Remembering Uncle Ho

While it must be said that Hanoi is not exactly overflowing with amazing tourist attractions, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is certainly a must-see place, if only for the weird communist propaganda that is littered around this place and the museum nearby. Its location in Ba Dinh Square is where Uncle Ho read the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, so you can gauge from that how important this area is for the residents of Hanoi. More information on the Mausoleum can be found over at Brooklyn Meets Bombay.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

I took a taxi here with a few friends with whom I was backpacking in the Old Quarter, and was immediately disappointed to learn that no photography was allowed in the mausoleum or the accompanying museum. In fact, my camera and phone was confiscated until I came back out, when thankfully I was given it back seemingly in tact (kind of makes me glad I have a security code on my iPhone).

Uncle Ho
Uncle Ho

Ho Chi Minh (originally known as Nguyen That Thanh) was born on 19 May, 1890, in Hoang Tru, central Vietnam. Vietnam was then a French colony, known as Indochina. After the Japanese invasion of Indo-China in 1941, Ho returned home and founded the Viet Minh, which was a communist-dominated independence movement, to fight the Japanese. Thus, he adopted the name Ho Chi Minh, meaning “the Bringer of Light”.

Ho Chi Minh was in poor health from the mid-1960s and died in 1969. When the communists took the South Vietnamese capital Saigon in 1975 they renamed it to Ho Chi Minh City in his honour. Back up in Hanoi, however, the whole area of this Mausoleum and Museum is dedicated to Ho Chi Minh and this preserves his folklore here in the form of a popular tourist attraction, although [perhaps politically], American news conglomerate CNN ranks the grey granite exterior as one of the ugliest buildings in the world.

The Mausoleum is a patriotic place
The Mausoleum is a patriotic place

It was not possible to get photos inside any of the buildings, although I can tell you that the preserved corpse of Uncle Ho lays in the mausoleum, and visitors can, for a few hours most mornings, quietly observe the corpse in its clear glass case. Guards are watching your every move as you walk line astern through the mausoleum, and I was even told not to cross my arms! I began to feel like a soldier with a rigid posture and certain arm movements! It took us over 45 minutes in line before we were able to get inside the building itself, but I think it was worth it, even though a lack of photos is disappointing.


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