion engine. As the engines became more powerful and designs outgrew the bicycle origins, the number of motorcycle producers increased.

Until the First World War, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world was Indian, producing over 20,000 bikes per year. By 1920, this honour went to Harley-Davidson, with their motorcycles being sold by dealers in 67 countries. By the late 1920s or early 1930s, DKW took over as the largest manufacturer.

After the Second World War, the BSA Group became the largest producer of motorcycles in the world, producing up to 75,000 bikes per year in the 1950s. The German company NSU held the position of largest manufacturer from 1955 until the 1970s.

In the 1950s, streamlining began to play an increasing part in the development of racing motorcycles and the 'dustbin fairing' held out the possibility of radical changes to motorcycle design. NSU and Moto-Guzzi were in the vanguard of this development both producing very radical designs well ahead of their time. NSU produced the most advanced design, but after the deaths of four NSU riders in the 1954–1956 seasons, they abandoned further development and quit Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Moto-Guzzi produced competitive race machines, and by 1957 nearly all the Grand Prix races were being won by streamlined machines. The following year, 1958, full enclosure fairings were banned from racing by the FIM in the light of the safety concerns.

From the 1960s through the 1990s, small two-stroke motorcycles were popular worldwide, partly as a result of East German Walter Kaaden's engine work in the 1950s.

Today, the motorcycle industry is mainly dominated by Japanese companies such as Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha, although Harley-Davidson and BMW continue to be popular and supply considerable markets. Other major manufacturers include Piaggio group of Italy, KTM, Triumph and Ducati.

In addition to the large capacity motorcycles, there is a large market in smaller capacity (less than 300 cc) motorcycles, mostly concentrated in Asian and African countries. An example is the 1958 Honda Super Cub, which went on to become the biggest selling vehicle of all time, with its 60 millionth unit produced in April 2008. Today, this area is dominated by mostly Indian companies with Hero Honda emerging as the world's largest manufacturer of two wheelers. For example, its Splendor model which has sold more than 8.5 million to date.

Technical aspects
Construction:
Motorcycle construction is the engineering, manufacturing, and assembly of components and systems for a motorcycle which results in performance, cost and aesthetics desired by the designer. With some exceptions, construction of modern mass-produced motorcycles has standardised on a steel or aluminium frame, telescopic forks holding the front wheel, and disc brakes. Some other body parts, designed for either aesthetic or performance reasons may be added. A petrol powered engine typically consisting of between one and four cylinders (and less commonly, up to eight cylinders) coupled to a manual five- or six-speed sequential transmission drives the swingarm-mounted rear wheel by a chain, driveshaft or belt.

Fuel economy
Motorcycle fuel economy varies greatly with engine displacement and riding style ranging from a low of 29 mpg-US (8.1 L/100 km; 35 mpg-imp) reported by a Honda VTR1000F rider, to 107 mpg-US (2.20 L/100 km; 129 mpg-imp) reported for the Verucci Nitro 50 cc Scooter. A specially designed Matzu Matsuzawa Honda XL125 achieved 470 mpg-US (0.50 L/100 km; 560 mpg-imp) 'on real highways - in real conditions.' Due to lower engine displacements (100 cc–200 cc), motorcycles in developing countries offer good fuel economy. In the Indian market, the second most selling company, Bajaj, offers two models with superior fuel economy: XCD 125 and Platina. Both are 125 cc motorbikes with a company-claimed fuel economy of 256 mpg-US (0.919 L/100 km; 307 mpg-imp) and 261 mpg-US (0.901 L/100 km; 313 mpg-imp), respectively.

Electric motorcycles
Very high fuel economy equivalents can be derived by electric motorcycles. Electric motorcycles are nearly silent, zero-emission electric motor-driven vehicles. Operating range and top speed suffer because of limitations of battery technology. Fuel cells and petroleum-electric hybrids are also under development to extend the range and improve performance of the electric motors.

Dynamics
Different types of motorcycles have different dynamics and these play a role in how a motorcycle performs in given conditions. For example, a longer wheelbase provides more stability in a straight line. Motorcycle tyres have a large influence over handling.

Motorcycles must be leaned in order to make turns. This lean is induced by the method known as countersteering, in which the rider steers the handlebars in the direction opposite of the desired turn. Because it is counter-intuitive this practice is often very confusing to novices—and even to many experienced motorcyclists.

Short wheelbase motorcycles, such as sport bikes, can generate enough torque at the rear wheel, and enough stopping force at the front wheel, to lift the opposite wheel off the pavement. These actions, if performed on purpose, are known as wheelies and stoppies respectively. If carried past the point of recovery the resulting upset is known as an 'endo' (short for 'end-over-end'), or 'looping' the vehicle.

Accessories
Various features and accessories may be attached to a motorcycle either as OEM (factory-fitted) or after-market. Such accessories are selected by the owner to enhance the motorcycle's appearance, safety, performance, or comfort, and may include anything from mobile electronics to sidecars and trailers.

Social aspects
In many cultures, motorcycles are the primary means of motorised transport. According to the Taiwanese government, for example, 'the number of automobiles per ten thousand population is around 2,500, and the number of motorcycles is about 5,000.' In places such as Vietnam, motorcycle use is extremely high due to a lack of public transport and low income levels that put automobiles out of reach for many. In Vietnam, motorised traffic consist of mostly motorbikes. The four largest motorcycle markets in the world are all in Asia: China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The motorcycle is also popular in Brazil's frontier towns. Amid the global economic downturn of 2008, the motorcycle market grew by 6.5%.

Recent years have seen an increase in the popularity of motorcycles elsewhere. In the USA, registrations increased by 51% between 2000 and 2005. This is mainly attributed to increasing fuel prices and urban congestion, but is also partly due to television programmes such as reality show American Chopper, or adventure-travel shows such as Long Way Down.

Subcultures
Around the world, motorcycles have historically been associated with subcultures. Some of these subcultures have been loose-knit social groups such as the cafe racers of 1950s Britain, and the Mods and Rockers of the 1960s. A few are believed to be criminal gangs.

Social motorcyclist organisations are popular and are sometimes organised geographically, focus on individual makes, or even specific models. Example motorcycle clubs include: American Motorcyclist Association, Harley Owners Group and BMW MOA. Some organisations hold large international motorcycle rallies in different parts of the world that are attended by many thousands of riders.

Whereas many social motorcycle organisations raise money for charities through organised events and rides, some other motorcycle organisations exist only for the direct benefit of others. Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) is one example. BACA assigns members to individual children to help them through difficult situations, or even stay with the child if the child is alone or frightened.

In recent decades, motorcyclists have formed political lobbying organisations in order to influence legislators to introduce motorcycle-friendly legislation. One of the oldest such organisations, the British Motorcycle Action Group, was founded in 1973 specifically in response to helmet compulsion, introduced without public consultation. In addition, the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF), originally founded in 1960 as a reaction to the public perception of motorcyclists as leather-jacketed hooligans, has itself moved into political lobbying. Likewise, the U.S. has ABATE, which, like most such organisations, also works to improve motorcycle safety, as well as running the usual charity fund-raising events and rallies, often for motorcycle-related political interests.

At the other end of the spectrum from the charitable organizations and the motorcycle rights activists are the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. These are defined by the Provincial Court of Manitoba as: 'Any group of motorcycle enthusiasts who have voluntarily made a commitment to band together and abide by their organizations' rigorous rules enforced by violence, who engage in activities that bring them and their club into serious conflict with society and the law'. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada have designated four MCs as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs), which are the Pagans, Hells Angels, Outlaws MC, and Bandidos, known as the 'Big Four'.

Mobility
While people choose to ride motorcycles for various reasons, those reasons are increasingly practical, with riders opting for a powered two-wheeler as a cost-efficient alternative to infrequent and expensive public transport systems, or as a means of avoiding or reducing the effects of urban congestion. In places where it is permitted, lane splitting, also known as filtering, allows motorcycles to use the space between vehicles to move through stationary or slow traffic.

In the UK, motorcycles are exempt from the £8 per day London congestion charge other vehicles must pay to enter the city during the day. Motorcycles are also exempt from toll charges at some river crossings, such as the Severn Bridge, Dartford Crossing, and Mersey Tunnels. Some cities, such as Bristol, allow motorcycles to use bus lanes and provide dedicated free parking. In the United States, those states that have high-occupancy vehicle lanes also allow for motorcycle travel in them. Other countries have similar policies.

In New Zealand motorcycle riders are not required to pay for parking that is controlled by a barrier arm; the arm does not occupy the entire width of the lane, and the motorcyclist simply rides around it. Many car parks controlled in this way supply special areas for motorcycles to park, so as not to unnecessarily consume spaces.

In many cities that have serious parking challenges for cars, such as San Francisco, motorcycles are generally permitted to park on the sidewalk, rather than occupy a space on the street which might otherwise be used by a car.

Safety
Motorcycles have a higher rate of fatal accidents than automobiles. United States Department of Transportation data for 2005 from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System show that for passenger cars, 18.62 fatal crashes occur per 100,000 registered vehicles. For motorcycles this figure is higher at 75.19 per 100,000 registered vehicles – four times higher than for cars. The same data show that 1.56 fatalities occur per 100 million vehicle miles travelled for passenger cars, whereas for motorcycles the figure is 43.47 – 28 times higher than for cars. Furthermore for motorcycles the accident rates have increased significantly since the end of the 1990s, while the rates have dropped for passenger cars.
Wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the chances of death or injury in a motorcycle crash

The two major causes of motorcycle accidents in the United States are: motorists pulling out or turning in front of motorcyclists and violating their rights-of-way and motorcyclists running wide through turns. The former is sometimes called a SMIDSY, an acronym formed from the motorists' common response of 'Sorry mate, I didn't see you'. The latter is more commonly caused by operating a motorcycle while intoxicated. Motorcyclists can anticipate and avoid some of these crashes with proper training, increasing their conspicuousness to other traffic, and separating alcohol and riding.

The United Kingdom has several organisations which are dedicated to improving motorcycle safety by providing advanced rider training over and above what is necessary to pass the basic motorcycle test. These include the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Along with increased personal safety, riders with these advanced qualifications often benefit from reduced insurance costs.

Motorcycle Safety Education is offered throughout the United States by organisations ranging from state agencies to non-profit organisations to corporations. The courses, designed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), include a Basic Rider Course, an Intermediate Rider Course and an Advanced Rider Course.

In the UK (except Northern Ireland) and some Australian jurisdictions, such as New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, it is compulsory to undertake a rider training course before being issued a Learners Licence.

In Canada, motorcycle rider training is compulsory in Quebec and Manitoba only, but all provinces and territories have Graduated Licensing programs which place restrictions on new drivers until they have gained experience. Eligibility for a full motorcycle licence or endorsement for completing a Motorcycle Safety course varies by province. The Canada Safety Council, a non-profit safety organisation, offers the Gearing Up program across Canada and is endorsed by the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council. Training course graduates may qualify for reduced insurance premiums.

Types
There are three major types of motorcycle: street, off-road, and dual purpose. Within these types, there are many different sub-types of motorcycles for many different purposes.

Street bikes include cruisers, sportbikes, scooters and mopeds, and many other types. Off-road motorcycles include many types designed for dirt-oriented racing classes such as motocross and are not street legal in most areas. Dual purpose machines like the dual-sport style are made to go off-road but include features to make them legal and comfortable on the street as well.

Each configuration offers either specialised advantage or broad capability, and each design creates a different riding posture.

Motorcycle rider postures
The motorcyclist's riding position depends on rider body-geometry (anthropometry) combined with the geometry of the motorcycle itself. These factors create a set of three basic postures.

* Sport — the rider leans forwards into the wind and the weight of the upper torso is supported by air pressure as long as the motorcycle is travelling at speed, typically above 50 mph (80 km/h). The footpegs are below the rider or to the rear. The reduced frontal area cuts wind resistance and allow higher speeds. However, at low-speed this position throws the weight of the rider onto the arms instead, and this is quickly tiring to the wrists of unfamiliar riders. Moreover, the sports position makes it more difficult for the rider to look around and foot through traffic. Many sport bikes have narrow, swept-back handlebars, or clip-ons (short stubs clamped to the telescopic fork tubes). Following the style of racing bikes, most have full-fairings and often come with almost complete engine enclosure, although motorcycles with a sport riding position are becoming more diverse with the marketing of factory naked bikes, streetfighters, retro cafe racers, and other blends of styles, having varying riding positions somewhere in the range from sport to standard.
* Standard — the rider sits upright or leans forwards slightly. The feet are below the rider, not too far to the front or back. These are straightforward, versatile motorcycles that are not too specialized for one task, but don't excel in one area either. Standards are used in touring, commuting, and sporting, and are good for beginners. The rider enjoys the benefits of freedom of head movement, good visibility in all directions, and easier use of the feet while moving through stationary traffic.
* Cruiser — the rider sits at a lower seat height with the upper torso upright or leaning slightly rearwards. Legs are extended forwards, sometimes out of reach of the regular controls on cruiser pegs. The low seat heights can be a consideration for new or short riders. Handlebars tend to be high, and wide. Harley-Davidsons are exemplars of this style. The emphasis is on comfort, while compromising cornering ability because of low ground clearance and the greater likelihood of scraping foot pegs, floor boards, or other parts if turns are taken at the speeds other types of motorcycles can do.

Important factors of a motorcycle's ergonomic geometry that determine the seating posture include the height, angle and location of footpegs, seat and handlebars. Likewise, factors in a rider's physical geometry that contribute to seating posture include torso, arm, thigh and leg length, and overall rider height.

Legal definitions and restrictions
A motorcycle is broadly defined by law in most countries for the purposes of registration, taxation and rider licensing as a powered two-wheel motor vehicle. Most countries distinguish between mopeds of 49 cc and the more powerful, larger, vehicles (scooters do not count as a separate category). Many jurisdictions include some forms of three-wheelers as motorcycles.

Environmental impact
In 2007 and 2008, motorcycles and scooters, due to good fuel efficiency, attracted interest in the United States from environmentalists and those affected by increased fuel prices. Piaggio Group Americas supported this interest with the launch of a 'Vespanomics' website and platform, citing lower per-mile carbon emissions (40 lb/mile less than the average car, a 65% reduction) and better fuel economy.

Other sources, however, claim that while motorcycles produce much less pollution in terms of greenhouse gases, a motorcycle can in some cases emit 10–20 times the quantity of nitrogen oxides (NOx) when compared to the NOx emissions of a car. This is because many motorcycles lack a catalytic converter to reduce NOx emissions, and whilst catalytic converters have been used in cars long enough that they are now commonplace, they are a relatively new technology in motorcycles. However, many newer motorcycles (such as later models of the Yamaha R1 and Suzuki GSXR1000, as well as most BMWs which have included catalytic converers since the 1990s) now have factory fitted catalytic converters. Along with other technologies that have taken longer to appear in motorcycles (e.g. fuel injection, anti-lock brake systems), catalytic converters are becoming increasingly commonplace.

United States Environmental Protection Agency 2007 certification result reports for all vehicles versus on highway motorcycles (which also includes scooters), the average certified emissions level for 12,327 vehicles tested was 0.734. The average 'Nox+Co End-Of-Useful-Life-Emissions' for 3,863 motorcycles tested was 0.8531, for a difference of about 16%, not the claimed 10X factor. Likewise, if one looks at how many of the 2007 motorcycles tested were also catalytic equipped, 54% of them, 2,092, were equipped with a catalytic converter.
United States emissions limits

The following table shows maximum acceptable legal emissions of the combination of hydrocarbon and nitrous oxides, as well as carbon monoxide, for new Class III motorcycles (280 cc or larger displacement) sold in the United States.

Tier       Model Year        HC+NOx (g/km)             CO (g/km)
Tier 1    2006–2009        1.4        12.0
Tier 2    2010 and later   0.8        12.0

The maximum acceptable legal emissions of hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide for new Class I and II motorcycles (50 cc–169 cc and 170 cc–279 cc respectively) sold in the United States are as follows:
Model year        HC (g/km)         CO (g/km)
2006 and later   1.0        12.0
Europe

European emission standards for motorcycles are similar to those for cars. New motorcycles must meet Euro III standards, while cars must meet Euro V standards. Therefore, the difference in total pollution between motorcycles and cars that pass European emission standards would be small, certainly much smaller than the 10X factor claimed by the referenced LA Times article. Motorcycle emissions controls are being updated and it has been proposed to update to Euro IV in 2012 and Euro V in 2015

Web References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorcycle

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) (Vietnamese: Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh) Thanh Pho Ho Chi pronunciation is the largest city in Vietnam. It was known as Prey Nokor (Khmer) before being annexed by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. Under the name Saigon (Vietnamese: Sài Gòn Saigon.ogg pronunciation (help·info)), it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent state of South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. In 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding province of Gia Định and was officially renamed Hồ Chí Minh City (although the name Sài Gòn - formally known as District 1 - is still commonly used.)

The city center is situated on the banks of the Saigon River, 60 kilometers (37 mi) from the South China Sea and 1,760 kilometers (1,094 mi) south of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

The metropolitan area, which consists of Hồ Chí Minh City metro area, Thủ Dầu Một, Di An, Bien Hoa and surrounding towns, is populated by more than 9 million people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam and Indochina. The Greater Ho Chi Minh City Metropolitan Area, a metropolitan area covering most parts of Dong Nam Bo plus Tien Giang and Long An provinces under planning will have an area of 30,000 square kilometers with a population of 20 million inhabitants by 2020.

Traditional Vietnamese Name
After Prey Nokor was settled by Vietnamese refugees from the north, in time it came to be known unofficially as Sài Gòn. There is much debate about the origins of the Vietnamese name, Sài Gòn, the etymology of which is analyzed below.

It should be noted, however, that before the French colonization, the official Vietnamese name of Saigon was Gia Định (Chữ Nôm: 嘉定). In 1862, the French discarded this official name and adopted the name 'Saigon', which had always been the popular name, although it was still written as 嘉定 on sinitic maps until at least 1891.

The Vietnamese name, Sài Gòn, is written in two words, which is the traditional convention in Vietnamese spelling. Some people, however, write the name of the city as SaiGon or Saigon in order to save space or give it a more Westernized look.
Sino-Vietnamese etymology

A frequently heard, and reasonable, explanation is that Sài is a Chinese loanword (Chinese: 柴, pronounced chái in Mandarin) meaning “firewood, lops, twigs; palisade”, while Gòn is a another Chinese loanword (Chinese: 棍, pronounced gùn in Mandarin) meaning “stick, pole, bole”, and whose meaning evolved into “cotton” in Vietnamese (bông gòn, literally “cotton stick”, i.e. “cotton plant”, then shortened to gòn).

Some people say that this name originated from the many cotton plants that the Khmer people had planted around Prey Nokor, and which can still be seen at Cây Mai temple and surrounding areas.

Another explanation is that the etymological meaning “twigs” (sài) and “boles” (gòn) refers to the dense and tall forest that once existed around the city, a forest to which the Khmer name, Prey Nokor, already referred.

In Chinese, the city is referred to as 西貢, pronounced 'sai gung' in Cantonese and Xīgòng in Mandarin. This represents 'Saigon' written phonetically.

Another reasonable etymology was offered by Vương Hồng Sển, a Vietnamese scholar in the early 20th century, who asserted that Sài Gòn had its origin in the Cantonese name of Cholon (Vietnamese: quoc ngu Chợ Lớn; chu nom Cholon.png) , the Chinese district off Saigon. The Cantonese (and original) name of Cholon is 'Tai-Ngon' (堤岸), which means 'embankment' (French: quais). The theory posits that 'Sài Gòn' derives from 'Tai-Ngon'.
Khmer etymology

Another etymology often proposed, although held now as a least likely etymology, is that “Saigon” comes from “Sai Côn”, which would be the transliteration of the Khmer word, prey kor (PreyKor.png), meaning “god or heavenly”. Nokor is a Khmer word of Sanskrit origin meaning 'city, land').

This Khmer etymology theory is quite interesting given the Khmer context that existed when the first Vietnamese settlers arrived in the region. However, it fails to completely explain how Khmer 'prey' led to Vietnamese 'Sài', since these two syllables appear phonetically quite distinct and as the least reasonable and least likely candidate from the khmer etymology.
Current Vietnamese name

Immediately after the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975, a provisional government renamed the city after Ho Chi Minh, a former North Vietnamese leader. The official name is now Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, abbreviated Tp. HCM. In English this is translated as Ho Chi Minh City, abbreviated HCMC, and in French it is translated as Hô Chi Minh Ville (the circumflex is sometimes omitted), abbreviated HCMV. Sài Gòn is still the most common way to refer to the city in conversation inside Vietnam. Sài Gòn is used officially to refer to District 1, for example in bus destinations. The name is also found in company names, book titles and even on airport departure boards (the code for Tan Son Nhat International Airport is SGN). Also, most Vietnamese that fled the country during the communist takeover do not recognize the name 'Ho Chi Minh City', and will only refer to the city as Saigon.

History

Early history
Ho Chi Minh City began as a small fishing village known as Prey Nokor. The area that the city now occupies was originally swampland, and was inhabited by Khmer people for centuries before the arrival of the Vietnamese. It should be noted that in Khmer folklore Southern Vietnam was given to the Vietnamese government as a dowry for the marriage of a Vietnamese princess to a Khmer prince in order to stop constant invasions and pillaging of Khmer villages.

Khmer Territory
In 1623, King Chey Chettha II of Cambodia (1618-1628) allowed Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Trinh-Nguyen civil war in Vietnam to settle in the area of Prey Nokor, and to set up a custom house at Prey Nokor. Increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers, which the Cambodian kingdom could not impede because it was weakened of war with Thailand, slowly Vietnamized the area. In time, Prey Nokor became known as Saigon.

Nguyen dynasty rule
Location of the hexagonal Gia Dinh Citadel (r) and Cholon area (tilted square,left) in 1815. Today this forms the area of Ho Chi Minh City

In 1698, Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyễn rulers of Huế by sea to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the area, thus detaching the area from Cambodia, which was not strong enough to intervene. He is often credited with the expansion of Saigon into a significant settlement. A large Vauban citadel called Gia Dịnh was built, which was later destroyed by the French over the battle of Chí Hoà (see Citadel of Saigon).

Colonial French era
Conquered by France in 1859, the city was influenced by the French during their colonial occupation of Vietnam, and a number of classical Western-style buildings in the city reflect this, so much so that Saigon was called 'the Pearl of the Far East' (Hòn ngọc Viễn Đông) or 'Paris in the Orient' (Paris Phương Đông).

Capital of South Vietnam
Former Emperor Bảo Đại made Saigon the capital of the State of Vietnam in 1949 with himself as head of state. After the Vietminh gained control of North Vietnam in 1954, it became common to refer to the Saigon government as South Vietnam. The government was renamed the Republic of Vietnam when Bảo Đại was deposed in 1955. Saigon and Cholon, an adjacent city with many Sino-Vietnamese residents, were combined into an administrative unit called Đô Thành Sài Gòn ('Capital City Saigon').

Post-Vietnam War and today
At the conclusion of the Vietnam War, on April 30, 1975, the city came under the control of the Vietnamese People's Army. In the U.S. this event is commonly called the 'Fall of Saigon,' while the communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam call it the 'Liberation of Saigon.'

In 1976, upon the establishment of the unified communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the city of Saigon (including Cholon), the province of Gia Ðịnh and 2 suburban districts of two other nearby provinces were combined to create Hồ Chí Minh City in honour of the late communist leader Hồ Chí Minh. The former name Saigon is still widely used by many Vietnamese, especially in informal contexts. Generally, the term Saigon refers only to the urban districts of Hồ Chí Minh City. The word 'Saigon' can also be found on shop signs all over the country, even in Hanoi.

Landmarks
Today, the city's core is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. The most prominent structures in the city center are Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất), City Hall (Ủy ban nhân dân Thành phố), Municipal Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City (Nhà hát thành phố), City Post Office (Bưu điện thành phố), State Bank Office (Ngân hàng nhà nước), City People's Court (Tòa án nhân dân thành phố) and Notre-Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà). Some of the historic hotels are the Hotel Majestic, dating from the French colonial era, and the Rex Hotel, Caravelle hotel some former hangouts for American officers and war correspondents in the 1960s and 1970s.

The city has various museums, such as the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History and concerning modern history the Revolutionary Museum (Bảo tàng cách mạng) and the War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi Minh City). The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens dates from 1865.
Population and new urban areas

Ho Chi Minh City is home to a well-established ethnic Chinese population. Cholon, which is made up of District 5 and parts of Districts 6, 10 and 11, serves as its Chinatown.

With a population now 7,123,340 (as of Census 2009 on April 1, 2009) (registered residents plus migrant workers as well as a metropolitan population of 10 million), Ho Chi Minh City is in need of vast increase in public infrastructure. To meet this need, the city and central governments have embarked on an effort to develop new urban centers. The two most prominent projects are the Thu Thiem city center in District 2 and the Phu My Hung Urban Area, a new City Center in District 7 (as part of the Saigon South project) where various international schools such as Saigon South International School, the Japanese school, Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Taiwan and Korea schools are located. In December 2007, Phu My Hung New City Center completed the 17.8 km 10-14 lane wide Nguyen Van Linh Roadway linking the Saigon port areas, Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone to the National Highway 1 and the Mekong delta area. In November 2008, a brand new trade center, Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center, also opened its door. Other projects include Grandview, Waterfront, Sky Garden, Riverside and Phu Gia 99. Phu My Hung New City Center received the first Model New City Award from the Vietnamese Ministry of Construction.

Geography and climate
Ho Chi Minh City is located at 10°45'N, 106°40'E in the southeastern region of Vietnam, 1,760 km (1,094 miles) south of Hanoi. The average elevation is 19 meters (63 ft) above sea level. It borders Tay Ninh and Binh Duong provinces to the north, Dong Nai and Ba Ria-Vung Tau provinces to the east, Long An Province to the west and the Vietnam East Sea to the south with a coast of 15 km in length. The city covers an area of 2,095 km² (809 sq mi) (0.63% of the surface of Vietnam), extending up to Cu Chi (12mi/20 km from the Cambodian border), and down to Can Gio on the Vietnam East Sea coast. The distance from the northernmost point (Phu My Hung Commune, Cu Chi District) to the southernmost one (Long Hoa Commune, Can Gio District) is 102 kilometers (63 mi), and from the easternmost point (Long Binh Ward, District Nine) to the westernmost one (Binh Chanh Commune, Binh Chanh District) is 47 kilometers (29 mi).

The city has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate, with an average humidity of 75%. A year is divided into two distinct seasons. The rainy season, with an average rainfall of about 1,800 millimetres (71 in) annually (about 150 rainy days per year), usually begins in May and ends in late November. The dry season lasts from December to April. The average temperature is 28 °C (82 °F), the highest temperature sometimes reaches 39 °C (102 °F) around noon in late April, while the lowest may fall below 16 °C (61 °F) in the early mornings of late December.

Political and administrative system
Saigon is a municipality at the same level as Vietnam's provinces. The city has been divided into twenty-four administrative divisions since December 2003. Five of these Area: 1,601 km² are designated as rural (huyện). The rural districts are Nhà Bè, Cần Giờ, Hóc Môn, Củ Chi, and Bình Chánh. A rural district consists of communes (Xã) and townships (Thị trấn). The remaining districts {Area: 494 km²} are designated urban or suburban (quận). This includes districts one to twelve, as well as Tân Bình, Bình Thạnh, Phú Nhuận, Thủ Đức, Bình Tân, Tân Phú and Gò Vấp. Each quận is sub-divided into wards ('Phường'). Since December 2006, the city has had 259 wards, 58 communes and 5 townships (see List of HCMC administrative units below).

People's Committee
The Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee is a 13-member executive council for the city. The current chairman is Le Hoang Quan. There are several vice chairmen and chairwomen on the committee with responsibility for various city departments. The legislative branch of the city government is called the People's Council and consists of 95 deputies. Both the committee and the council are subordinate to the city's Communist Party, currently led by Party Secretary Lê Thanh Hải. The chairman of the People's Committee is the No. 2 position in the city government while chairman of the People's Council is No. 3.
Demographics

The population of Ho Chi Minh City, as of the October 1, 2004 Census, was 6,117,251 (of which 19 inner districts had 5,140,412 residents and 5 suburban districts had 976,839 inhabitants). In the middle of 2007 the city's population was 6,650,942 (of which 19 inner districts had 5,564,975 residents and 5 suburban districts had 1,085,967 inhabitants). The result of Census 2009 shows that the city's population was 7,123,340 people or about 8.3% of the total population of Vietnam; making it the highest population-concentrated city in the country. As an administrative unit, its population is also the largest at the provincial level. As the largest economic and financial hub of Vietnam, HCMC has attracted more and more immigrants from other Vietnamese provinces in recent years; therefore, its population is growing rapidly. Since 1999 the city population has increased by over 200,000 people per year.

The majority of the population are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) at about 90%. Other ethnic minorities include Chinese (Hoa) with 8%, (the largest Chinese community in Vietnam) and other minorities (Khmer, Cham, Nung, Rhade) 2%. The inhabitants of Ho Chi Minh City are usually known as 'Saigonese' in English, 'Saigonnais' in French and 'dân Sài Gòn' in Vietnamese.

The Kinh speak Vietnamese with their respective regional accents: southern (about 50%), northern (30%) and central Vietnam (20%); while the Hoa- in addition- speak Cantonese, Teochew (Chaozhou), Hokkien, Hainanese and Hakka dialects of Chinese (only a few speak Mandarin Chinese). A varying degree of English is spoken especially in the tourism and commerce sectors where dealing with foreign nationals is a necessity, so English has become a de facto second language for some Saigonese.

According to some researchers the religious breakup in HCMC is as follows: Buddhism (all sects and/or including Taoism, Confucianism) 80%, Roman Catholic 11%, Protestant 2%, others (Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, Islam, Hinduism, Bahá'í Faith) 2%, and no religion or unknown 5%.
Economy

Ho Chi Minh City is the most important economic center in Vietnam as it accounts for a high proportion of Vietnam's economy. Ho Chi Minh City plays an important driving impetus of Economy of Vietnam. This city just accounts for 0.6% land area, 7.5% population of Vietnam nevertheless accounts for 20.2% GDP, 27.9% industrial output and 34.9% FDI projects in this country in 2005. In 2005, this city had 4,344,000 laborors, of which 130,000 are over the labor age norm (in Vietnam it’s 60 for male and 55 for female workers). In 2007, GDP per capita reached 2,100 USD, compared to this country’s average level of $US 730 in 2006.

The economy of Ho Chi Minh City covers different fields, from mining, seafood processing, agriculture, construction to tourism, finance, industry, trading. The state-owned sector makes up 33.3%, private sector of 4.6%, the other remaining percentage lays in foreign businesses. As far as economic structure is concerned, service sector accounts for 51.1%, industry and construction accounts for 47.7%, forestry, agriculture and others make up just 1.2%.

As of June of 2006, this city is home to 3 Export Processing Zones, 12 Industrial Parks. Ho Chi Minh City is the leading FDI abosorber of Vietnam, with 2,530 FDI projects, 16.6 $ billion at the end of 2007. In 2007, it got over 400 FDI projects with $US 3 billion. In 2008, it attracted $US 8.5 billion from FDI.

The consumption demand of Ho Chi Minh City is much higher than other provinces and municipalities of Vietnam, 1.5 times higher than that of Hanoi.

Some 300,000 businesses, including many large enterprises, are involved in high-tech, electronic, processing and light industries, also in construction, building materials and agro-products. Also crude oil is a popular economic base in Ho Chi Minh City. Investors are still pouring money into the city. Total local private investment was 160,000 billion dong ($10 billion) with 18,500 newly founded companies. Investment is trended to hi-tech and services, real estate projects. Currently, the city has 15 industrial parks and export-processing zones, in addition to the Quang Trung Software Park and the Saigon Hi-Tech Park. Intel invested about 1 billion dollars in a factory in the city. There are 171 medium and large scale markets, several supermarket chains, shopping malls, fashion, and beauty centers. Additional malls and shopping plazas are being developed within the city. Over 50 banks with hundreds of branches and about 20 insurance companies are also located inside the city. The first stock exchange in Vietnam was opened in the city in 2001.

Quang Trung Software Park is a software park situated in District 12. The park is approximately 15 km from down town Saigon and hosts software enterprises, dot.com companies. The park also includes a software training school. Dot.com investors here are supplied with other facilities and services such as residences, high speed access to internet as well as favorable taxation. Together with the Hi-tech Park in District 9 and the 32 ha. software park inside Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone in District 7 of the city, Ho Chi Minh City is ambitious to become an important hi-tech city of the country and the South-East Asian region. This park helps the city in particular and Vietnam in general to be an outsourcing place for other enterprises in developed countries as India has performed.

Ben Thanh Market
In 2007, the city's Gross Domestic Product was estimated at $14.3 billion, or about $2,180 per capita, (up 12.6 percent on 2006) and accounting for 20 percent GDP of the country. The GDP adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) reached $71.5 billion, or about $10,870 per capita (approximately 3 times higher than the country's average). The city's Industrial Product Value was $6.4 billion, equivalent to 30 percent of the whole nation. Export - Import Turnover through HCMC ports accounted for $36 billion, or 40 percent of the national total, of which, export revenue reached $18.3 billion (40 percent of Vietnam’s total export revenues). In 2007, Ho Chi Minh City contribution to the annual revenues in the national budget increased by 30 percent, accounting for about 20.5 percent of the total revenues.

In 2007, 3 million foreign tourists, about 70 percent of total number of tourists to Vietnam, visited the city. Total cargo transport to Ho Chi Minh City’s ports reached 50.5 million metric tonnes, nearly one-third of the total for Vietnam.

Education
Higher education in Ho Chi Minh City is quite developed, concentrating about 76 universities and colleges with a total of over 380,000 students in such places as: Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City with 41,000 students, the most important university in the Southern Region, consisting of 6 main member schools: The University of Sciences (formerly Saigon College of Sciences); The University of Social Sciences and Humanities (formerly Saigon College of Letters); The University of Technology (formerly Phu Tho National Institute of Technology); The International University, Faculty of Economics and Law and the newly-established University of Information Technology.

Some other important higher education establishments include: HCMC University of Pedagogy, University of Economics, University of Architecture, University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Nong Lam University (formerly University of Agriculture and Forestry), University of Law, University of Technical Education, University of Banking, University of Industry, Open University, University of Sports and Physical Education, University of Fine Art, University of Culture the Conservatory of Music, the Saigon Institute of Technology,Open University, and Hoa Sen University

The RMIT University with about 2,000 students, the unique foreign-invested higher-education unit in Vietnam at the present, was founded in 2002 by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) of Australia.

Several reputable English language schools following international curricula are located in Ho Chi Minh City as well.

Public Health
The health care system of the city is relatively developed with a chain of about 100 government owned hospitals or medical centers and dozens of privately owned clinics. The 1,400 bed Chợ Rẫy Hospital, upgraded by Japanese aid and the French-sponsored Institute of Cardiology, are among the top medical facilities in Indochina. The Hoa Hao Medical Diagnosis Center (Medic) and FV Hospital have recently attracted many clients, including foreigners, because of their good quality of service and modern equipment. Patients come from cities in nearby provinces and Cambodia as well. The Franco-Vietnam Hospital (FVH) is certified to French health standards.

Transportation
Tan Son Nhat International Airport

Tan Son Nhat International Airport, a joint civilian and military airport, is located 4 mi (6 km) north of the city center (District 1). The Tan Son Nhat International Airport located in Tan Binh District. The government expanded the Tan Son Nhat Airport in 2007, with improvements to the international airport. Taxi and bus services are available for travel to and from the airport and within the city. Because of the rapid growing number of air-passengers and Tan Son Nhat Airport's proximity to the center of the city, the Vietnamese Government has prepared to build a new international airport near Long Thanh Township, Dong Nai Province about 25 mi (40 km) to the northeast.

Ho Chi Minh city's road system is in improvable condition. Many of its streets are riddled with potholes. This is especially true of the city's numerous back streets and alleys, which are sometimes little more than dirt paths. City buses are the only public transport available, although the city is seeking financing sources for building metro (subway) and elevated train projects, including the Ho Chi Minh City Metro planned for completion in 2020. Recently, the number of motorcycles has increased to about 4 million. There are also over 500,000 automobiles, packing the city's arterial roads and making traffic congestion and air pollution common problems. While Beijing used to be called 'the City of Bicycles', Ho Chi Minh City is 'the Capital of Motorbikes'. Motorcycle-taxi (xe ôm) is a popular means of transport; foreigners are often greeted with the cry, 'Motorbike!' Visitors should consider the city's streets as dangerous due to the motorists' lack of behavior and the city's lack of traffic law enforcement. Drivers can be seen driving the wrong way up one-way streets, ignoring red lights, not stopping for pedestrians on marked crossings and driving on the footpaths. From 2008, this has improved somewhat, with more traffic lights, greater adherence to traffic light signals, and motorcycle helmets being worn.

The city is the terminal hub of the North South Railroad of Vietnam. Passengers can travel to Hanoi and the Chinese border, about 1,212 mi/1,950 km to the north. There are many harbours along the Saigon and Dong Nai Rivers, such as: Saigon Port, Newport, Ben nghe Port and VICT Port. They account for the annual 40 percent export-import cargo output of Vietnam.

From Ho Chi Minh City, one can travel to many places in Southern Vietnam and to Cambodia by road or waterway. The city is linked to the Central Highlands by National Highways 14 and 20, to the Central Coast and the north by National Highway 1 and to the Mekong River Delta by National Highways 1 and 50. Two expressways are being built to connect the city to Can Tho, the capital of the Mekong River Delta, and to Dau Giay Township, Dong Nai Province, 70 km to the northeast.

Municipal Theatre
The city's media is the most developed in the country. At present, HCMC has 7 daily newspapers: Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) and its Chinese, investment and finance, sports, evening and weekly editions; Tuoi Tre (Youth), the highest circulation newspaper in Vietnam; Thanh Nien (Young Men), the second largest circulation in the south of Vietnam; Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourer); The Thao (Sports); Phap Luat (Law) and the Saigon Times Daily, the business newspaper in English, and over 30 other newspapers and magazines. HCMC Television (HTV) is the second largest television network in the nation, just behind the national Vietnam Television (VTV), broadcasting 24/7 on 7 different channels (using analog and digital technology). The Voice of HCMC People is also the largest radio station in the Southern region. The major international TV channels are provided through two cable networks (SCTV and HTVC), with over 500,000 satellite TV subscribers.

Ho Chi Minh City is home to hundreds of cinemas and theatres, with cinema and dramatic ticketing revenue accounts for 60-70% of Vietnam’s total revenue in this industry. Unlike other dramatic teams in Vietnam’s provinces and municipalities, those in Ho Chi Minh City live on their own income and keep their theaters active everyday, and are not subsidized by the Vietnamese government. The city is home to most of the private movie companies in Vietnam.

The city has over 1.7 million fixed telephones and about 6.6 million cellular phones (the latter growing annually by 20%). The Internet, especially through ADSL connections, is also rapidly expanding with over 1,200,000 subscribers and around 4.5 million frequent users.

The city has hundreds of printing and publishing houses, many bookstores and a widespread network of public and school libraries. The HCMC General Library with over 1.5 mìllion books, is a beautiful architectural building. One can visit the Museum of History, the Museum of Revolution, the Museum of Southern Women, the Museum of Southeastern's Armed Forces, the Museum of Fine Art, the Gallery for War Remnants, the Nha Rong Memorial House, the Ben Duoc Relic of Underground Tunnels and many private art galleries. Besides the Municipal Theatre, there are other great places of entertainment such as: the Bến Thành and Hòa Bình Theaters and the Lan Anh Music Stage. The Đầm Sen Tourist and Cultural Park, Suoi Tien Amusement and Culture Park, and the Can Gio Eco beach resort are three recreational sites inside the city which are popular with visitors. Furthermore, Saigon is as modern as other city in the world with many plazas, for example Diamond Plaza, Parkson...and the newest plaza opening soon is Kumho Asiana Plaza, which located in District 1 ( in front of US Embassy and French Embassy)

There are many Pho chains in the city to enjoy which are very inexpensive. The city has hundreds of ranked hotels with over 18,000 rooms, including ten luxury 5 star hotels. However, backpacking travelers frequent the 'Western Quarter' on Pham Ngu Lao street in District 1.

If you are interested in learning Vietnamese, there are quite a few options such as Vietnamese Language Studies Saigon (VLS), LASSHO Vietnamese Language School for Foreigners, Vietnamese Classes, etc.

Sister cities
There are sister cities of Ho Chi Minh City:

* Republic of China Taipei, Republic of China
* South Korea Busan, South Korea
* Japan Osaka, Japan
* Russia Moscow, Russia
* Russia Saint Petersburg, Russia
* Canada Toronto, Canada
* United States San Francisco, USA
* People's Republic of China Shanghai, People's Republic of China
* Iran Tabriz, Iran
* Turkey Istanbul, Turkey
* Philippines Manila, Philippines

Web References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ho_Chi_Minh_City


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