The last time we were in Hanoi we walked to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum but were daunted by the length of the line to get in. In case you have not read my blog before, patience is not one of my virtues, nor is it one of my husband’s. So, this time around, we thought we would give it another try.
The HOHO bus dropped us off by a traffic circle; the mausoleum was visible from there. Good news – no line in sight! We started walking toward where we thought the entrance was; no entrance in sight. So, we followed the wall, correctly figuring that at some point we would reach a gate. The mausoleum grounds are enormous and the entry was on the opposite side from where we thought it would be. We kept walking and walking and walking, passing sentries along the way. They kept pointing us further down the road. It turns out that gate was about 3/4 of a mile from where the bus dropped us off!
As you might expect, there is heavy security; “Uncle Ho”, as he is known to locals, is a national treasure. We passed through the checkpoint with no issues but had to check our backpack. No photography is allowed but they did not want cameras or electronics to be checked. Instead, I was given a special carrying case for my camera.
There was a fairly lengthy walk to reach the mausoleum. There were plenty of guards along the way to make sure you were behaving appropriately. By the way, gum chewing is not allowed here – signs to that effect are posted along the way. At a certain point, we were directed to divide into two separate lines. And, before entering the building, cameras had to be checked. I am not sure exactly why the camera wasn’t checked at the first storage area but one doesn’t ask those types of questions in Communist countries – you just follow orders! We climbed the steps of the mausoleum, passing by multiple soldiers. They were standing in formation outside the entryway. Eventually, we reached the special chamber. Uncle Ho looked pretty awesome for someone that has been dead for 50 years! I got yelled at for talking to Clayton as we passed by; silence is expected. I can only assume I was showing disrespect. Soon, we were back outside, where I reclaimed my camera (they carry them to the other side of the mausoleum so that you don’t have to backtrack to claim them).
We continued following the crowd, thinking we were heading to the exit. Wrong. We were headed to the Presidential Palace. If it had been free, we might have walked through, but didn’t really want to pay an admission charge (yes, we are cheap!). What we really wanted was to pick up our backpack and go, but were nowhere near the entrance. We asked several guards how to get back to the entrance but they didn’t speak English and kept pointing us in different directions. We eventually figured it out and were able to get our backpack and leave.
Since we were using the HOHO to get around, we had to figure out where to catch it. We didn’t want to backtrack, so thought it might make sense to find where the next stop was. Too bad it was over a mile from where we were! So, we walked back around the compound to where we started. At least we were getting plenty of exercise. I was kind of surprised that the drop off point for the HOHO was so far from the site. There must be some good reason that they don’t put it right in front of the entrance (there is a street in front and there are other buses that drop off and pick up people there).