Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in HanoiMarch 13 in Vietnam
We started our day with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. I was grateful to be traveling with a guide, because just figuring out where to go to enter the complex was daunting, as the line literally extended down the block, around the corner, and along the next block. Most of the visitors seemed to be in group tours, and almost everyone we saw was either Vietnamese or Chinese. (We were told that Chinese citizens could enter Vietnam without a visa for visits of up to 14 days, and that Hanoi is a popular tourist destination.) Our guide, Tam, surveyed the line and decided that he was going to ask someone if we could simply step into the line. He decided to approach a group of students, and ask if them if we could step into the line. They agreed and we join the queue.
As soon as we stepped into the line, some of the girls gathered at the front group, started giggling and saying “hi” to us. I said hello back, which was met with peels of giggles and lots of pushing and jostling amongst the girls. For the next 20 minutes, we had very broken conversations with the girls, as they asked our names, where we were from, how old we were, and whether we had children. Some of the boys joined in, often translating when we were stuck. I learned that the kids in the group were 19 and 20, were studying environmental engineering at university. One of the girls asked me what I did, and our guide helped me translate that I was a lawyer. Despite my usual reluctance to name the school where I studied, I also told her that I went to Harvard. Her eyes became wide, and she told me that going to Harvard was “her dream.” A few of the girls asked if I would take a picture with them, and whether I was willing to become “facebook” friends. I said yes on both counts. Chatting with the girls made standing in line for over an hour enjoyable!
The long line was for the sole purpose of going into the Mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body is displayed. Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, before the end of what they call the “American War.” His body was transferred to Russia, where it remained until the Mausoleum was completed and the war ended in 1975. Although Chairman Ho had asked to be cremated, this generals decided that it would be better to preserve the body and put it on display, so that people who did not have a chance to meet him when he was alive could meet him after his death. While this sounded a little strange to me, the enormous crowds who line up to see the Chairman’s body makes it clear that the generals were right. Watching the people stand patiently in line, and then pass by the body in silent reverence was as interesting as seeing the body itself.
After passing through the Mausoleum, we walked through the grounds which have the palace in which important meetings are still conducted, the house in which Chairman Ho lived, and various gardens and pagodas. The grounds are lovely,Read more