Thursday, 4 February 2010

Ho Chi Minh

This year is a great time to be visiting Hanoi: the city is bedecked with red banners and red flags (some with the yellow star signifying the Vietnamese flag, others with the Hammer and Sickle). 2010 marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party, the CPV:

"The 80th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) was celebrated in provinces throughout the country on February 1 with the participation of local leaders, revolutionary veterans, heroic mothers and others." (VOV News)

Although Ho Chi Minh firmly expressed the wish to be cremated after his death, his body lies preserved in the mausoleum. Today we joined the line to pay our respects to this great leader.

Hồ led the Viet Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, establishing the communist-governed Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French Union in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu. He lost political power inside North Vietnam in the late 1950s, but remained as the highly visible figurehead president until his death in 1969. Six years after his death, when the communists were successful in conquering South Vietnam, several North Vietnamese tanks in Saigon displayed a poster with the following quote, "You are always marching with us, Uncle Hồ".

In Vietnam today, he is regarded by the Communist government with almost god-like status in a nationwide personality cult, even though the government has abandoned most of his economic policies since the mid-1980s. He is still referred to as "Uncle Hồ" or just "Uncle" (Bac) in Vietnam.

"The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom and peace. But in the face of United States aggression they have risen up, united as one man."

Chao Bac!

So enough already; tomorrow we must move on. The weather is going to get much hotter for us as we fly down to spend six days on the banks of the mighty Mekong. It will be a time away from big city living; a time of temples, monks, languid river boats and waterfalls. And, of course, another new country. Keep watching for our new phone number in Laos, and keep following to hear all about our time in the magical town of Luang Prabang.

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