Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Places Nearby

Second day in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was our first stop, followed by the Presidential Palace and the stilt house in Hanoi Botanical Garden. Then, we visited One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, and eventually, Hanoi Royal Citadel.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Presidential Palace, the stilt house, and One Pillar Pagoda are nearby to each other. We visited all these places together. Then, we took taxi to Temple of Literature and Hanoi Royal Citadel. We missed Ho Chi Minh Museum and Military Museum, as both museums were closed on Fridays (as well as on Mondays). Ho Chi Minh Museum is near to the mausoleum, while Military Museum is about 200 meters away from the citadel.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum with a large square in front of it. We couldn't go inside as the mausoleum was closed on Fridays.

A closer view of the mausoleum. There are security personnel that keep the tourists away from getting too near to it. There was nothing interesting from the outside. We just stopped by for a while to take photos. Then, we continued our tour to the Presidential Palace nearby.

Hanoi Presidential Palace was built in 1906 for French Governor-General of Indochina. Now, the palace is used for diplomatic purposes, and it is closed to tourists. This building is located within the botanical garden, which the entry is closed at 11:00 - 1:30 pm. The garden is opened until 11 am only on Fridays and Mondays. The entrance fee is 20,000d per person (RM3.10/ USD1).

Turning left from Presidential Palace, we found the quarter for the workers. It was once the residence of Ho Chi Minh. The cars and living area of Ho Chi Minh were displayed. Ho Chi Minh refused to live in Presidential Palace as it was a symbol of colonization. He stayed in the quarter until he moved into the stilt house in 1958.

The stilt house was the place where Ho Chi Minh stayed until he died in 1969. This wooden house is very simple. Perhaps, too simple to accommodate a national leader.

One Pillar Pagoda stands on one pillar. However, that is a temple that standing on the pillar, rather than a pagoda. Built in 1049, the pagoda which stands like a lotus in a peaceful pond is not the original structure anymore. The pagoda attracts many local believers. The entrance is free. The pagoda is located next to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Our next stop, the Temple of Literature. Four pillars with traditional Chinese characters mark the entrance of the temple. We paid 20,000d per person for the entrance fee. We spent about one hour in the temple.

The Temple of Literature is formerly the first national university in Vietnam. Built in 1070 AD, the temple was dedicated to Confucius. From the architecture and design, it can be easily mistaken as a Chinese temple. It has enormously big compound with four sections. Each section can be accessed through a unique entrance. The white structure on the left is the first entrance, while the second entrance is shown on the right.

The third entrance is beautifully designed (left). The stone tortoise in the middle shows the name of successful scholars graduated from China. These stone tortoises which were built between 1484 - 1780, have been recognized by UNESCO as Documentary Heritage of the World. The statue of crane and tortoise in the temple is a symbol of harmony and longevity (right). One of our Vietnamese friends told us that this statue also represents the spirit of helping each other. In flooding season, the crane will rest on the back of the turtle. In dry season, the crane will bring the turtle to the places with sufficient water. 

Traditional music performance in the temple. You can enjoy the music with a little donation. During our tour, we saw many university students were taking their graduation photos within the compound of this temple.

After lunch, we visited Hanoi Royal Citadel. Built in 1010, the citadel served as the center of Thang Long capital during 11th - 18th centuries. The south gate in this photo was the entrance to the forbidden city, where the King and the Royalty lived. The citadel was deserted when the capital of Vietnam was moved to Hue City. The citadel has been listed as the 900th UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

From the remaining structure, we could see that the city was once guarded by very tall and thick walls. 30,000d was the price that we paid per person to enter the gate of the forbidden city. The compound of the citadel is big, with a few museums located within it. The artifacts found within the area of the citadel, some old photos of Hanoi, and the information about the lifestyle of Vietnamese were displayed in these museums. Although we pushed ourselves to be hurry, still we took about one hour to walk through the museums. We spent two hours in the citadel. Driven by exhaustion, we left some part of the citadel unexplored.

Stone dragons at the ruin of Kinh Thien Palace (upper left). The dragons guard the stairs since 600 years ago. Other photos show the items exhibited in the museums.

The Hanoi Flag Tower can be clearly seen from the second level of the citadel.

The command center of North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War was built within the compound of the citadel. Please make sure that you explore the underground part of the command center.

The side door of the citadel. With the help from the members of HanoiKids, we managed to get a taxi in a short time from this side door to go back to our hotel.

Vietnam War Museum is closed on Fridays and Mondays. We missed the opportunity to go into the museum. So, we just took some photos from the outside. This old war machine is displayed at the left flank outside the museum.

The Temple of Literature and Hanoi Royal Citadel are the sites that every visitor to Hanoi should not miss. These sites showed us how Hanoi was some 1000 years ago. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, and the stilt house brought us back to the age of colonization and how Vietnamese fought for their independence, and united their country. These places are really worth a visit.

During our tour, we used taxi frequently, as the taxi fare in Hanoi was quite cheap. The taxi run by meter, with the initial fee of 14,000d. Local English speaking tour guide is essential as majority of the people in Hanoi cannot understand English. We were lucky to have members from HanoiKids moving around with us. They were really helpful.

We went to Ha Long Bay on our third day in Vietnam. The bay is a true wonder of the World. We will bring our experience in Ha Long Bay next.

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