Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 2: Hanoi Pt I

I had a fitful sleep dreaming that I met Marlon Brando and his accountant, a young James Caan, at a corporate conference, and exuberantly, almost obnoxiously, laid on the charm. Brando was unamused, or if he was amused he did not show it, however I was assured by a young lady afterwards that he was so I woke up feeling rather confident to start the day.

Our travel companions weren't in their hotel so we went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum by ourselves. Prior to his death in 1969 Ho Chi - Uncle Ho to his people ('you ever notice how Ho Chi Minh and Col. Sanders are never seen in the same place?' Blake asked and I said 'well he's been dead for almost forty years...')- requested his ashes be spread equally throughout North and South Vietnam. Instead he was placed in a glass case in a freezing cold room surrounded by stone-faced guards, accessible to visitors at fifty cents a pop (A distasteful joke about Ho Chi Minh's head in a jar of rice liqueur was inevitable). Keep quiet though. De Campo said "He's trapped in a glass case of emotion!" and nearly got jabbed with a bayonet by one of the guards.

I have a hard time detecting flaws in Ho Chi Minh's politics/ideologies. He lived in France for thirty years under a different name and was there during World War II when Germany occupied France and France occupied Vietnam, so there's no doubt what side of the fence he was on then. Though I'm pretty sure Fascism appalled him.

According to the guidebooks, Communism best suited Ho Chi Minh's anti-colonialism.
He seemed like a freedom fighter and Communism was probably the best way to rally large numbers of people. The costs of being Communist was huge. The US specialised in sending messages to the big people (Russia and China) by crushing the little people (Vietnam). After years of funding France's ultimately failed attempt to take Vietnam, the US stepped in and it was awful. Just awful.

Ho Chi Minh lived an admirable life in a home of modest means with an unexciting Peugeot that's still in the garage. If this is a smokescreen to cover up a life of cocaine bars and loose women, please correct me, but Ho Chi seems an altrusitic chap who gave his all the the people. I wonder if Bruce Springsteen has Uncle Ho's head embroidered on the buttcheeks of his jeans.

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