Friday, September 4, 2009

Vietnam Independence Day

On Wednesday 2nd September Vietnam celebrated their Independence Day. This is also their National Day and marks the date the Viet Minh, “a communist and nationalist liberation movement” lead by Ho Chi Minh, claimed independence from France and marked the end of the Japanese occupation as a result of the end of World War II.

Vietnam lost their independence to France over a thirty year period starting in 1859. The French military claimed Vietnam as a colony of France and the country was subsequently named French Indochina. Despite numerous calls for independence by the Vietnamese the French controlled the colony until they fell to Germany in the Second World War. The Japanese took French Indochina in 1941.

The loss of the war to the Japanese gave the Viet Minh a perfect chance to assert control and in doing so marched into Hanoi, set up an interim government and claim Independence for Vietnam. The Proclamation of Independence was read in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi by Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945. Despite this battle ensued with the French who still wanted the land as theirs and it was not until 1954 at the end of the Indochina was that the French finally left Vietnam.

In Hanoi today, Independence Day is a holiday and is usually a time to spend with friends and family. The streets are lined with banners celebrating their independence and their national flags are flown proudly. There were some concerts on Hoan Kiem Lake including dancing and singing. I couldn’t make out what they were saying (being in Vietnamese and all) but I did hear quite a few references to Ho Chi Minh.

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The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (where his body is preserved) was very busy on the day and you could make your way down to see what was happening outside or wait in the long lines to catch a glimpse of Uncle Ho.

Independence Day for us started with a breakfast at Quan an Ngon, one of our favourite places to eat. After that I looked after the kids I tutor for a few hours which constituted lazing by the pool reading a book (not a bad way to earn a dollar). Celine was in bed getting over the last of this dreadful allergic reaction. The afternoon we found a Bia Hoi place on Doi Can Street which had a massive open area with amazingly cheap and tasty beer – much better than the Old Quarter. We had a great Vietnamese dinner at home with the family and finished it off with some French deserts. Rather symbolic. Great day in Hanoi.

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