Friday, August 26, 2005

Uncle Ho's Resting Place

Ho Chi Minh Masoleum
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
Not all the tombs in Vietnam are ancient. Ho Chi Minh is embalmed in this giant masoleum. Uncle Ho has gotten the full Lenin-in-wax treatment that communist countries do so well. It helps that his narrow beard makes him a dead ringer for other revered ancient leaders from Vietnamese history.

Each day large crowds line up to pay respect to the founder of modern Vietnam. We came at lunch when the square was empty and the plaza around the tomb was just enormous. An extremely large flag flies from the center of the square and Socialist sayings fill the walls leading up to the tomb. Other banners around the city exorted some sort of worker of the year competition. Central Hanoi was also where we saw the most Army uniforms on drill or parade. It wasn't quite like a scene from 1984, but it came close.

Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh Bust
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, but only oficial government documents actually use the name. Understandably, Ho Chi Minh's presence in his namesake city is much more muted. His face was on all sorts of red posters commemorating the 30th anniversary of reunification, but otherwise it was fairly low key. One room in the Presidential Palace did have a prominent gilded bust of him in front of the current flag. Our guide told us of a non-ideological Saigon resident that had been brutalized for having Ho Chi Minh posters in his house.

I expect that as the wounds of the war heal, Ho Chi Minh will eventually become another semi-mythological hero of the country, but for now he is still a good marker of the feelings in the formerly divided nation.


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