Finally, at the fourth attempt, I have managed to see Uncle Ho lying in state.
The first time I tried several months ago I turned up at the mausoleum to discover he was away in Moscow. Depending on whom I asked he was either on tour or getting some ‘work’ done.
The second time was equally as abortive. I forgot the mausoleum was closed on Mondays.
Take three was a few weeks ago. I had been informed the mausoleum was open in the afternoons but that ultimately proved to be a bum steer.
Finally last weekend I determined it was going to happen. Set my alarm for six on Sunday morning and made my way to the mausoleum by bus arriving at 07:35 to join the queue. Even at this time there were a couple of thousand people already waiting in line. Unsurprising though considering Sunday is most people’s day off.
I must say it was the most orderly queue I have been in here. The staff at the mausoleum complex do a good job of managing the queue and getting it moving along. I was reminded somewhat, purely in terms of queue management, of a visit to Disneyland in Florida.
It wasn’t too bad an experience on the whole, even in 24 degree heat and 92% humidity. If you can avoid it don’t take a backpack. You will need to leave that in a locker. Handbags seem to be okay. Show respect, don’t wear shorts.
Half an hour in and I reached the square on which the mausoleum sits, but there was still an enormous but reasonably rapid moving queue stretching in front of me. By now the civilians have been replaced by young men in the world’s campest ceremonial uniform. They are dressed in white from head to toe in uniforms that look slightly too big for the occupant. I half expected them to break out into a tap dance routine but for the side arms and rifles with bayonets fixed.
A quiet solemness descends on the queue as we reach the steps of the mausoleum. We are then ushered up a marble lined staircase into the tomb itself where Ho Chi Minh lies in a glass coffin. You don’t get much opportunity to dawdle, the soldiers keep everyone moving as we describe a U shape around the coffin. Thankfully no one contemplates a selfie.
Before you know it you are back outside. In my case 55 minutes after joining the queue.
Glad I did it. Visiting the mausoleum is something you should do at least once during your stay in Hanoi. Otherwise it would be like visiting Paris and not going up the Eiffel Tower.
Almost fifty years after his death Ho Chi Minh is still held in high esteem by all generations of the Vietnamese people. Very few political leaders enjoy that level of enduring popularity among their countrymen after they have gone that’s for sure.
* There is a way to fast track your mausoleum visit by making an appointment. I assume you do this through a tour company. Share if you know the ins and outs of making an appointment.