The main attractions in Hanoi are the old quarter and the Temple of Literature – at least, according to my taste. However, there are a few more historic attractions that can found in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex away from the Old Quarter. If you’ve not been there before, you should at least see them once.
I had been before, so I skipped those sights this time – but to give you are more complete overview of what you could or should be doing in Hanoi, let me write a post about the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – this is where Ho Chi Minh is resting, despite of his wishes to be cremated. His body lies in state similar to Lenin, Stalin and Mao, other great communist leaders before him. It is difficult to appreciate the national reverence to Uncle Ho and pilgrims from all over Vietnam travel to visit his mausoleum in Hanoi, which is quite an eerie experience. There are strict behavioural rules and dress code at the monument for instance (no bags or cameras inside, you must not wear shorts or hats and you must enter in silence). Every year the embalmed corpse returns to Russia for maintenance so the mausoleum closes for October and November.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Thursday as well as weekends from 8am to 11am
Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House – Behind the mausoleum runs a path that takes you to the large, yellow Presidential Palace, which was the former home of the Governor General of Indochina. Auguste Henri Vildieu, the official French architect for French Indochina, constructed it. Like most French Colonial architecture, the palace is pointedly European. The mango trees around it are the only visual cues that it is located in Hanoi! When Vietnam achieved independence in 1954, Ho Chi Minh was claimed to have refused to live in the grand structure for symbolic reasons, although he still received state guests there, in 1958 he eventually built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house and carp pond on the grounds.
Opening Hours: 8am to 11am and 2pm to 4pm
One Pillar Pagoda – This is a historic Buddhist temple built of wood on a single stone pillar to resemble a lotus blossom, which is a Buddhist symbol of purity. In 1954, the French Union forces destroyed the pagoda before withdrawing from Vietnam after the First Indochina War. It was rebuilt afterwards.
Opening Hours: Daily from 6am to 6pm
Ho Chi Minh Museum – I didn’t enjoy this much, but if you are interested in displays of memorabilia and photographs showing the history of Vietnam’s and Ho Chi Minh’s fight against imperialism, then this is one for you!
Opening Hours: 8am to 11am and 1.30pm to 4pm (but closed on Monday and Friday)