April 2018. In case you’re wondering, it can be a complicated business going to see the embalmed bodies of revered national leaders. Remembering only too well my many failed attempts to go and see Chairman Mao in Beijing (no bags, no cameras, no shorts, no sandals, no arms and legs day, closed for unspecified reasons), I made sure I was fully prepared when I set off to pay my respects to Vietnam’s legendary leader Ho Chi Minh. Waking up extra early, I hailed a moto from the old quarter and off we sped with hopes of getting a not-too-diabolical place in the queue.
April 2018. Sometimes though I need to remind myself that outside China things aren’t always vein-throbblingly problematical. Yes, there was a stream of people filing through the entrance gate, but it was moving at a steady pace. So I joined the bodies shuffling quietly forward into the peaceful, green mausoleum complex. So far, so good.
April 2018. It was a mixed crowd that day, from foreign tourists of just about every nationality to large school groups, steely-faced OAPs and teary-eyed Vietnamese couples fulfilling a lifelong desire to come and say thank you to their beloved ‘Uncle Ho’. Although the complex was full of armed security guards the atmosphere was relaxed and there seemed to be absolutely no issue at all with taking photos.
April 2018. It took about fifteen minutes to reach the mausoleum itself, a monumental marble edifice constructed in the mid 1970s. As luck would have it, my approach came just in time to see the changing of the guard. Be sure not to take any photos inside and keep moving forward at a steady pace as you work your way around the glass cabinet containing Ho Chi Minh’s body. Anyone visiting Hanoi between September the 4th and November the 4th will be missing out, as the body is annually shipped off to Russia for maintenance.
April 2018. Back out on the other side of the chamber I came across the same school group, now pumped with adrenaline. Chanting nationalistic slogans with great fervor, they dutifully saluted for their teacher’s camera: “Long Live Vietnam!” Note that the mausoleum complex is closed on Mondays and Fridays. Doors open at 08:00, with last access granted at 10:15. Entrance is free.
For more on Vietnam’s amazing capital, have a look at my other pieces from around Hanoi.
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