At first mention, you might think that Hanoi Hilton is fine place to check in during your stay in Hanoi. Ask anyone who knows their Vietnam trivia and you will change your mind; because inviting sounding as it is, the famous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ happens to be the Hoa Lo Prison, which was given its rather wry title by the American Prisoners-of-Wars held within its forbidding walls during the nightmare days of Viet Nam War. In Vietnamese, the name Hoa Lo means ‘fiery furnace’ or ‘stove’; an unpleasant but fitting title considering the building’s history.
Hoa Lo Prison was built in 1896 by the French who were the colonial masters of Viet Nam to hold Vietnamese political prisoners who caused dissent during their rule. Located close to Hanoi’s French quarter, this massive building was named Maison Centrale – meaning ‘Central house’ in French, which is a term used for prison buildings in France. During the French rule, it became a bitter icon of colonial oppression of the Vietnamese, as the Hoa Lo Prison was at a time home to as many as 2000 Vietnamese prisoners detained in subhuman conditions. Later after the French left and Viet Nam spiralled down to its historical bloodbath, the prison was housing many an American serviceman captured by the Viet Cong, and their fate was not better off. The notoriety of ‘Hanoi Hilton’ among the American soldiers who were imprisoned there gained it Hollywood fame when a war movie titled the same came out in 1987.
Today, you will find that the Hoa Lo prison has shed most of its menacing personality for a newfound life as a memorial museum, drawing in a large number of crowds. The Hoa Lo Prison Museum is housed in part of the old building, and it depicts the nightmarish world of the Vietnamese prisoners who had called its cold cramped halls their unwilling home. The remains of its sinister past; the guillotine room, the body baskets and the death row where many of the country’s leaders of the independence struggle where held are put on display as a testament to the suffering that went on within the walls of Hoa Lo.
The location of the Hoa Lo Prison places it close to many other popular attractions in Hoan Kiem locality of Hanoi, such as the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and the Hanoi Opera House. If you’re staying within the city’s old quarter, you will find it easy to enjoy all these places at you leisure. Hanoi Accommodation today is world-class yet affordable, while one will also be able to find luxury accommodation Hanoi. One such place is the Somerset Grand Hanoi; a quality and affordable service apartment that is in the same precinct as the Hoa Lo Prison, in a part where the old building was demolished. Make your stay in Hanoi memorable and thrilling, and don’t forget to visit the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ of Hoa Lo. Despite its baleful atmosphere, you will find the visit interesting and touching in a humane sense, as you walk the cells and chambers which were once home to men whose free spirit couldn’t be held in by walls and bars.