Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh!

We're in the late afternoon of our one full day in Hanoi. At coffee this morning, after visiting Ho Chi Minh as he lies in state, we discussed that we're all in various stages of being ready to leave Vietnam (the husband) or Asia (younger son). More than anything else, I'm ready to get out of Hanoi. It's a big city, and there are few big cities I feel an affinity for. Boston and Chicago are two that I have felt comfortable in. Hue, although much larger than hometown Charlottesville, did not feel like Hanoi does. My tension level has risen just from being here. I am looking forward to getting to Siem Reap, Cambodia, tomorrow evening, and trading Hanoi for Angkor Wat.

We agreed earlier that the one thing we all wanted to do in Hanoi was visit Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and see his embalmed body. We did that this morning. Unfortunately, you must check your camera (and any luggage other than a purse) at the door, so we were unable to take photos anywhere in the mausoleum complex. The Vietnamese take Ho Chi Minh's remains very seriously. All cars or buses coming into the complex get the complete once-over, including the mirror to look at the vehicle's undercarriage. From the time you check your bags until the time you are out of the mausoleum, you are regimented. You stand in single file here, and then over there you line up by twos. Similar to airport security, the purses go through the x-ray while you walk through the metal detector. There are guards at every twist and turn of the carpeted path.

The one thing that we all thought was very clever we may not have noticed had the people in front of us not had a child, maybe five years old, with them. When we entered the room in which Ho Chi Minh lies, the guard at the door showed them that there was an elevated path, right next to the railing, on which small children could walk and see Ho Chi Minh without an adult's having to lift and carry them. Having lifted one or two kids myself so that they could see something, I thought this was a very, very nice touch. Of course, the punchline was delivered after we exited the mausoleum building and heard the little boy ask his mother and father if Ho Chi Minh were a zombie. Needless to say, this led to spitfire talk of zombie-this and zombie-that, and I now have quite the outline for National Novel Writing Month in November.

Once you leave the mausoleum building, you can get out of the regimented line and stroll through the rest of the grounds as you wish, as long as you're back at the baggage claim area by the time they tell you when you enter. We saw the stilt house in which Ho Chi Minh lived and worked for many years, and were disappointed to learn that the garage in which his used cars were kept was closed. We walked through several souvenir shops, coming out with a Ho Chi Minh pin that I plan to turn into a refrigerator magnet, a keychain with Halong Bay on one side and Ho Chi Minh on the other, and a CD, the contents of which we don't really know. Here's part of the CD cover. How could I pass up "Uncle Ho's Farewell Message" and Karaoke something on the same CD? This may become a party favorite back in the 'Ville.

After the mausoleum, we walked back toward the hotel, stopping to check out the Canadian embassy, admire wiring to rival what we saw in Ho Chi Minh City, admire Vlad Tepes (Dracula) on a poster outside the Romanian embassy, and commune a bit with Lenin in a park. Younger son has some nice shots on his blog of some people who shared Lenin with us.

After we stopped for coffee, we walked around Hoan Kiem Lake. Younger son played around with some reflection photos. I did, too, but in a slightly different way, concentrating more on the reflection itself and not what was being reflected. We found some more trash cans that our friend the environmental science teacher would love to see around home. One side is for compostable garbage; the other side is for the other stuff. We also went through the Ngoc Son temple, which sits on an island in the lake. My shots from there aren't as good as some of younger son's, but this is my blog, so you take what you can get. And now I have no excuse for not doing the repacking. We decided that we'd like to visit the Hanoi Hilton (the site of the real one, not the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel) tomorrow morning. We leave the hotel for the airport at 1:30, and will be in Cambodia tomorrow night. Check out where we'll be staying if you like; we have rooms at the bed and breakfast side of the operation.


Nancy Nelson said...

Great report, as usual, Jean. I checked out The Golden Bannana and noted in the Guest Book was a couple from Dickson, TN. Dickson is right next door to Burns, who woulda thunk!! Looking forward to your next report and heading to your son's blog to see his pictures. Great "armchair" traveling.

A. said...

Awwr, the Golden Banana is queer owned/operated. Super sweet.

Safe travels!

VA said...

Younger son has an awesome gift for recognizing and capturing the most amazing photographic opportunities! Love the Links to his photos - left comment and translation by the way - courtesy of you-know-whom.

As for all those Communist leaders' bodies on view for the public ------- just another icon to replace "religious" ones??