Saying Hello to Uncle Ho

If Vietnam were a buddy cop movie, Hanoi would be the uptight, slightly staid and always-by-the-book man, while Saigon would be played by Eddie Murphy.

I went there – Hanoi – to see a dead man. Ho Chi Minh shuffled off our mortal coil in 1969, leaving a will requesting his cremation. They didn’t listen.

He lays in a monolithic mausoleum in a huge open square, where I stood with hundreds of others. Slowly we shuffled forward like a North Korean breadline. Broad shouldered young military men in pristine white uniforms watched us closely, gruffly gesturing at those wearing hats to remove them.

We shambled like a sad conga up a winding staircase until we reached the room in which he lay. It was high-ceilinged, with long deep red drapes covering the walls.

We didn’t, were not allowed to stop. You move along 3 sides of the room, staring at the fourth, where Ho lays in a raised glass coffin, flanked by four guards. 

There is a rumour that somewhere in the hazy past the real body was lost (a terrifying admission for a private to make to his superior, I’m sure), and that he was replaced with a dummy. If so, they went somewhere superior to Madame Tussards. The details of a lived in face are all there.

The mood was sombre and I felt like a voyeur at a funeral. But he looked well for someone 43 years dead.

Image

Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.

Ho Chi Minh

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Posted on April 3, 2012, in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It’s sad that they did not grant his wishes, but nice that you had such respect and empathy when visiting

  2. Kind of you to say, and thank you again for taking the time to be kind.

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