Sunday, 18 May 2014

Around Hanoi's Ba Đình Square (Quảng Trường Ba Đình)

Our first stop in the afternoon was the Quảng Trường Ba Đình (Ba Đình Square) where the Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh (Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum) was located. I was reading somewhere that in 2012, CNN had termed this mausoleum as the sixth most ugliest building in the world. I couldn't agree more. Apart from its squarish shape and tall rectangular columns, there was nothing of particular inspiration to me.

The afternoon sun was unbearably hot and we took shelter beneath some trees that lined one side of the Ba Dinh Square. Our tour guide asked whether we'd like to take a walk in the Square itself. Serious? In the hot sun? Even with an umbrella, I wouldn't venture out into the wide open expanse, unlike some other tourists we found wandering aimlessly about the Square without any shaded cover.

So our tour guide was telling us about the Mausoleum, how it held the venerated embalmed body of their Uncle Ho, as they would call their Father of Independence affectionately, but because it was a Friday that we were visiting the Square, the Mausoleum was closed. Personally, I wouldn't want to file into the building to view his body in a dimly lit room.

Some bored looking soldiers were observing us from afar and as our tour guide kept going on and on about Ho Chi Minh, one of them sauntered over to our group to listen in. Of course, he kept a respectable distance away from us.

We took leave of the Square soon afterwards. The tour guide wanted to show us the Chùa Một Cột (One Pillar Pagoda). According to him, it is an iconic Buddhist temple in Vietnam, inspired by the shape of a lotus flower.

But when we arrived there, we found scaffolding surrounding the temple on all sides. The place was under restoration and there was nothing to see. And it surprised me that this tour guide took us to see ... nothing! What a disappointment.

We stepped outside and noticed the Ho Chi Minh Museum nearby but again, it was closed on a Friday afternoon. Ah, well....

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