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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hoa Lo Prison: Hanoi {Travel Tuesday}

Happy Tuesday Y'all! 

Today I wanted to share our visit to Hoa Lo Prison, or as it came to be known by the American POWs, the 'Hanoi Hilton'. 

This prison was used by the French colonists for political prisoners in Vietnam. It was later used during the Vietnam war by the North. The American POWs were kept here, including John McCain. 
The prison was demolished in the 1990s, and the gatehouse is the only thing that remains. 

The prison was often overcrowded and the prisoners were not kept in the greatest condition. In 1954, it held up to 2,000 people. And a lot of the future leading figures in Communist North Vietnam spent time here in the 30s and 40s. The prison became a symbol of the colonialist abuse and the bitterness of the Vietnamese towards the French continued to increase. 

A few people dug through the sewers to escape. 

Some of the women inmates during the French period. 

The Hoa Lo Prison tour is not something you should pass on while visiting Hanoi, but be prepared. The information signs around the museum are very much -look how horrible the French were to us. And the rooms that talked about the American POWs were very much- look how nice and accommodating we were to the prisoners. 

Other than visiting Ho Chi Min's mausoleum this was the biggest reminder that we were in a Communist influenced country. It was really interesting reading their take on the American POWs. I think all countries do this to an extent- it was just interesting  being on the other side of the story this time. 

If you are looking for a nice sunshiny place to visit- Hoa Lo Prison is not the place. You are given a pretty clear picture on how all the prisoners were treated- and it might give you the creepy crawlies. But I think it's worth a stop. It's only a couple of bucks, and not too far from the city center. 

Basic Information: 
Price- 15,000 Dong (less than a dollar)
Hours- 8:00-5:00 

Have you ever been to Hoa Lo? Would you put this on your lists of to-dos in Hanoi? 


  1. I always think it's important to visit places like this to remember the hardship of those that suffered, but your point about looking at how history is represented is really important too

  2. We went here as well when we visited Hanoi and we had exactly the same impression of the place. How can something that was so horrible when they were imprisoned there be so great for the US prisoners? It was an interesting place for sure and something I'm glad we did in Hanoi.

  3. What a fascinating and terrible place.


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- Alex