Preserved Socialist Leaders Pt. 2:
Ho Chi Minh

Hanoi, 1998

A street scene in Hanoi in 1998. We were there four days on a Nestle commercial with Paul Arden directing. We got a couple of afternoons to wander around. I went back to Hanoi in 2017; quite a difference.

Hanoi, 1998

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Unlike the touristy feel of Red Square, this feels much more respectful.

Since the leadership and achievements of Ho Chi Minh was plastered almost everywhere we decided to go and have a look at the man in person at his mausoleum, so we carried on walking up Dien Bien Phu to Ba Dinh square where we were ushered around the side to a visitors centre where we gave in our cameras and bags, then mustered at the corner of the processional Hung Vuong street. We were shepherded into single file and then marched up the road to the black marble monument with great ceremony and reverence. As we approached the large square pillared monument the guards outside did a march from their outer stations to the edge of the street, where the officer with them saluted the officer who had brought us there, and then took us into the mausoleum along a narrow red carpet.

The mausoleum is bigger than Lenin's by about a factor of four externally, but to be fair Lenin's tomb does extend underground whilst Ho's is all above ground. They might have been designed by the same architect, in fact. Past another honour guard and in through the large wooden doors, we walked to our left, then right and upstairs to where we turned abruptly right and into the chamber, dimly lit and with Ho Chi Minh or the vessel he used to walk around in lying in a bronze and glass sarcophagus. Unlike Lenin he has four officers standing at the four corners of his gasket, staring ahead unblinking. Behind him in inlaid black and red marble is the hammer and sickle next to the red star of the republic, and he looks in better shape than Lenin which one would expect as he hasn't been dead nearly so long.

We were herded round by the two officers accompanying us, and pretty soon were back out of a side door where we were free to walk back to collect our bags. Oddly enough Ho Chi Minh actually wanted to be cremated but his remains were embalmed for all time instead. More curious still or perhaps not curious at all, even though the population have a deep mistrust of communism itself, Uncle Ho remains a much revered figure amongst the people of Vietnam. His achievements are taught in schools across the land, and it is his generals that succeeded him that seem to bear much of the blame for what the citizens regard as the shortcomings of communism.

Contemporaneous report, 16th January 1998

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