We visited the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, where we saw his embalmed body in a glass case. He died in 1969.
His body (so we were told) is shipped to Moscow every year for the embalming fluids to be changed – the jokes at the time spoke of his annual Russian holiday.
Queuing to get in to the mausoleum was different – shorts were not allowed to worn by ladies, and men’s shorts had to come down below the knee – this was fixed by loosening our belt . . . A large number of school children, as well as adults were always milling around.
A parade ground type of square was in front of the building. Armed guards patrolled the queue to make sure there were no unseemly movements or comments and of course laughing was not encouraged. Yours hands were expected to be by your side, definitely not in your pockets. Being guests in another country we accepted the host’s rules, but they did make one feel uncomfortable, particularly because they had automatic rifles.
Of course photographs were not allowed to be taken while in the long queue, nor inside the mausoleum. Once inside the building, the body could be seen lying on a bed, which was encased in a glass ‘room’ suspended from the ceiling. Stairs led upwards and around the suspended room and down again at the rear of the ‘room’ to ground level, where you exited the building. One followed the person in front – you didn’t stop and stare. Every few meters armed guards kept waving at us to move on – move on.
There were many children on a day out to see the ‘father’ of their country, Uncle Ho. Some cried, but I don’t know if it was out of respectful emotion, or because they’d seen a dead body.
To me the body looked very wax-like and I wondered if Madam Tussauds had got there first.
Across the way from the mausoleum is the house and offices where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked.
Further on we saw the outside of the Presidential Palace.
The whole area seemed to contain a never ending queue, but I don’t know for what . . .
The silver lining is that I can not remember if they had a souvenir shop as you left the area, I don’t think they did – which was a plus.
While in Hanoi we had a constant barrage of propaganda blaring out of speakers all over the city, urging the workers to work harder, to stop spitting or to be polite to each other – all in Vietnamese of course, so after a time it became just background noise to us, similar to the roar of traffic. I asked at the hotel for a translation of the constant broadcast and the above is what I was told.
Our next stop was a visit to the French colonial Hoa Lo prison, which was an eye opener. It was also known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ during the Vietnam / American war. The name Hoa Lo also means ‘fiery furnace’ after the street in which is stands. The street being famous for selling wood fired stoves.
I hope you can read the above which describes the prison, mixed with propaganda against the French.
Aerial view of the prison.
It was built from 1886 to 1889 to house 460 prisoners and was expanded in 1913 to hold 600. In 1916 the prisoners being held were 730, by 1954 it held 2000 prisoners and in the 1960’s it held American prisoners of war.
Being originally French it held a
I think this guillotine was last used in the 1930s.
Once strapped in you were not released to eat or to visit the toilet.
Outside garden area, but within the walls of the prison, created as a memorial.