Change of the Guards at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam
Stefan Dahle/age fotostock
Though the venerable Vietnamese leader asked to be cremated, Ho Chi Minh’s remains now reside embalmed inside this imposing, pillared, gray-granite memorial. His resting place is hugely popular, drawing Vietnamese in droves as they pay their respects to the most important figure of contemporary Vietnam. The mausoleum only opens in the mornings, and visitors must abide by a number of rules (these include no hats, no shorts, and no photos inside). Yes, it’s a chance to see the actual remains of a hugely influential leader, but the experience of queuing up for entry is also a way of mingling with ordinary Vietnamese.
We were closely inspected as we walked in, to ensure that we showed the proper respect to the man who united Vietnam. I normally only had to cover shoulders and knees for religious regions – and I guess that when it comes to the subject of Ho Chi Minh – aka Uncle Ho – it’s a religious matter. Military guards dressed in crisp white uniforms kept watch on the crowd, motioning in disapproval when you got out of line or weren’t moving fast enough. They even ‘shushed’ you if you were talking. They basically demanded respect be shown. This site is definitely a tourist destination on a grand scale – however the majority of people in line are Vietnamese – this feels more like a pilgrimage than a tourist attraction. An awning covered the long line of visitors leading up to the mausoleum – the line moved swiftly and led into the building. A blast of cold air-conditioned air hit you as you entered the building. From there you follow a red carpet upstairs and around corners with guards watching your every move. Finally you follow the red carpet into a dark room with Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body lying in wake. Before you know it – your viewing is complete and you are back out in the humid air. For me the experience of observing the local Vietnamese respect their leader was reason enough to go see this site. It was quite the cultural experience. No cameras allowed. You must wear clothing covering your shoulders and knees – no exceptions. And check opening hours!
We began out trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in Hanoi. Wow, what a different feeling to the city than we ever expected. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was the first place we stopped. No cameras allowed. Hands out of pockets. No speaking. Incredible.
Stop by the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
In Hanoi, visiting Ho Chi Minh (sometimes more casually referenced as Uncle Ho, the country’s famed political leader) will invariably be on your must-do list. To avoid waiting in the seemingly ever-present long lines, arrive first thing. You’ll need to dress for the occasion (long sleeves, no shorts) and be prepared to follow some strict rules. Before going inside you must surrender your camera, which gets magically handed back to you upon leaving the mausoleum. Once inside, simply follow the path and remember one thing as you walk: there’s no stopping. You’ll barely have time to blink before you’re outside again. Those absolutely committed to visiting should check in advance to see if the mausoleum’s open or closed, as Uncle Ho supposedly travels to Russia annually for re-embalming.
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