Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh: the museum edition

Well, it's mighty chilly here in Hanoi today, with nonstop drizzle. Now and then, a bit more than a drizzle. The sky is flat gray, it's completely overcast, and it's a good day to stay indoors with a steaming bowl of pho. But not us: we headed out to see the Presidential Palace, the Ho Chi Minh Museum, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Despite his express wishes, Ho Chi Minh was not cremated, as he'd insisted. Instead, his body was preserved a la Lenin, and placed on display in a giant mausoleum. Visitors who enter the museum must follow a very strict set of rules; those who don't have to go into a small room and sign their names and nationalities to a document stating that they had not followed the rules. I'm not kidding. [un]fortunately, his body is in Russia right now for restoration, so we had to content ourselves with seeing the mausoleum from the outside only.

The museum was really unusual. The first floor featured an exhibition of photographs taken by a famous Australian journalist who really embedded himself in Vietnam politics and wars. This part of the museum was moving, and made both of us cry.

the Ho Chi Minh Museum
girl soldiers, ready to fight for Vietnam

these two held off the enemy (which would be us, I assume)

Hanoi Hanna, who tried daily to convince the American soldiers that their cause would fail, and was unjust

Uncle Ho, with the characteristic twinkly eye

ok, this one made me cry. This old man was watching the American bombs starting to drop from the sky.
Upstairs was another story, though. I never could figure out the museum-ness of it. It seemed to place Ho Chi Minh the man in the context of his real lived life, and Vietnam in the larger context of the world. Plus there was a Guernica exhibit. I know. I don't get it either.

I mean, I really like Guernica, a lot, but I have no idea why this large exhibit was in the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

it was a very bizarre floor.

like, very bizarre. what the hell was this about, i wonder?

really. weird.

Then we left the museum and wandered the grounds, to see the Presidential Palace (which used to be the place the Governor of all of Indochina lived/worked), the Mausoleum, and some Ho Chi Minh stuff:

Ho Chi Minh lived and worked in this lovely house in the early 1950s. We bought cheap slickers to deal with the rain; mine was pink and Marc's was lime green, which he worried made him look like a girl. :)

live guards (complete with ceremonial changing-of) at the mausoleum. He's not even there right now!

to better live the way his people lived, HCM left his lovely house and lived in this little house on stilts. still pretty sweet, if you ask me.

some of HCM's "used cars." that's what the sign said.

the Presidential Palace, pretty grand.
It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, but it ended in a bit of adventure with a cab driver. First, FYI, the dollar to dong ratio is ~ $1 = 20,800 dong. There is one very reliable cab company, and then there are the others. So it was raining, and we caught a cab back to the hotel -- and not the reliable cab company. Our cab drive to the museum had cost us $2. When we got near our hotel, the meter said 640,000 dong. The driver started off telling us the fare was $90, then $64, then $32, then $5, then $4. It was a loud arguing match, and whenever we insisted that he take us to the hotel his price dropped. As we exited the cab he was sucking his teeth and making disparaging sounds, which we could hardly hear over our own outrage.

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening trying to get the photos uploaded to this post; the internet connection became spotty at best, so I'm finishing this from the island of Borneo (whee!!). More on the travel day in the next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving us a message!