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Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one of the most significant landmarks in Hanoi. It is located at the center of Ba Dinh Square where President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on September 2nd, 1945, which in turn established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After his death, the Mausoleum was built to serve as his final resting place – right in the very same place where the declaration took place. Today, the building serves as a venue for the people of Vietnam to express their deep admiration, respect, and gratitude towards their great leader.
None of this is what Ho Chi Minh wanted. He requested that he be cremated and his ashes spread in three areas in northern, central and southern Vietnam. However, at the time of his death in 1969, the war was still raging and people’s morale was low. Communist Party chiefs recognized his iconic status and override his wishes, probably a pragmatically wise decision, but ethically reprehensive. The embalming process was initially undertaken by Russian experts – even to this date, his body is taken to Moscow for three months each year in early autumn for maintenance.
The mausoleum was inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow but incorporates distinct architectural elements of the Vietnamese culture such as the sloping roof and the exterior was made of gray granite that gives it an exquisite touch. There were cycad trees in front of the mausoleum that symbolizes Ho Chi Minh’s 79 springs of life. There were two bamboo ranges on each side that whistle in the wind to commemorate the President. His popular quote “Khong co gi quy hon doc lap tu do” (translated as “Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom”) can also be seen on the top left side of the mausoleum.
The interior, on the other hand, was not vast, given the size of the mausoleum from the outside. But just the same, the corridors were wide enough to accommodate two-person with much room to spare. The interior was dimly lit and cold, giving an even grimmer and dour sense of the place. Honor guards stood at intervals along the path, silently staring at passersby. I made it through the corridors and reached the heart of the structure. I entered a rather small area where everyone’s attention was fixed in the middle of the room where Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body has been placed – dressed in his traditional khaki clothes and rubber sandals. The body was in a glass with lights under his hands and face. And in the gloom of his tomb, walking past the striations almost made the body seemed to move as if his head was slightly turning as the crowd of strangers filed past. I caught a glimpse of how other people reacted, kids took slow deliberate steps while elderly civilians walk with admiration and some even shed tears. Actually, looking at the embalmed body felt a bit eerie, but somehow, for some intangible reason, it moved me.
The visit was such a unique experience and even though it took me 20 minutes to reach the heart of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and only less than 3 minutes to walk past the body of the deceased leader I’m still glad I did make this stop.
Opening time: 5 days per week, except Monday and Friday
Entrance Fee: Free
Note: Food, camera, cell phone, bare-shoulder T-shirts, or mini skirts are NOT allowed inside the Mausoleum. Don’t take the risk!
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