“ Sightseeing International / Burial place of Ho Chi Minh „
Ho Chi Minh is a key person in the recent history of Vietnam and for that reason we were keen to visit his mausoleum and house which is in Central Hanoi. Ho (sometimes referred to as Uncle Ho) was born in 1890 and was president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (aka North Vietnam) until his death in 1969. He was a key figure in the movement for independence and a unified Vietnam. It was his wish that, upon his death, he would be cremated and his ashed scattered across North, South and Central Vietnam. Instead he has been embalmed and lies is state for much of the year in Hanoi where the people can come to visit him.
We got a taxi to the mausoleum - it is only a dollar or two from most city hotels, and the taxi driver dropped us at the gate. We could see it was busy and that there was a queue, so we set about heading towards the back of the queue. This part was quite confusing, as the queue seemed to end and was blocked off, there was still an hour or so until the mausoleum closed (it is only open in the mornings for a few days a week) so we wondered if the queue was so long that they had shut it off and hovered about, trying to find someone 'official' to find out what was going on, but they were all distracted and waved us away. Eventually we spotted that the queue continued across the road and set off to see if we could join it. It basically took 15 minutes from where the taxi driver dropped us off the get to the back of the queue, although there was some faffing due to lack of signage or information. By this point we were the last in the queue and very few people joined it after us. If you want to go, you need to be in the queue by 11am on weekends (it shuts earlier midweek so try for 10/10.30am). Once in the queue it does move fairly quickly and it took us 45 minutes to get into the actual mausoleum building, which was a lot quicker than some of our friends who took over an hour in some cases. The mausoleum part was free to get into but there will be bag searches - no cameras phones or recording devices are allowed, these will have to be checked into the left luggage security booth and will be waiting for you as you leave. I was worried that I may never see my camera again, but all was fine. No food or drink is allowed either and these will have to be thrown out. Due to the humidity we did carry a bottle with us which we had to give up. There are guards at various points keeping an eye on proceedings and the staff are very strict - they knew that someone in the queue behind us had some crisps which their children were eating. The visitors tried to discreetly pass them to someone else so the kids could finish it, but the staff held the queue until they had got the crisps. They had to wait back until they had finished - this was a good half an hour queueing away from the actual building. You are queuing outside, and sometimes in the sun so bring sun cream, a hat (remove it when you get in the building itself) and sunglasses. I have heard that dress should be respectful also - i.e no short skirts or shorts, no strappy tops.
The building itself is a large, dark grey stone structure and you will still find yourself queuing as you walk in and up the stairs, there are guards here and they demand that you are quiet. Finally you walk into the room where he lies. He lays peacefully in a glass case, smartly dressed with a dark cover over his lower body. I had never seen a dead body before, let alone an embalmed one, but he looked a bit unreal and waxwork like. You don't get close to the case, you are at a distance of a couple of metres and the lighting is subdued. It is very sombre and respectful within this room. Once you leave this room you then exit the building to collect your camera and then leave the grounds. It is worth noting that Ho travels to Russia every year for 'restoration', I think this is usually around September time, but you may want to check. Whilst it is free to go into the mausoleum you pay a small fee of approx VND 5000 (approx 15p) to go and see his home. I believe going into this part is optional but we were herded here by the officious guards, at this point most of the visitors were Western, the locals had disappeared whilst I was collecting my camera. We followed them through into the grounds of Ho Chi Minh's former home.
Within these grounds you can see the Presidential Palace, but you are not able to visit it, but you should be able to get a reasonable side-on photo if you wish. The grounds are pleasantly landscaped with a central lake and attractive trees. You will see where Ho worked and his (rather modest) collection of cars. In addition you can go to the modest stilt house that he lived in. It is allegedly as he left it with simple sixties furniture and a single bed. He preferred this residence to the official palace. It is in a lovely situation in the grounds by the lake. I enjoyed my walk around the grounds which is very green and pleasant in contrast with the rest of the bustling city of Hanoi. As you leave there is a gift shop and a cafe. I was unsure of the food offerings but we elected to just have a sit down and a cold drink.
If you are in Hanoi then this is worth a visit, the embalmed body of a former national leader is an unusual tourist attraction to say the least, and he does look good for a man who has been dead for 40 years! Why this may seem macabre to some, but I think this is something that you wouldn't usually get to see in any other country so we took the opportunity when we got it.
The mausoleum is only open a few days a week, depending on the time of year, and only in the mornings from about 7.30am. We went lateish, so we were towards the back of the queue, so it was quieter but the guards do try and rush you. Be prepared to wait and for your camera to be checked in - you will still want it if you visit the stilt house and grounds. The mausoleum is closed when Ho or the building are being restored or on holidays when there are parades here.
Probably the most popular destination for the visitor to Hanoi is the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Vietnamese people tend to expect tourists to pay a visit, and it would be both impolite and impolitic not to. So, despite a general disinterest in anything remotely political, off I went.
The queue was immensely long, hundreds and hundreds of people, but foreigners go straight to the front, and a wait of fifteen minutes or so builds up a sense of anticipation. It was interesting to see the Vietnamese people waiting patiently; sometimes what appeared to be the entire population of a village had come as a group, dressed in colourful local costume. They appeared to be anticipating an enjoyable day out and were probably not disappointed. The soldiers on duty in their immaculate white uniforms have the smartest turnout of any in Vietnam, and one can watch the guards goose-stepping about, before being ushered up the steps into the darkened mausoleum itself.
Once inside, step smartly through looking respectful (you will, of course, be appropriately attired). The guards will chivvy along anyone dawdling or staring, but this is all part of the theatre. If you happen to be familiar with methods of preserving bodies, a glance is enough for you to see which technique has been applied here. Then you are out again into the sunshine. The experience is rather like visiting a shrine, and with good reason, since ancestor worship is very important to the Vietnamese. Even some Vietnamese people who are opposed to communism respect Uncle Ho for his leadership qualities. His life story is presented as a kind of hagiography: officially, for example, he was unmarried. Obviously one should go along with this, and even the most harmless questions should be avoided. I was shown around outside by a Vietnamese guide who told me that 10% of Vietnamese people were members of the Communist Party; I politely asked how members were chosen, but this did not go down well at all. He also said the Vietnamese were not religious, so I pretended not to see the people offering incense at a nearby pagoda.
Having got the serious part over, you can join the Vietnamese visitors wandering around the carefully maintained gardens. Within walking distance of the mausoleum are the one pillar pagoda, a small temple with one monk and a cat, the temple of literature, the presidential palace, Uncle Ho's wooden house, and, best of all, a band of traditional Vietnamese musicians. I purchased many CDs of Vietnamese music, and a bamboo xylophone, which I still cannot play, though they made it look so easy.
Photography is not permitted in, or near, the mausoleum. Cameras must be left outside and collected afterwards.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Who was Ho Chi Mein?
Ho Chi Minh was born in 1890 and originally named Nguyen Sinh Cung and at 10 years old his father renamed him Nguyen Tat Thanh in line with confusion tradition. In 1911 he left Vietnam for France and applied to become a student but he was rejected so became a waiter and cleaner. Any spare time he had was spent studying in the libraries in Paris. In 1912 he left France and headed for New York and spent a year there after which he moved to England and lived for several years here up to 1919.
From 1919 he then moved to France where he became involved in Communism and was a founding member of the French communist party. He then spent many years in Moscow China and other countries. He tried to persuade the Vietnamese Emperor to abdicate which he eventually did in 1945 there after he declared himself the leader of the Democratic republic of Vietnam. The Chinese soldiers who were fighting in the north finally left then Ho Chi Minh began fighting against the French eventually trying to call a truce and the withdrawal of France from Vietnam.
In 1954 after the Geneva accords Ho Chi Minh was able to set up a government and became President of Vietnam. He moved the capital from Saigon to Hanoi thereby causing a split in the country with the North being communist held and the South being led by President Ngo Dinh Diem. There was mass migration of people from the north heading south. Farmers where tortured and executed by the communists during the land reformation some people were not permitted to head south and were kept in the North.
Ho insisted that a war continued to reunite the country as a whole. The South received the support from the USA following the withdrawal of the French and started to land troops due to the high presence of Ho tried to negotiate a truce but it never came and because of the continued fighting the Americans were drawn into a long and nasty war against the North Vietnamese trying to protect the south from further invasion.
Ho Chi Minh was based in Hanoi and although he could have lived in the Presidential palace he chose to live in a traditional wooden house built on wooden stilts within the grounds of the Palace. There are two upstairs rooms one being a study and the other his bedroom. On the ground floor there was a conference room. Ho Chi Minh died here in this house on September 2nd 1969 in his bed of heart failure. It was 48 hours before his death was announced as they did not want to announce it on the anniversary of the founding of democratic republic of Vietnam. No one was named as his successor so the country was ruled by members of the army and politburo.
Ho Chi Minh's memorial is based in the centre of Hanoi at the place where he read the decloration of independence in Ba Dinh Square in 1945. Work began on the construction in 1973 and was finished in 1975. The mausoleum is based on the Mausoleum of Lenin in Moscow. It is made of grey granite, and the inside is grey black and red polished stone. On top of the plinth at the top of the building are the words CHU TICH HO CHI MINH Translated as President Ho Chi Minh.
The building is 21.6 metres high and 41.2 metres wide with viewing platforms on either side of seven steps for watching parades. There is a massive plaza in front of the building and a road way.
Ho had left instructions in his will for his body to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the North, in the central hills and in South Vietnam but the government preserved his body which is on display in the mausoleum which is open daily from 09:00 AM to Noon. There is a military guard of honour with the soldiers dressed all in pristine white uniforms. And there are queues of people lining up to pay their respects to him at the mausoleum. He is lying in a glass case in the middle of the Mausoleum. There are very strict rules which have to be adhered to when visiting the mausoleum being no talking, no photographs or videotaping no mini skirts or shorts and you have to walk in pairs into and out of the mausoleum. Before you enter the museum you have to check your camera or video equipment in for safe keeping you are not allowed to take them in with you.
Walking into the mausoleum you can see quite Clearly Ho Chi minh in his glass coffin and it looks just like he is asleep. Although it is lit up inside the mausoleum it is still quite dark and somber. The guards are very strict when you enter the mausoleum and you are only in there for about a minute and certainly no longer than two minutes at the most. If you linger for too long the guards will push you along and I mean push no gentleness here I am afraid. They are also very strict about your hands they must be by your sides at all times. I saw some chap fold his arms and he was quickly shouted at by one of the guards. Fortunately the queue for us was short we were in and out within about 20 minutes. 18-19 minutes of queuing and 1-2 minutes from entering to exiting the mausoleum.
Behind the mausoleum there is a beautiful park and the walkway to the Mausoleum is very pleasantly lined with shrubs and box hedging. Admission to the mausoleum is free to everyone.
Would I recommend a visit? I would but only if you are in the area.
He is regarded as and called Uncle Ho by the people of Vietnam although many people regard him with hatred for sustaining such a long war. However up to the ending of the most recent Great War in 1975 Vietnam had been at war with some nation or another for 116 years.
The Vietnamese finally took control of Saigon in 1975 and the name of the city was changed in honour of Ho and is now officially known as Ho Chi Minh City.
Burial place of Ho Chi Minh