Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body can be viewed by the public in his mausoleum. He was always considered to be our enemy when I was a boy growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam War, but now I look upon him quite differently. He had seen the injustices brought on his people by the French colonial powers and he opposed the US intervention in his country’s affairs. His goal was to reunify the nation once more and bring north and south together. He died in 1969, some years before the end of the war, but his goal of reunification was realised in 1975. It was clear to see the way he is revered by the people of Hanoi. Our guide constantly referred to him as ‘our Great Hero’.
Viewing of the body can only take place in the morning. We found ourselves at the end of a long queue, but it moved steadily, kept orderly by the sentries in their white uniforms, white gloves, braiding and other adornments. We filed silently past the body, looking very peaceful in its glass coffin, passing around three sides and then leaving the building. It was a little eery being so close to such a notable man. Thirty years ago Marg and I had viewed Chairman Mao’s body in Beijing in similar solemn circumstances.
Ho’s house was nearby. He had lived alone in a relatively simple dwelling. The government has kept this complex in good order – the gardens are beautiful and much of the site is on view to the public. We spent another hour in the Ho Chi Minh museum, which told the story of his struggle from boyhood through photos, documents and artefacts. Every chapter of his story was highlighted by a major piece of art. It was an impressive museum and it certainly shed a very different light on Ho the revolutionary to the Ho that I had learned about from the TV news in the 1960s.