Hoa Lo prison –Top 5 most horrifying destinations in the Southeast Asia

Located on the Hoa Lo street,, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi city, the Hoa Lo prison was built by the French colony in 1896, only 4 years after their Con Dao prison inauguration. Therefore, Hoa Lo has large area of 12,000 m2, was one of the biggest and solid prisons in the Indochina at such time. Its French name is Maison Centrale, meaning the center of prison of Hanoi, detaining political prisoners during the time from 1896 until 1954. Nowadays, the rest of 2,434 m2 is covered to be the relic of Hanoi and become most-wanted visit point of foreign tourists while joining Hanoi day tour price.  

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It’s special that this prison is designed to detain about 500 prisoners in a very harsh condition. All the detention rooms are in terrible conditions like cramped and narrow spaces, lack of air, while jailers are as cruel as devils. Even the materials needed for constructing this prison also brought from France and were checked carefully in advance. Therefore, if you go with your children, please consider before let them see the context here, even they are just emulations made from wax.  You will shout and ask: What’s the hell on it? How can the communist prisoners live in such unbreakable prison? You know that there were 25-30 prisoners detained in a room (in fact this room was as small as a cage). They were fettered of rotten rice, stunted (undeveloped) vegetables, and rotten dried fish and rarely with tough buffalo or old sow meat. They just had 15 minutes every day for walk and bath. All of them had to stand naked around a well built in the centre of the yard and pour water very quickly onto their body while the guards and jailers watched them.

Especially, women also were tortured and suffered the same living condition as male. They were also suffered from miserable torture as hanging prisoners up or down for beating; electric shock at their head; beating prisoners with boxing; stuff prisoners’ body with clothes soaked with gas and burn; putting into an empty tank and beat from the outside which made their hearing and nerve seriously damaged cages.

Today, the Hoa Lo prison becomes 1 of famous destination in Hanoi tour booking which welcome tourists to visit and study, The war passed but Hoa Lo still survive as historical evidence of patriotism, spirit fighting. War is pain, lost and scarify and it is also the valuable lessons about aspiration of peace.

Forget about the "Hanoi Hilton" described in gory detail by survivors like John McCain and Robinson Risner, or movies like the Hanoi Hilton. The prison displays focus on the sufferings of Vietnamese revolutionaries who were confined (and sometimes executed) here, when the French were the masters of Vietnam in the early part of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the Hoa Lo Prison is worth a visit, if only to experience the colonial experience as the Vietnamese see fit to tell it, and guess at the stories untold by the silent walls and shackles on prominent display.

Address: No.1 Hoa Lo street (between Ly Thuong Kiet street & Hai Ba Trung street)

Opening time: 7.30am – 11.30am & 1.30pm – 4.30pm (closed on Monday)