Xin chao! Welcome to another part of my Vietnam travels. :) In my previous posts, we visited the beautiful countryside and hilly scenery at the Three Caves and the ancient capital of Hoa Lu in Ninh Bing district. Today, we drop by somewhere closer to the city – the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.
Beneath it’s charming old world streets and developing capitals, Vietnam is a place with a very long and sad history. The Vietnam War, which cost the lives of millions, ended after a long struggle in which communist-backed North Vietnam triumphed over the American and Western backed south. Today, Vietnam is one of the world’s few surviving communist countries, even though it’s open economy is very much like China’s system. Hanoi, being the then capital of North Vietnam, is the resting place of one of the most popular figures in modern history – Ho Chi Minh, or ‘Uncle Ho’ as he is affectionately known among locals.
Located in the centre of a large public square called Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh’s remain lie within a grey tomb, designed after Stalin’s memorial in a minimalist, no frills style. This is also the place where Ho, a well known patriot, read the Declaration of Independence to establish the Republic of Vietnam.
Flanking both sides of the mausoleum are propaganda messages roughly translating to ‘Long Live the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’ and ‘Chairman Ho Chi Minh’.
Talk about bad timing! We actually went there on a Friday, which is when the mausoleum is closed to visitors for maintenance. There will usually be a long line of both locals and foreigners waiting to get a glimpse of Uncle Ho’s embalmed remains.
Two guards dressed in crisp white uniforms stand unmoving near the entrance – kind of like the guards in front of Buckingham Palace. We were not allowed to take photos with them.
PS: Travelers are expected to dress decently (covered knees, sleeves, etc) when entering the mausoleum as a sign of respect.
To make up for the disappointment, we went over to the Presidential Palace, located just within walking distance of the Mausoleum. The palace grounds also houses Ho Chi Minh’s residence.
Built between 1900 and 1906 for the French Governer-General of Indochina, the presidential palace is a stark contrast from the clean, minimalistic style of the mausoleum. Its bright mustard yellow colour stands out from the shady mango trees surrounding it. We were not allowed to go in as they still hold government functions here.
It is said that Ho Chi Minh refused to live in the palace for symbolic reasons. He lived in a simple house next to the palace, which includes a garage for his official state cars.
Interior of the house, which is basic and minimally furnished.
Turtle/fish pond. It is said that towards the end of his years, he lived an even simpler life in a wooden house on stilts by the edge of this pond. There are only two rooms in the house – one for sleeping and one for work and business. That’s how simple a life Uncle Ho led, and I believe a lot of Vietnamese respected his ideology and his dedication to the country, even though right now many might not have agreed to his ideals.
Didn’t manage to go in for a tour because we were rushing to get to our next destination. D:
Shops selling souvenirs and clothing nearby.
Leaving in the evening. Traffic was cray.
It was a great insight into the life of a man who helped shape modern Vietnam. If you’re ever in Hanoi, do drop by for a visit!
HO CHI MINH MAUSOLEUM
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Thursday; weekends from 8am to 11am
Closed: October & November
Presidential Palace & Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
Opening Hours: 8am to 11am & 2pm to 4pm
-By Bus: 33, 02 or 09