10.12.2015 - 10.12.2015 22 °C
Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi is not just any prison facility. The prison has gone through 3 phases of political hierarchy changes, namely the French domination era, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam era after which French troops were defeated in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and signing of Geneva Accords in 1954 and the Vietnam War era of which Vietnam battled a hard fought war to fence off the mighty Americans in the Battle of Khe Sanh and Tet Offensive . This 120 years old prison was built during the French colonialism era to imprisoned Vietnamese law breakers as well as revolutionists deemed as criminals to the French due to the fact that the French position in Vietnam was being threatened by the offensive Vietnamese independent fighters. It was known as Maison Centrale (Central House) during the French occupation. The prison was being extended in 1913 to accommodate the increasing number of prisoners. The prison facility continued to be overcrowded with the huge number of inmates over the years and as a result, the prisoners held at Hoa Lo Prison were confronted with very poor cell condition. In the eyes of the Vietnamese, Hoa Lo prison has turned into a symbol of hate towards the French.
The main entrance to Hoa Lo Prison
Prison cell that was fitted with metal chain to lock inmates' foot
After French colonial government left with the defeat in Dien Bien Phu Battle and signing of the Geneva Accords in 1954, Hoa Lo Prison was seen as a symbol of "revolutionary centre" where dozens of revolutionary fighters turned it into a platform for them to further enhanced their morale and spirit and developing ways to fight all their way to gain independence for their countrymen and the nation.
The prison cells' condition @ Hoa Lo Prison
During the Vietnam War era, the Americans POWs were sent to Hoa Lo Prison. Many of them were subjected to great tortures thus suffering tremendous pains during their time at Hoa Lo Prison. They were being chained, subjected to harsh beatings and other forms of tortures. They were said to be forced to made statements to portray how well they were being treated by the North Vietnamese force and how the US were at fault for causing the war in Vietnam. As the Vietnam war continued over the years, the torture finally subsided where new batches of American POWs even called Hoa Lo Prison the Hanoi Hilton, referring to the well known hotel chain of the Hilton Hotel. By 1967, Hoa Lo Prison has seen great changes and tremendous improvement and was even names as Little Vegas by the American POWs.
SOME ITEMS & PHOTOS OF PRISONERS ON DISPLAY @ HOA LO PRISON
Hoa Lo Prison was demolished in 1990s to make way for commercial buildings development. What being left today of the Hoa Lo Prison was only the main gate area as well as parts of the front prison building with some open spaces in between as well as some extensions on remaining prison building for purpose of developing it into exhibition halls. Hoa Lo Prison or Maison Centrale is today a history museum in Hanoi which in fact provide important education as well as information to not only the Vietnamese but also to tourists who are interested in gaining more insights into the life of the prisoners in this "hell" which served as a reminders that independence was gained through such horrendous and tough sufferings. As mentioned earlier, Hoa Lo Prison was formerly a symbol of revolution because this was the place that many Vietnamese independent fighters being put behind bars due to their unrelenting cause to achieve their ultimate dream that was independence. Touring this "reconstructed" old prison can be quite eerie as I walked through the "reconstructed" cells where prisoners sculptures were placed in these cells. Some of them had their legs chained with thick metal chain locks depicting on how the Hoa Lo inmates were being tortured and made to suffer. The historic museum also display the cells' conditions, items that were used to execute prisoners, old photos of those of those being jailed at Hoa Lo Prison and those who were executed as well a section where preserved parts of the prison area where prisoners escaped while serving time at Hoa Lo Prison and awaiting for execution. Hoa Lo Prison today may have been forgotten by north Vietnamese as a centre of revolution that triggered a nationwide success towards the road to independence but it is still worth a visit just to gain some insights on how the historic former prison became such important establishment which formed what Vietnam is today.
PARTS OF HOA LO PRISON WHERE INMATES ESCAPED BEING DISPLAYED