Happy Birthday, Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh, one of the world’s most revered anti-colonialist figures of the 20th century, would have been 127 today.

Here are some shots I took back in October 2010 of the Vietnamese national hero’s mausoleum in the center of Hanoi’s Ba Ðình Square where his embalmed body lies in state and where my streak of bad luck with visits to the preserved bodies of Communist icons continued.

Lenin’s mausoleum was closed on the frigid winter day I visited Moscow in 2006. In Beijing two years later, I had no time to even think about standing in line to get a quick peek at Mao’s glass coffin. And 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, who 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 where Uncle Ho’s spirit remains alive, albeit tightly sealed in a glass sarcophagus.

Just the gardens surrounding the mausoleum contain nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers from different regions of Vietnam. Its construction, which began in 1973 and took two years to complete, also includes wood, rock and other materials gathered from various parts of the country.

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 which usually runs from September through mid-November, it’s open Saturday through Thursday from 8-11am. Admission is free, but come early. Lines are reportedly very long. And don’t wear shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops or hats; you will be refused entry.

A few more shots below beginning with the changing of the honor guard, and in this post, published from Hanoi seven years ago where and when I managed to proxy my way to Piran Cafe.

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