We visited Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh square on a grey, damp day. The body is preserved for posterity in a glass case and visitors are allowed to walk respectfully around. No photos, no hands in pockets, no shorts and no talking are the rules as you solemnly file around three sides of the glass case. Guards at each corner keep the pace high but respectful, and swiftly admonish any “disrespectful” behaviour with fast moving hands and steely stares. Outside back in the grey damp square, the colourful tourists jar with the sombre mood inside. Colours in Vietnam are subtle for the most part, delicate shades like fine french lingerie, but here in and around the Ho Chi Minh museum next to the mausoleum you’re surrounded by gaudy replicas of the man, bright video screens and coca cola stalls.
I hadn’t realised uncle Ho was so much into fish- he loved them, he moved out of the presidential palace to a simple wooden lodge built over a large fish pond where he raised carp and catfish for the table. He loved his fish and encouraged people to farm fish wherever they could. Any spare bit of land was to be farmed for rice and vegetables, and later on any bomb craters filled with water and stocked with fish.
The “encouragement” followed a similar pattern to other communist era collectivisation programs however, with a slashing of the middle class, intellectual social strata. Land reform policies were implemented using a government sanctioned “removal” of land owners. Estimates suggest between 170- 200,000 executions and up to 500,000 total deaths through subsequent starvation of families during the 1950’s farm land collectivisation.