Looking Into The Face Of History

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Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi
April 2nd 2019
Published: April 3rd 2019
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The route into the strangely angular Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is made up of a sober queue of people anxious to see the carefully conserved remains of Vietnam’s legendary leader.

A line of curious tourists and locals nervously contemplating the idea that soon they are going to see the preserved body of the father of modern Vietnam. The shuffling throng is strictly policed by white-uniformed attendants discretely admonishing people for not showing appropriate decorum in their wait to enter the sanctum. All to look upon the face of real, world-changing history.

Entering the mausoleum is a uniquely eerie experience. The Stygian darkness and the palpable feeling of awe lies heavy. Tourists know this is the one chance they’ll have to convene, however briefly, with a titan of twentieth-century Asian politico-history.

And soon, as your eyes become accustomed to the sepulchral atmosphere, in a dimly lit glass sarcophagus, Uncle Ho’s carefully tended remains are there to be seen.

Under the pale yellow light, you can certainly see his papery features and his carefully combed hair and beard. No doubt nourished and sustained by the nitrogen filled chamber.

Does this look like a nation’s leader in temporary repose
Official CarsOfficial CarsOfficial Cars

Two Russian examples and a very pretty Peugeot 505
or a carefully staged display that acts as both a point of pilgrimage and a totem of the ongoing consolidation of Vietnamese communism? Judging by the hordes of primary school kids in attendance, the indoctrination starts at an early age.

This is tourism at its most profound. No statues, gravestones or picture archives will quite compare to seeing the mortal remains of a person of note. And there are only a few opportunities in the world to do this. So if you’re in Hanoi then put this sombre visit on your agenda. It will help you to understand the world Ho Chi Minh fought for and, indeed, give an insight into how revered he still is in today’s Vietnam.

Naturally, where there are crowds, there are also opportunities to make a few quid. When you solemnly exit the mausoleum, you can pay to enter the presidential enclave. Where the rulers of Vietnam have based their operations for centuries. There’s a substantial French baroque building for when the country was part of Indochina. Then a more modest residence used by Ho Chi Minh and his politburo. You can also see some of his presidential cars here too.

HCM’s Home On StiltsHCM’s Home On StiltsHCM’s Home On Stilts

To live like the Vietnamese populous
there’s Ho’s last home. A purpose-built house on stilts. Erected according to his wishes to allow him to live like the people he ruled and fought for. A symbolic and highly appreciated gesture it seems.

The presidential enclave is a pleasant area to wander around. It’s free from the worst of the Hanoi smog and packed with the history of Vietnam at the end of the 20th century. It stands as a monument to the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and from where in 1975 the eventual liberation of Vietnam was masterminded


Additional photos below
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Angular but functional fountainAngular but functional fountain
Angular but functional fountain

With a pair of squirts!

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