One of the top things to do in Hanoi is going to a mausoleum to see to an embalmed corpse. I know that sounds weird and creepy, but this is no regular corpse. The body belongs to President Ho Chi Minh, the most popular leader of Vietnam who was also the Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam until his death in 1969. He is considered as a hero by the Vietnamese people because he fought for the independence of the country.
Everyday, visitors flock this marble mausoleum to pay their respects to Ho Chi Minh — or Uncle Ho, as people would call him, because when he was still alive, he was known to be humble and approachable, just like an awesome uncle! His remains lie in a glass case and is preserved in an air-conditioned area of the mausoleum, heavily guarded by security. It’s all very grand and formal, which is the total opposite of how Uncle Ho would have wanted things to be. The guy just wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered across Vietnam, but he was so well-loved by the Vietnamese that they decided that a stately memorial where people can still pay tribute to him long after his death was more fitting for him, similar to Lenin’s Mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow.
Every year, during October to around the latter part of November, the body of Uncle Ho (can I call him Uncle Ho?) is sent to Russia for maintenance. Since we went to Hanoi on the last week November, we weren’t able to see him and go inside the mausoleum. I was aware of this, but we decided to check it out anyway.
By the way, there is a dress code. No revealing outfits like tank tops or short shorts allowed. Mike was wearing shorts, and I don’t know how he got away with that! He was lucky!
The monument is protected and guarded by sentries in white, standing as straight as a ruler and not moving! Well, maybe they did move a little, but we didn’t see it. They do have the changing of the guards, which, I heard, is much like the one at Buckingham Palace, although I don’t know when and what time you can witness that.
We went to the mausoleum with Huyen and Phuong from Hanoi eBuddies, our student tour guides for the day, and they shared a bit of Vietnam history with us. You don’t really need to have a tour guide with you when you visit this place, but since a tour with Hanoi eBuddies is FREE, we thought it would be nice to have them around so they can tell us things we didn’t know — things that locals would be able to explain better!
I heard that the lines to see Uncle Ho are always really long, and people stand in line for hours. I wouldn’t know because we didn’t really line up, but when we visited, there was really not much people, probably because Uncle Ho wasn’t there. Because it wasn’t too crowded, it was nice to just walk around the area.
Just beside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the One Pillar Pagoda, a historic temple in Hanoi. Huyen told me “it’s where women want to go when they want to pray for a baby,” so I said, “Is that sooo? Let’s go then!” Unfortunately, when we got there at around 12:15 in the afternoon, the pagoda was closed! Bummer. No “made in Vietnam” babies then.
We did stop by the Presidential Palace to take photos of it. It’s yellow! What a fun color for a palace! Actually, a lot of buildings in Hanoi are yellow with green gates or doors, reflecting French colonial architecture. The color yellow signified royalty in Vietnam.
Since there really wasn’t much to do or see here, we only spent about 20 minutes checking out the mausoleum. Hopefully, next time we go, we can finally see Uncle Ho!
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Address: 8 Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Thursday at 07:30 – 10:30 / Saturday & Sunday at 07:30 – 10:00. Yearly maintenance sometime around October to November.
Admission Fee: Free!
How to get there: Take a taxi and asked to be dropped off at the visitors’ gate
Dress code: No revealing clothes — tank tops, shorts, etc. If you are not dressed appropriately, there is a place nearby where you can rent clothes.
Photography: Strictly no photography inside the mausoleum!
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