To be sure, Ho Chi Minh is almost universally revered in the country, as far as official accounts make it, and the large, three-storey whitewashed edifice near Ba Dinh Square is perhaps the closest we can get to embodied reverence for the man and his life.
For the foreign visitor, though, the Ho Chi Minh autobiographical experience in the Museum seems needlessly opaque - told in a didactic propaganda style that Western visitors may find stiff and unenlightening, and cast in giant art exhibits with far more flash than substance.
Overview of Ho Chi Minh Museum
You can't miss the Ho Chi Minh Museum - it's a giant white monolith southwest of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, past the One Pillar Pagoda. Security is tight going in, and there is an official policy of no photography (which your guide can say, from experience, is not entirely enforced at times).
The exhibit is spread out through the entirety of the building, starting from the top going down. Guests must first climb a series of stairs culminating in a grand staircase heading up to an anteroom at the top floor where Uncle Ho's bronze visage gazes down on the visitor. With no escalators or elevators in sight, the building is definitely not wheelchair-friendly - our differently-abled friends ought to give this one a miss.
The museum is designed to take the visitor through Ho Chi Minh's life and times, via a series of consecutively viewed exhibits. Each separate exhibit represents a single phase in the man's development.
Ho Chi Minh the Man, As Seen in His Museum
Each exhibit contains a piece or two of installation art that encapsulates the developments in Vietnam and in Ho's life, along with Ho's personal effects and other materials from the period. The installation artwork is interestingly rendered - a Ford Edsel protrudes from one wall, as if to embody the weaknesses and excess of capitalism.
Letters, pamphlets, photographs, and posters litter each exhibit. The written material here is mostly in French or Vietnamese; English-only speakers will have some difficulty deciphering the exhibits, although some materials do have English translations.
The personal items and photographs do the best job of showing Ho as a person - it's easier to identify with a man when you see the cane he leant on and the pith helmet he wore, all the best efforts of modern art to do the same thing notwithstanding.
Architecture of Ho Chi Minh Museum
With a floor area of over 107,000 square feet, the Ho Chi Minh Museum provides plenty of space for Ho Chi Minh's legacy - not just display space, but room for a library, storage, movie viewing, conferences, and restoration work, too. All this floor space is contained in a Soviet-style building emblazoned with a relief of the hammer and sickle facing the entry gate.
To enter, guests must pay an entrance fee of 15,000 VND. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is open on weekends and from Tuesday to Thursday - from 8am to 4pm, with a lunch break from 11am to 1:30pm. Visitors who are still in the building come lunch break will be brusquely asked to leave.