Ho Chi Minh‘s Mausoleum has long been considered as the first place to come for the first time travelers to Hanoi thanks to its tremendous historical value. Everyone wants to make a pilgrimage there to show their respect for Ho Chi Minh (Uncle Ho – President Ho), the Greatest President, who led Vietnam to Independence. Being there, visitors can not only discover more about Ho Chi Minh’s life and role in Vietnamese history but also enlarge their knowledge about Vietnam’s history reflected in the complex’s components.
I. Who is Ho Chi Minh?
Ho Chi Minh (original name Nguyen Sinh Cung, also called Nguyen Tat Thanh or Nguyen Ai Quoc, (May 19th, 1890 – September 2nd, 1969) is not only a revolutionary and politician but also the most iconic and national hero of Vietnam.
Being a strident voice for Independence in Vietnam since the dawn of the 20th century, Ho Chi Minh became the founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the leader of the Vietnamese nationalist movement for roughly 30 years. From 1945 to 1955, he was the Prime Minister of North Vietnam and served as its president from 1945 to 1969. Under his lead, Vietnamese people succeeded in the resistance war against French colonialism.
Ho Chi Minh is considered as one of the most influential communist leaders in the 20th century. Up until now, he has still been the symbol of Vietnamese liberation and independence.
Want to learn more about the Vietnamese liberation process? Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex!
II. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex is one of the most historic tourist attractions in Vietnam. Being there, travelers can learn numerous things about Uncle Ho’s life, together with the Vietnamese liberation process under his lead. For the first time traveling to this complex, people are suggested to visit:
- Ba Dinh Square (where Vietnamese First Independence Day was celebrated)
- Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum ( where still holds the embalmed remains of Uncle Ho),
- Ho Chi Minh Museum
- Ho Chi Minh’s House on stilts
- The Presidential Palace (White House of Vietnam)
- One Pillar Pagoda
- The House No.54 (a special historical place).
1. Ba Dinh Square
Back to the past over one century, when the French colonial government came to Hanoi, this area was quickly chosen as the political center of Tonkin/the North, and then Indochinese Federation. Therefore, in these days, people can still see a number of large buildings constructed in French architecture there, which used to be the leading colonial offices of the French government.
After the August Revolution and the defeat of French colonialism, Ho Chi Minh and his fellow took over the whole country, renamed this area as Ba Dinh Square. Ba Dinh, which means “Three Communal Houses”, was originally a village’s name in Thanh Hoa, in which the first war against French colonialists took place. After independence, the Square was given this name as a reminder of the past, of Vietnamese arduous but heroic resistance.
On 2nd September 1945, Vietnamese Independence Declaration was read by Ho Chi Minh in Ba Dinh Square, marking the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After Uncle Ho – Vietnamese Great Father passed away, in order to show their respect to his contribution to the nation’s freedom and to remind future generations of that historical event, Vietnamese people decided to launch Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in the place where used to be Ba Dinh Square.
2. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
During the Vietnam war against America, the nation was divided into two parts: The North (controlled by our government) and the South ( controlled by the American one). Therefore, in that period, it was impossible for citizens living in these two parts to meet each other.
As a result, the Southern people were always looking forward to the Great Father, hoping to meet him one day. However, President Ho passed away before the country was completely united. It led to the decision of constructing that Mausoleum, which holds the remains of Ho Chi Minh, enabling everyone to come and meet him after the country became peaceful again.
In fact, when President Ho was alive, he just asked for a simple funeral, in which his dead body would be cremated and then buried in three particular parts of Vietnam.
The first part would be one area in the North, where he worked; the second one was a place in the Middle – his homeland and the last one would be in the South, in which he started his journey to discover ways to release Vietnam. Nonetheless, as Ho Chi Minh has taken an integral part in Vietnamese spirit, Vietnamese people, for the first time, did not follow his order, celebrated a national funeral and has tried to keep his body remained for years in this Mausoleum.
In order to keep Uncle Ho’s body remained for a long time, Vietnamese experts at that time had to go to the Soviet Union to learn the technology. Then, immediately after the death of Vietnam’s Great Father, these experts, together with the support of Soviet Union experts, started to embalm President Ho. After that embalming process, his body was kept in an aseptic environment in secret places, waiting for the peaceful day as well as the construction of the Mausoleum.
Not only with the embalming process but the Soviet Union also helped Vietnamese with building Uncle Ho Mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was inspired by Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow, but the architecture was redesigned to match Vietnamese traditional culture and lifestyle.
The Mausoleum, which is surrounded by a number of marble columns, is divided into five parts. This five-part structure is to model the Vietnamese traditional house in the countryside, in which President Ho was born and brought up. On the facade of the Mausoleum, there are the words “President Ho Chi Minh” made of red plum marble, of which characters represent Uncle Ho’s lofty and morality
What makes this Mausoleum standing out is that its materials (even various plants for decoration) were from different parts of Vietnam. At that time, in order to show the whole country’s respect for President Ho Chi Minh, each province of Vietnam decided to contribute one signature material to build the Mausoleum. This action not only expresses the country’s love for the Great Father but also indicates Vietnam’s national unity.
Going inside the Mausoleum is Ho Chi Minh’s famous quote “Nothing is more precious than Freedom and Independence” made of gold. There are also two flags on the wall, one is Vietnamese national flag, one is The Communist Party flag, both of which are made of Thanh Hoa Province ’s 4000 pieces of rubies.
The embalmed body of President Ho lays on a bronze bed with lotus patterns (Vietnamese national flower), placed on a rock pedestal with automatic lift system (installed to transport Uncle Ho’s body in case of emergency). It is preserved in a glass case, put at the center of the Mausoleum, and protected by a number of military honor guards. The atmosphere here is so cool that the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh would not be damaged.
- Location: 25 Hung Vuong, Dien Ban, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Opening days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
- Opening hours: Seasonal:
- April 1st to October 31st: 7.30 a.m – 10.30 a.m (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: 7.30 a.m – 11.00 a.m)
- November 1st to March 31st of next year: 8.00 a.m – 11.00 a.m
- Entrance fee: Free
- Phone: 024 3845 5128
3. Ho Chi Minh Museum
Located within Ho Chi Minh Complex, this special museum took people nearly 5 years to complete and was constructed to celebrate Ho Chi Minh’s 100 years of birth. Ho Chi Minh Museum was made in the shape of a huge white flower, 20 meters in height and has 3 floors.
The ground floor is a hall with 400 seats, which is usually used to host Vietnam’s national as well as international meetings. On the second floor, a tremendous exhibition has been displayed, which contains more than 2000 priceless historical documents and show-pieces, systematically reflecting Uncle Ho’s Working Life and Vietnam’s Revolutionary Stages.
The exhibition here contains three main contents:
- How Vietnamese people follow Ho Chi Minh’s Testament and How was his life as well as Revolutionary Cause.
- How Vietnamese people’s Life turned from Poverty into Victory under the lead of Uncle Ho.
- The world’s major historical events, shown in 8 halls.
- Location: 185/19 Ngoc Ha, Doi Can, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Opening days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
- Opening hours:
- Morning: from 08:00 to 12:00
- Afternoon: from 14:00 to 16:30
- Phone: 024 3846 3757
- Entrance fee: 25.000 VND (~$1)
4. The Presidential Palace
This building was designed and supervised by a German architect for the French Indochina Governor. At that time, this was the most luxurious construction with more than 30 rooms and took approximately 6 years to complete. When the building was completed, it used to be called “Indochina Governor Palace”; however, since the Independence Day in 1945, the name “The Presidential Palace” was given and has been used up until now.
This place had been supposed to be the working and living place of President Ho Chi Minh. However, Uncle Ho refused to do that as he said it would be unsuitable for him to live in such a luxury huge building while the other residents were poor and starving. Instead, he lived in a small house in the garden (House No.54). The Presidential Palace was merely used for meeting important delegations as well as for Vietnamese young children to come and visit their beloved Uncle Ho.
Nowadays, The Presidential Palace is mostly used for welcoming foreign national officials as well as governments from all over the work coming to Vietnam.
- Location: 2 Hung Vuong street, Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Not Allowed to go in
5. House No.54
This small house used to belong to an electrician, who took care of the Governor Palace. However, from 1954 to 1958, this was where President Ho lived and worked. Ho Chi Minh was famous for living such a simple life that nearly all facilities in this house were gifts from people all over the world. According to the rumors, when Uncle Ho was asked to replace these old and out-of-date furniture, he refused as “they (the furniture) are good and they are gifts from my friends, so nothing can be compared”.
There are 3 rooms in this small house. The first is the living room, which is also President Ho’s working area. Ho Chi Minh was undeniably an extraordinary person; thus, he had hundreds of books on numerous fields, which were laid neatly in this room. Visitors would also enjoy a toy on his table, which was the present symbolizing the friendship between Vietnam and Soviet Union.
Moving on to the kitchen – the second room, there was a thermometer and whenever it indicated that the temperature was under 10 Celsius degree, Ho Chi Minh would ask the Prime Minister of Education to let primary students have a day off. This regulation remains to be applied nowadays.
The third room is his simple bedroom. People would find a round table as a gift of Cuba’s Great Leader Fidel Castro, on which laid a Khuat Nguyen Poet Statue.
One thing travelers will be sure to have an interest in is Uncle Ho’s car collection. There are three cars, one was used to travel long distances (The Pobeda, a gift from Soviet Union), one was suitable for going around the city (The Peugeot – a present from French – Vietnamese people) and the last one, The Zis. The Zis was limitedly produced for the national leaders of Allies only. It has a 10-centimeter bullet-proof cover, 3 tons in weight and 6 meters in length.
Ho Chi Minh dedicated his entire life to Vietnam’s liberation. Therefore, he had no wife as well as children. It is said that in the late evening when everyone was back home and all the work of the day was finished, Uncle Ho would turn on the radio – a gift from Hungarian students as he “needs to hear a human voice to warm up”.
Several years later, after moving to live and work at the stilt house, President Ho Chi Minh still came back to this house for lunch, dinner and personal hygiene.
After living in House No.54 for four years, President Ho moved to this stilt house. This house was designed similar to the stilt houses often seen in Northern mountainous areas, which was to remind him of the arduous days preparing for the Revolution. The house has two floors, the lower one is meeting area while the upper one has a bedroom, a study room and a bookshelf.
Walking around, visitors can feel Uncle Ho’s simple and pure lifestyle as there are a lot of trees from various places of Vietnam. There are also fish ponds which raise anabas and golden carps. As rumours go, whenever feeding the fishes (always at the same time), Uncle Ho clapped his hands and therefore the fish quickly learned the habit of hearing the sound and coming up on the surface, even long after his death.
- Location: 1 Bach Thao Lane, Ngoc Ha street
- Entrance fee: 25.000 VND (~$1)
The pagoda was built in 1049, under the reign of King Ly Thai Tong. It was a harmonious combination of a pagoda (used to be called Dien Huu – long lasting happiness) and a tower (Lien Hoa – lotus flower) built in the middle of a square lotus lake.
This pagoda resembles a lotus blossoming from the pond. One Pillar Pagoda had its special appearance thanks to a dream of King Ly Thanh Tong, as rumours go. Legend said that: “In the 11th century, King Ly Thai To was very old but still had no son. Thus, he went to pagodas and pagodas to pray for Buddha’s blessing so that he may get one. Until one day, he had a strange dream, in which he met Goddess of Mercy, who was sitting on a lotus flower and gave him an intelligent son. Short time later, the queen gave birth to a nice prince. To repay to Goddess of Mercy, the King decided to construct a pagoda in the shape of a lotus flower, which was supported by merely one pillar.
However, regrettably, the Pagoda being in Hanoi now is not the original one. On September 11th, 1954, the Original One Pillar Pagoda was destroyed and mined by French soldiers. After the Independence Day, Uncle Ho required to rebuild it based on its original structure and completed in 1955. The nowadays One Pillar Pagoda is considered to be much smaller than the original one.
- Location: Doi Can, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Entrance fee: Free
III. How to Get to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex
- Use private means of transportation: There are parking lots on Le Hong Phong Street. Then, go straight to Ngoc Ha street to enter Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.
- Use public bus: Bus No. 09: Direction: Hoan Kiem lake – Cau Giay – Bo Ho. This bus stops at 91 – 93 Le Hong Phong street, from where you can walk to the Mausoleum ’s entrance.
IV. Tips on Visiting
- Dress code: Visitors are supposed to wear formal clothes. Shorts, mini-skirts, sleeveless shirts, tank tops and so on are not allowed.
- Please do not make noise since this is a solemn place.
- Cameras, mobile phones, and day packs will be collected by the guards before you enter the Mausoleum.
- No shooting or video recording in restricted areas.
- Do not carry food, electronics or jewelry.
- Children have to be over 3 years old to be able to enter.
Traveling means not only relaxing but also exploring. If you consider yourself a knowledge-minded person, the one who always pays attention to the destination’s history, or even if you just want to enjoy peaceful sightseeing, this complex is definitely an appropriate area for you.