12.22.12: On The Ho Chi Minh Trail

First up: a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square. The Mausoleum is only open in the mornings and the grounds are already bustling by 8:30 with a long waiting line composed mainly of Vietnamese families. Despite Ho’s wishes for cremation after his death in 1969, his embalmed body lies on display in a dimly lit room as the crowds file constantly by in silent rows, except for two months a year when the body is sent to Russia for “maintenance.” Afterwards we check out Ho’s “used cars,” his house on stilts (a nod to austerity that could easily grace the cover of Dwell today), the One Pillar Pagoda, and the massive museum dedicated to Ho’s life and legacy. The presence of the past permeates the city in other ways too: dozens of billboards commemorate the 40th anniversary of Hanoi-Dien Bien Phu in the Air, aka The Christmas Bombing, during which North Vietnamese forces shot down 29 US B-52 bombers in December of 1972. But this Christmas, the focus is on food not bombs and the streets are filled with the sights and smells of a million delicious meals.


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