Each year on 2 September Vietnam marks its independence from France with its National Day of celebration and reflection.
On 2 September 1945 President Ho Chi Minh read the declaration of independence to the amassed Vietnamese citizens. The setting for the life changing speech was Ba Dinh Square in central Hanoi. However there was continued conflict with the French who refused to relinquish their former colony until 1954.
Ho Chi Minh led the Viet Minh independence movement between 1941 and 1965 and remains a highly revered figure throughout Vietnam. To honour the president, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
Today Ba Dinh Square is overlooked by the grey granite Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the President's Palace and the new National Assembly which is currently under construction. Following Ho Chi Minh’s death in 1969, the elaborate mausoleum began construction in 1973 and was modelled on Vladimir Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow. His embalmed body lies within the central hall within a dimly lit glass case. The mausoleum is open for three hours each morning, when locals and curious tourists shuffle around the case, eager to catch a glimpse of the highly esteemed former leader. Visitors have to queue but its well worth it for the experience. Ho Chi Minh looks really calm and peaceful – almost as if he’s asleep. Security is tight too, so watch what you wear and don’t eat or smoke within the grounds.
The national holiday is celebrated by everybody in Vietnam, who come out onto the streets to join the public gatherings and prayer sessions. Just about every city and town has a vibrant fireworks display and open spaces soon fill up. Popular hangouts include Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi and Saigon Square in Ho Chi Minh City.