In the center of Hanoi, a large area is devoted to the world-renowned Vietnamese statesman, Ho Chi Minh. Modeled after the Mausoleum of Lenin in Russia, the centerpiece of the area is the huge Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where the hero’s embalmed body lies in a glass case.
Uncle Ho, as he was affectionately known as left directions for his cremation and his final will. However, during 1969 at the time of this death, the war was still raging a year after the Tet Offensive, making morale still low. The Communist Party recognized his iconic status and denied his wishes. Many claim that it was a wise decision at the time but ethically unacceptable. Instead, his body was embalmed and the mausoleum was erected in his honor despite it being against his final wishes. The embalming process is undertaken by Russian experts every year during the early autumn as his body is flown to Moscow for three months of maintenance.
The mausoleum was erected with the support of the USSR and has become a great example of the Soviet architecture of the period. Its grandeur is a great contrast to the simple stilt house Ho Chi Minch used to live and work in. Made from (exterior) granite and (interior) wood, materials made to construct the building were donated by people from all over the country. Built in the style of ethnic minority dwellings, the mausoleum overlooks a huge carp pond and is regarded as a peaceful sanctuary. Even the garden of plants and bonsais that surrounds the area was put together from plants donated from different regions of Vietnam as well.
Today, the mausoleum is heavily guarded by honor guards of Vietnamese soldiers in white dress uniforms who march around the building in regular intervals. Tourists are able to catch a glimpse of the body but they must join the queue and file through the room without stopping. Visitors can also look through the windows to see some of his personal possessions. Clearly, taking pictures is not allowed and all private possessions must be left outside the mausoleum.
It is a quite a ghastly experience to see the encased dead body of Hochiminh, but a number of tourists find it extremely moving possibly due to the undisguised admiration that the Vietnamese have for him. A Hoa Hue Trang, a favorite sweetly scented flower of Uncle Ho, never fails to sit on his desk in a vase every day.
The Mausoleum is open from 8 to 11 in the morning from Tuesdays to Thursdays and during the weekends. Know that the mausoleum is seasonally closed for maintenance so it is best to check for information before heading to the area. Visiting the mausoleum is free of charge but some strict rules are heavily enforced so it may be best to be wary of such regulations before visiting. Other nearby attractions includes the Botanical Gardens, the Presidential Palace and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
The building is primary for visitors to express their gratitude and admiration towards the national hero. To this date, the hero binds the nation together with the grandeur of the building. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum goes to show how much the Vietnamese honor their dear heroic grandfather.