One of the biggest attractions in Hanoi is the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh, or ‘Uncle Ho’ was a famous prime minister and president of North Vietnam; he is credited for being a founder of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, as well as the Peoples army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. He is loved and respected by the people for trying to make a united Vietnam so much so that they renamed Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City in his memory. When he died his body was embalmed, despite his wishes of being cremated, and is kept at the mausoleum for people to come and see. It was built-in the spot where he had read the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence in 1945.
We got up early and headed out into a ridiculously 92% humid day… not pleasant. We jumped into a taxi and told him where to take us, unfortunately the taxi we picked was one of the many taxi drivers who takes advantage of the tourists and scam them. There are many scams in Vietnam and the taxi scam is notorious! We jumped in and he started chatting away to us being very friendly… it was only after a few minutes that we realized the meter was up at 200,000 dong ($10) and it was going up at 20,000 ($1) amounts every few seconds. Just to give you an idea your taxi meter will usually start at 9-12,000 and go up by 1-2000 every 30 seconds or so. Andy chinned the guy and he started giving excuses that it was a ‘big taxi so more expensive’ we finally told him to stop as by now it was 300,000($15) we paid him, as they can turn nasty if you don’t (a story for later!) and got out. Raging that we just got done we walked the rest of the way to the mausoleum (our taxi home was 62,000/$3!!) The mausoleum has two entrances, the main entrance and a side entrance. We unknowingly went in the side entrance which actually cut off about an hour queue!
Security and rules are VERY strict here. First you must get your bag searched, no liquid at all is allowed in which meant we had to throw out 4 bottles of sealed water we had with us for the day, then you must go through a metal detector and any big bags must be left behind. (There is a free storage area) As with any temples you must watch what you are wearing, for girls you must have your legs covered to your knees with your shoulders covered, boys must wear trousers as shorts are not allowed neither are singlet’s or vests. Finally flip-flops for both girls and boys is a big no! Unlike many places where they will give you something to cover up with, here you will just be turned away which almost happened to me as my dress didn’t cover enough of my shoulders, luckily I had a shrug with me!
A security officer will then take you to a line past a yellow line where you
must stand 2 by 2 and not move forward until the security escorts you. Once you have crossed the yellow line cameras are forbidden and they are forbidden inside the mausoleum which is heavily guarded with soldiers holding big guns and huge bayonets on the end… so I would not test them!!
Lines are taken in one at a time, no one can move out of formation and no talking is allowed. As soon as you walk through the doors the temperature is instantly colder (much to our relief after standing outside for 20 minutes!) Once inside you must keep walking in the line, you are led up the stairs and into the actual mausoleum which contains the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh. The room is quite small with a one way walkway round the room, on the lower level is the glass box containing Ho Chi Minh with 3 guards on each side. It is the first time I have ever seen an embalmed body and is strange! It really did just look like he was sleeping despite dying in 1969!
You are in an out within about 30 seconds, as I said you must keep walking so you cannot stay any longer. Once outside you must still keep to you 2 by 2 line until you are a released by security although you must still stay behind the yellow line! Once behind this line you are free to take pictures!
We were going to walk round to the museum which is at the main entrance, however the humidity and heat was just too much for me, especially as I had a fever thanks to a chest infection and we headed back to find an attraction inside and with air-con!
It was a very quick visit however it was very interesting!