Introducing Hoa Lo Prison
Get a glimpse into Vietnam's grim past at this small museum, all that now remains of a prison complex originally built by the French in 1896 to detain Vietnamese dissidents, then used by the Vietnamese from 1964 to 1973 to incarcerate US pilots shot down during the war with America.
Famous inmates of this prison, sarcastically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US POWs, include Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for the US presidency in 2008, Pete Peterson, who later became the first US Ambassador to a unified Vietnam in 1995, and Lt. Everett Alvarez, officially the first American pilot to be shot down over Vietnam.
Take a guided tour of the small museum that includes the former interrogation room where captured American prisoners were questioned (known among former prisoners as the ‘blue room’), guillotine room (still with its original equipment), and the female and Vietnamese political prisoners' quarters.
Exhibits are presented from the Vietnamese governments perspective and depict the struggle of the Vietnamese people against French and American imperialism.
In the courtyard linking the two rooms you can see parts of original tunnels once used by a hundred Vietnamese revolutionaries to escape in 1945.
Today only a small portion of the original buildings remain: the prison was demolished in the mid-1990s to make way for two high-rise buildings, known as the Hanoi Towers.
Location: 1 Hoa Lo Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hours: Daily 8am-5pm
(Image of John McCain's flight suit and parachute courtesy Looper/Wikimedia Commons)