Uncle Ho Chi Minh

11 Feb
Visiting uncle Ho in his glass coffin...

Visiting uncle Ho in his glass coffin...

One of THE things to see in Ha Noi is the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum & museum – it doesn’t get more Vietnamese than that. The big block mausoleum is situated on a big boulevard, closed for traffic in true communist style, with soldiers guarding the access. There are supposedly strict controls to get in – although we didn’t quite get the system. And then you are shuffled across the big fridge containing the body of Ho Chi Minh… A strange experience.

The mausoleum is like a big concrete block – but it is supposed to represent a typical house in Vietnam – with a lotus flower on top. The materials were brought from all over Vietnam to honour their big leader. The mausoleum was inspired by other ‘great’ leaders such as Stalin, Lenin & Mao. The funny thing being that Uncle Ho actually wanted to be cremated – so much for his last wish.

In order to get in, we had to pass a security check. Even though other people walked happily past the security booth with the X-ray machine, we thought we’d be rather safe than sorry. We cued up and got shouted at because we had to stand in one line – and then they mean ONE line of people behind each other, not next to each other. What’s the point?

Employment scheme - carrying red bags around...

Employment scheme - carrying red bags around...

One by one we had to go through the metal detector – even though I still had coins and my wallet in my pocket – but that was not an issue. So what’s the point? On the x-ray machine they did see my camera and pocket knife, which are not allowed in the Mausoleum. I had to take out my camera and put it in a nice little red bag, which we had to go and deposit at another security booth. However, we both kept our mobile phones with cameras that are almost better quality than the old Sony camera I have with me (I hope it will survive this trip). So what’s the point?

The lady at the end of the Xray machine looked me in the eyes, punching her female colleague and started giggling. She continued staring at my face, either because of the blue eyes, which seem to be very much adored here, or the long nose – or high nose as they say and like here (everything is proportionate). As well as white skin – those are things that Vietnamese have commented on here before. So I must have made the guard’s day ;-)

Approaching the mausoleum was not all that easy either. You had to go in a strict line (but that we had practiced at the Xray machine), you were not allowed to walk behind the lines etc. When going in: no shorts were allowed, a good thing Hanoi was a bit more chilly than down south and we were wearing long trousers. You were not allowed to talk, not allowed to stand still, you were ushered on by soldiers every 5 steps. You were not allowed to put your hands in your pockets. After all the comments and reprimands of the guards, we spontaneously started walking in synchronized soldiers march

  • Why do people do things for no reason? Just because. Without seeing the point? Or is this just a Western attitude – only doing things if there is a reason or logic for it.
One leg pagoda - near Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

One leg pagoda - near Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

The mausoleum inside, with the red carpet (and do not dare to set one foot off the carpet) was like walking through a big fridge. And in a glass box, with different spotlights illuminating him, was Ho Chi Minh’s remains. Peaceful but yet a bit morbid, knowing that it is actually a dead person. On the other hand, this mummified corps was probably more plastic than human (after all the procedures applied to him over the 40 odd years). Every year Ho  goes for a 3 month holiday to Russia to be touched up – obviously if you want to stay looking good for a long time (even after death) Russia is the place to be…

A bit startling to know that this frail man, actually changed the lives of a whole country turning it communist (and of several others – first defeating French colonialism, and then American interferers).

After having gone through the Mausoleum, wonder oh wonder, the camera and pocket knife that we had deposited in the nice little lovely red bag, would be waiting for us down the other side of the mausoleum a few hundreds meter away from where we had deposited it, in yet another security booth… I was impressed. That’s how they keep employment high – someone actually runs between those booths to bring the cameras etc over. Clever.

The Ho chi Minh museum in true communist style

The Ho chi Minh museum in true communist style

The Ho Chi Minh museum next door was interesting to see a bit behind the person of Ho Chi Minh. He traveled virtually around the world (without a passport, taking on different identities, that’s why there are about a dozen names to refer to the same person). They also showed pictures of the schools he went to and the humble dwellings he lived and worked in. Such a simple man, with great ideas. One of those ideas being: “If you have a gun, use the gun, if you have a sword, use the sword, and if you don’t have any of those, just use the hoes and shuffles that you use on the field to fight the enemy”. Well, the Vietnamese managed…

There was also a complete room, very well decorated, idolizing communism. “There are different theories of communism, but there is only one purest one: Leninism” – hence some statues and streets of Comrade Lenin in most of the cities. Incredible what influence political ideas can have on a country… but then again, we are probably just as well indoctrinated of our ideology of capitalism and democracy… Is the one better than the other?

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