A visit with Uncle Ho

Trip Start Nov 06, 2006
Trip End Jun 15, 2007

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, April 6, 2007

We visited Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum today amid the throngs of Vietnamese who make solemn pilgrimages to see the carefully preserved remains of the man who unified their country. The quickly moving entrance line outside stretches for several blocks, follows a bright red carpeted path into the impressive gray granite building, then files past the glass enclosure that displays his body. Warm light is carefully cast only onto his exposed hands and face, which gives him a spectral glowing appearance, as if the light is actually radiating from within him. They revere this man. It's impossible to imagine throngs of Americans filing past the remains of Abraham Lincoln though he lead the country during our own process of unification.

After six weeks here, it's clear that the Vietnamese are a proud, strong people. They work long, hard days and visible signs of rapid development are everywhere. With narrow winding streets and no parking in places like Old Town Hanoi, it's a mystery what they'll do about traffic as the quickly growing middle class continues to buy automobiles to replace the throngs of motorcycles that jam the streets now. Crossing traffic here is nearly as challenging as in Saigon, there's a distant blare of ever-present beeps and honks through the glass of our closed window, and we've unfortunately seen many collisions during our visit.

The water puppet theater with its traditional Vietnamese live musical accompaniment was a highlight, and we've been gobbling up the crusty baguettes and nummy European-style pastries. I also spent some time snapping photos and meandering the incredible market and the quirky specialty stores that are arranged by street. So many fascinating people, sights, smells, and sounds!

Over the past weeks, I've wondered about freedom of expression in this country. Nearly every woman wears her jet black hair pulled back in a long, straight ponytail. Most men have a standard short-cut corporate 'do, and I've never seen a Vietnamese guy with long hair. It's such a surface-level observation, but it makes me wonder about what sort of acceptance, if any, there is for creativity and self-expression.

A couple more days here and we'll wave a friendly goodbye to Vietnam!
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