It’s not every day you get to see someone who has been dead for 43 years; although you wouldn’t know it the way Ho Chi Minh is honored on banners, posters, portraits for sale, products in Ha Noi. Did I mention he’s the only portrait on every piece of dong (the currency in Vietnam)? He is what Reagan is to Republicans times 1000. We made our way to the Ho chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum early in the morning while mist was still rising off the streets to collect in the grey sky.
The museum was full of modern art depicting the life and rise of the man, the legend, Ho Chi Minh.
Outside was the most ornate shrine in Ho Chi Minh’s honor. The inside glittered gold with all the brass ornaments, plates of fruit, burning incense, and lights.
Of course after learning all about this man, we wanted to go pay him a visit. Luckily his 122 year old super embalmed body is on display at a high security mausoleum. After being yelled at by several security guards for going the wrong way, we found the line, passed through metal detectors and handed over our cameras and cell phones to the uniformed guards. Then we stood in line and approached the red carpet walkway that led to the huge mausoleum behind a Vietnamese veteran in his wheel chair; escorted by 5 guards in pristine white uniforms. They carried him in the wheelchair, one man at each corner and one in the back. As soon as you set your first foot on the red carpet, you know that you are not to speak. The sacred presence of the Vietnamese leader, so beloved extends along that carpet and you feel as though you are about to meet a deity, as he is regarded by the people.
Inside the stone monument, the dim light shone gold on white marble, lighting two stairways.We were ushered along the one to the left. It was a short walk to the viewing room. A huge hammer and sickle along side a red star decorated the wall behind the illuminated glass chamber holding the embalmed body. His grandfatherly wrinkles on pale skin and famous beard shone in the light as he laid in perfect state. I wanted to stop for just a moment to examine the scene, but you aren’t allowed to stop and gape at the man in the glass. The slow parade of visitors is kept moving inside the mausoleum.
And then it was over, in a total of about 5 minutes I had met a honored communist leader and returned to being a tourist in Vietnam.