I wanted to visit Ho Chi Minh today, but he wasn’t there.

(Note: An updated version of this post is here.)

I’m not having much luck with visits to the embalmed bodies of communist icons.

Lenin’s mausoleum was closed on the frigid winter day I visited Moscow in 2006. In Beijing two years ago, I had no time to even think about standing in line to get a quick peek at Mao’s glass coffin. And now, in Hanoi, my visit coincided with the Vietnamese national hero’s two-and-a-half month respite in Moscow for his annual maintenance. I suppose there’s always Kim Il-Sung but a visit to Pyongyang isn’t on the agenda any time soon.

At 42 meters wide and just over 21 meters high, the structure is impressive, if a bit severe for the chaotic energy that is Hanoi. It’s likely too severe for Ho himself, since he clearly stated in his will his wish to be cremated. But instead of his ashes being scattered throughout the country, pieces of the country were brought here and incorporated into the mausoleum. It’s located in the center of Ba Ðình Square where Ho delivered Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945 and was formally inaugurated almost to the day 30 years later.

Besides face lift time from September through mid-December, it’s open Saturday through Thursday from 8-11am, free admission. But come early. Lines are reportedly very long.

A couple more shots:

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