It’s Friday night in Hanoi and the Mausoleum is like a gigantic playground.
Barefoot toddlers and pre-schoolers run around in circles, dads hoist kids on their shoulders, and moms guard strollers, teddy bears and surplus clothes.
Shrieks of laughter fill the night air, a pleasant change from the impatient beep-beeps in the background from motorbikers on nearby Hung Vuong Street
The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, which holds the embalmed remains of the former president, is lit up in pinkish red, like an empty opera stage just before a performance.
The field in front is also floodlit, adding to the dramatic air, and criss-crossed with paths full of young people walking in T-shirts, shorts and capris and the occasional older woman wearing loose pyjamas.
Suddenly a whistle blows and the crisply-pressed white uniformed guards move into action, gently clearing the square of toddlers and their parents and pushing the crowd back into the grassy area.
But they don’t leave. On a path parallel to the square, the kids sit down and their parents stand behind them, all in a row, all clearly waiting for something to happen.
Martial music begins to play, and the adults sing along. Then from the left, a troop of the white uniformed guards marches three-by-three across the square toward the giant flag in front o the mausoleum. The flag is slowly lowered to triumphal music and folded away by one of the guards.
The crowd slowly drifts over to the motorbike park, and dad and mom drive off with their little kids squashed between them on the back of the motorbike. The square empties quickly and Ho Chi Minh is left in peace again.
(Posted April 17, 2012 by Alison Bate)