Carefully following the crowds of Vietnamese and foreign tourists at the HCM Complex, walking only on the roads (as instructed by the intimidating officials, who are waiting to pounce on anyone, like myself, who attempts to use the sidewalk), we arrived at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This grand cube-shaped building is made of dark grey granite blocks with six square columns on each side, like of a modern, gloomy Parthenon. We left our cameras with security and followed in line. I wasn’t sure to expect when I stepped inside. We were slowly led single-file on a red carpet up some stairs, around some corners, and through some corridors. Finally, there he was.
A peaceful looking Uncle Ho silently sleeps within a glass box, surrounded by a few serious, statue-like body guards. I felt uncomfortable and kept looking away. I felt like we were disturbing him when all he wanted to do was be left alone. We didn’t stay long; the line was forced to keep moving.
Afterwards, I admitted to my brother that I didn't think I could respect a guy who decides to be immortalized, put on display, and idolized in such a way. He agreed. It wasn’t until later in our journey that we learned that, in fact, he has been embalmed against his wishes. He actually requested to be cremated and scattered in the four corners of his country because he says “not only is cremation good from the point of view of hygiene, but it also saves farmland.” That sounds much more respectable to me.
My respect for him continued to rise after we exited the mausoleum and walked the grounds to his stilt house. It’s juxtaposed by a huge yellow Presidential Palace, the home of the Governor of Indochina. Ho Chi Minh’s residence is small and simple, but still elegant and stunningly beautiful. Stairs lead you up to the main rooms, each with minimal furniture and open spaces. It represents how he lived a simple life for the people of Vietnam and not a life of luxury for himself.