Newest Review: ... 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 que... more
Meeting Uncle Ho
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Area (Hanoi, Vietnam)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Area (Hanoi, Vietnam)
Advantages: Unique chance to learn about Ho Chi Minh and see his embalmed body
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.
Summary: The embalmed body and home of a former Vietnamese leader.
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