Wednesday, December 19, 2012


The 'Dragon House' on Saigon's waterfront. Originally French built, now it's Ho's legacy.
I decide that if I am to really understand Vietnam, I should make a visit to a place down by the Saigon River. Here sits the Ho Chi Minh Museum, dedicated to the old communist himself, Ho Chi Minh. Located in the old French colonial customs building called the Dragon House, it’s appropriately named, since I see dragon decorations across the rooftop.
Statue of young Ho, outside the museum.
Outside stands a statue, depicting a young and beardless Ho Chi Minh. At that time he was known as Nguyen Tat Thanh; he hadn’t changed his name to Ho Chi Minh yet. (He changed his name several times during his life.) It was on this very river front in 1911, that he boarded a boat to leave Saigon, not to return to Vietnam for decades. Most Americans will be surprised to learn, that the next year he even lived in New York for a while. There in the Big Apple, the future president of North Vietnam, and future enemy of the USA, worked as a mere baker. This stay in the states was long before Ho became a revolutionary opposed to the US. It was only later when he moved to France that he would embrace communism. While in New York, he developed a taste for American cigarettes, which he smoked for years afterward.
America's great enemy. Ho loved American cigarettes!
Almost unreconisable, this is Ho as a young man.
Ho never spent much time here in Saigon, since his family was from farther north. Since there are more interesting things to see about Ho in Hanoi, I spend little time in this museum, that's almost void of visitors. Perhaps this is due to the current lack of revolutionary fervor for communism. Another possible reason, is that this isn't the only museum in Vietnam dedicated to old Uncle Ho. There are several of these Ho Chi Minh museums throughout the country! Talk about overkill.

Photo of US troops in Vietnam hanging in Saigon's Ho Chi Minh Museum
What does deserve mention here, is the most ridiculous attempt at propaganda I’ve ever seen. (And that's saying a lot!) Among many photos displayed on the walls, one has an enlarged black and white photo that many students that studied the Vietnam War will recognize. Previously published in an American book, the photo shows US Special Forces soldiers after they returned from a successful combat mission in Vietnam. They wear camouflage fatigues, and carry assault rifles. Some have bandoliers of ammunition across their shoulders, others have had their faces partially blackened for night fighting. Most are smiling, and holding up a North Vietnamese flag that they have just captured in battle.

The Ho Chi Minh Museum took a copy of that same photo, and hung it up in this museum, with this outrageous caption: 

How ridiculous. 


  1. Your observation of the museum and it's contents will hold true in most other museums and monuments you'll see in Vietnam.
    As the old saying goes,"....the victors get to write the history." The "War Remnants" museum in Saigon, once named the museum of American War atrocities, is a dusty, gloomy building that celebrates not much of what is really good about the country and it's people, but a very biased, one sided view of the "American War."
    BTW, after many visits and considerable time in Vietnam, I refuse to call Saigon "HCMC." That is the official government imposed name supplied in 1975. Most locals and residents of the former "South" still use the old name.

  2. Hi Dan, thanks for your comment. I agree that most southerners still call the city "Saigon", as I wrote in this blog post here: "Welcome to Vietnam" -

  3. Thanks for your note. I was born in Saigon, and I love to call "Saigon" even though I born after 1975.
    Your information has many mean to me.

  4. Good to hear from you Huong, thanks. Glad you enjoyed the story.