Ho Chi Minh is probably the most revered historical figure in Vietnam. His face is on all denominations of the currency and the largest city in the country bears his name. In Hanoi, his image is especially ubiquitous. Today we visited several sites devoted to the mythology of “Uncle Ho.”
Ho’s mausoleum is in Ba Dinh Square, the site where Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnamese independence on September 2, 1945. The building is impressive—a huge structure which is, as best as I can tell, empty except for Ho’s body. Visiting the mausoleum is a solemn experience. Cameras are prohibited and visitors are expected to maintain a respectful comportment. If you don’t move quickly enough in filing past his body the military guards will abruptly order you to move along–as happened to me and a student today.
The mausoleum is part of a complex of buildings devoted to Ho Chi Minh. We also saw his stilt house and the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which places Ho’s life and Vietnamese revolutionary communism in the context of twentieth century world history. A large statue of Ho stands in the atrium of the museum.
The gift shop at the museum sells all manner of Ho memorabilia and also, somewhat inexplicably, some 3-D pictures of cute puppies.