King Minh Mang created the province of Hanoi in 1831, which included the ancient citadel Thang Long. Hanoi became a French colonial city in 1888 after the Nguyen Dynasty was defeated. The city remained in French control until 1954 when President Ho Chi Minh and the communist forces defeated the French and established a new government. After the war between north and south ended in 1975, Hanoi officially became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, as it remains today.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, lies in southern Vietnam along the Siagon River and north of the Mekong River. During the 1800s when the French controlled Vietnam, the city became a major port city and metropolitan center. When the Viet Minh group declared independence for Vietnam under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh in the north, a riot broke out in the city of Saigon. French troops regained control, beginning the first French Indochina War.
On a typical work day for Sai,* she could walk miles of city blocks with her shop on her shoulders. Her hopes of a meal for the day depend on emptying the two baskets dangling from a bamboo pole. Like many in large cities, Sai operates a portable store, selling anything from drinks and cigarettes to fresh fruit and spring rolls.