The outside of the structure was a vast, imposing, mass of heavy grey stone and towering pillars, but once inside the massive front doors, a red carpet led the way through a more subtle hallway, and into the resting place.
The cold tomb was dimly lit and walled with great marble blocks which belied a tempered opulence that you could not imagine from the outside.
The back wall had two giant vertical banners which showed a hammer and sickle on the left one, and the communist star on the right. Both stood authoritatively over proceedings and an air of stark utilitarianism filled the room. There were no signs of spirituality anywhere. No candles and wreaths were present. No religious iconography.
Below our red-carpeted walkway – which skirted the room, was a pit in which stood a glass casket built into a black monolith. Where the casket met the obsidian base, dark, cherry lacquered wood formed an intricate weave of roses which sprang to join the glass. On each corner of the casket stood a guard, attired in white uniform and armed with a rifle and bayonet.
Interred inside the casket lay the mortal remains of Ho Chi Minh, his body embalmed to last through the ages. Dressed in black, only his hands and face showed as his lower torso was covered with a blanket. A spotlight casting a yellow hue focused attention on his face. His skin was pale and waxy, taking on the likeness of a mannequin. Silver hair spilled from the back of his head and was combed back. A styled, short beard was cropped under his chin.
The Vietnamese in front of, and behind us, made no sound. There was no praying or mourning, no offerings were made, the queue just proceeded, all eyes fixed on their previous leader.
As we filed past, four new guardsmen marched into the pit, silently and efficiently taking the place of their comrades who left in just as quick a fashion.
And then we were out of the cyclopean structure and back under the hot sun. The chill from the tomb quickly evaporating, but the memory lingering, surely for a long time to come.