Nguyen Tat Thanh (Ho Chi Minh) was born in May 1890 and died in the middle of the Vietnam War. During most of his life the French were the colonial masters of Vietnam. He led the struggles to defeat the French and gain independence for North Vietnam and not long after his death, the unified country that exists today was created as the Americans withdrew. The capital of South Vietnam had been Saigon but it was renamed in his honour, the name the world knows Nguyen Sinh Cing by, Ho Chi Minh.
He led the struggle for independence from 1941 when the world was at war and four years later the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was formed; the Viet Minh subsequently defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to finally see the end of a former colonial master. Ho Chi Minh was prime minister and president of the communist government from 1945, giving up the prime minister’s role in 1955 but remaining president until his death, albeit he retired in 1965 but remained the Viet Cong’s inspiration. His death in 1969 came before the North’s ultimate victory but there is no question of the contribution Ho Chi Minh made to today’s Vietnam.
His Mausoleum in Hanoi is visited by a huge number of tourists on holiday in Vietnam. It is included on tours of the City, arranged locally by Hanoi travel agencies and regularly part of Vietnam tour packages. Many tourists begin their holiday in Vietnam in Hanoi which is one of the main entry points to the country. Visitors can pick up their Vietnam visa on arrival at the international airport and proceed from there. There is plenty to see and do in Hanoi before moving on to other parts of the country.
The Mausoleum is in the middle of Ba Dinh Square. It is stretching the imagination to call the building beautiful, especially as there is so much beauty in Vietnam, both natural as well as manmade. Its significance is more important than its appearance. It was begun in 1973 and inaugurated two years later. While it has similarities to that of Lenin in Moscow, the sloping roof is very much in the Vietnamese style. Grey granite forms the exterior and internally there is polished stone; red, black and grey. Its dimensions are 21.6 metres high, 41.2 metres wide with platforms o the flanks and green squares in front with a huge range of plants and flowers from all parts of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body is under military guard in a cooled, central hall. Dim lighting shows the glass case in which he rests and most days there are long queues of people paying their respects. Visitors must be dressed respectfully in order to be allowed inside. It is not allowed to use a camera or video anywhere inside the mausoleum and talking is not permitted either. It is a solemn place that befits such an important man in Vietnamese history.