View of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) from the Saigon River. Saigon is Vietnam's major port and, with 8 million inhabitants, its largest city. It was called Saigon until 1975 when it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City following its capture by North Vietnamese communist forces. Although the city's commercial core is officially called Saigon, the entire city is widely referred to as Saigon even in the North. The city was architecturally influenced by the French during their colonial occupation of Vietnam. Numerous classical Western-style building in the city reflect this, so much so that Saigon was referred to as "The Pearl of the Far East" or "Paris in the Orient." In more recent years, a building boom has transformed the skyline of the city.