Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 31 - Seeing Ho Chi Minh in Person

Spent most of the morning in the Ba Dinh district of Hanoi since most of the attractions were only accessible from 8am-11am, every day of the week except Monday and Friday. Many tourists aren't aware of these restrictions and get there too late to see anything.

The first stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body lay. Other communist leaders like Lenin and Mao Zedong also have been embalmed and displayed to visitors in their respective countries. The entire structure was very plain, and cold-looking, made of a gray marble. All the visitors had to pass through a checkpoint, before being lead down a long line to the entrance of the mausoleum. Soldiers were on guard at various points to ensure the security of the area. I really didn't know what to expect when entering the building. It was chilly, stepping in as the A/C ventilation was on at full-blast and we were led in 2 single-file lines up some stairs before turning into the room where Ho Chi Minh lay. Everyone was asked to remain silent and keep the line moving, as we saw Ho Chi Minh's body in a glass case, laying peacefully like you would see at a funeral. A soldier was standing at every corner of the glass case for protection. I felt very uneasy being there and witnessing the body of someone who died in 1969, still preserved as if he died not a week ago. I never got the chance to see Mao Zedong's body when I visited China, so this was the first time I'd witnessed something like this. What's interesting is that Ho Chi Minh never wanted to be embalmed, but rather cremated and have his ashes spread across Vietnam. Against his wishes, he was instead embalmed.

Afterwards, we were all led to the Presidential Living Quarters, which included some of the places that Ho Chi Minh lived and worked. Basic tourist filler attractions. I then headed to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which included many bazaar and abstract displays, much of which I didn't really understand. It was very strange.

The last museum I wanted to stop by was the Museum of Vietnamese Women, which showcased some of the historical achievements of women during Vietnamese resistance. There was also a floor dedicated to learning more about the work Vietnamese woman do, many working as street vendors to help their families out. Some go to the market to purchase goods at 4am in the morning, and sell the goods all day until around 7pm, repeating this routine everyday... On that same floor was an exhibit that showcased the Vietnamese Traditions of Marriage and Giving Birth.

The top floor was dedicated to Vietnamese Women's Fashion, which included a wide variety of clothing from different tribes across the country. Many of the costumes were very colorful and intricate, probably intentionally done to distinguish a tribe from another tribe.

There was also a special exhibit that displayed the stories of many victims of trafficking. Many of the stories told of people who trusted their friends to go somewhere to get a job, only to be sold by these so-called friends to someone in China to work in factories, in the sex trade, or work as a wife. There were also stories and pictures of people who were victims of domestic abuse. It's great to see some of these issues exposed, because I wonder how much trouble they have with the government in attempting to censor some of this...

At the end of the night, I headed back to Hanoi Cinematheque to try and catch the showing of "The Searchers" but ended up coming at the wrong time...lest I want to watch True Grit a second time. Ended the night early to catch up on sleep. Tomorrow, I take a night train to Sapa, Vietnam.

At the front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Street Food - Glass noodles with tofu, ground pork, pork cake, and vegetables

Traditional Marriage Attire

Various Tribal Garb from Around Vietnam

Various Tribal Garb from Around Vietnam

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