1. Can Dao Prison Complex
The Can Do prisons are located on the Can Dao archipelago and were built by the French in 1861. It was primarily built to imprison people who committed serious crimes and were considered dangerous by the French colonial government. However, they were later used to imprison political opponents. The inmates were abused and tortured in these prisons. In the 1960s and 70s, these prisons were used by the US and South Vietnamese governments for the same purpose. An important attraction in this prison complex is the Tiger caves which was discovered much later.
The prison complex is now a popular tourist site and mannequins have been placed to replicate the brutality experienced by the prisoners. Entry to this prison complex is usually free but sometimes there can be an entry fee of VND 20,000.
2. Hoa Lo Prison
Similar to the Can Dao prisons, this prison too was built by the French colonizers to imprison Vietnamese political prisoners. Hoa Lo literally translates to ‘Hell’s hole’ or ‘fiery furnace’, indicating the intensity of torture the inmates were subjected to. It was later used by the North Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War to capture and torture their opponents. This prison was demolished in the 1990s and made way to a museum with life-size mannequins depicting the life of the prisoners. The original gatehouse still remains.
This prison complex was popular among the American inmates as ‘Hanoi Hilton’. Tourists are charged an entry fee of VND 30,000.
3. Khai Dinh Tomb
This mausoleum was built in honour of Emperor Khai Dinh, the twelfth ruler of the Nyugen Dynasty. Although this tomb is much smaller than the tombs of the previous emperors, it is more elaborately designed than the others. The architectural designs include both the Oriental and the European styles. The tomb has intricate carvings of dragons and an honour guard of bodyguards, elephants and horses leading up to the sanctum. The inside of the place houses a life size bronze statue of the late emperor.
This was the last ever tomb built in honour of a Vietnamese emperor. The tomb is open to visitors from 8 am to 6 pm. An entrance fee of VND 100,000 is charged for tourists.
4. Cu Chi Tunnels
A complex network of underground tunnels, the Cu Chi tunnels were built during the French colonial period but were later expanded during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong soldiers used these underground tunnels to communicate, transport supplies and as hiding places after launching guerilla attacks. Tourists are now allowed to explore through the safer parts of this tunnel network, enjoy a Viet Cong soldier’s everyday meal during the war or even try a hand at using the AK-47!
The entry fee for these tunnels cost about VND 110,000.
5. My Son Cham Ruins
Although now in ruins due to time and american bombs, this place still stands testimony to the once glorious Hindu Cham dynasty’s rule in Vietnam. This cluster of temples is closely related to the Angkor Wat of the Khmer kingdom in Cambodia. The temples here in My Son were built in as early as the 4th century AD. These ruins are set in the backdrop of a forest. Visiting this place early in the morning or in the evening is sure to give you a mystical feel. The number of tourists are also very less during these times.
There is no entry fee to visit this temple complex, but it is best to hire a private car from Hoi An which may cost around VND 65,000. Do remember to hydrate yourself as you’ll have to walk around a lot.
6. War Remnants Museum
Thanks to popular media, the first thing that comes to mind when one talks of Vietnam is the Vietnam War. The war between the North and South Vietnamese governments with heavy US presence was gruesome. Today, the relics of that brutal war are preserved in this museum. From tanks and helicopters used in the war to unexploded ammunition, all of it has been displayed at this museum to remind people of the bitter site of war. It also has photo exhibits from the period.
The War Remnants Museum is one of the most popular tourist sites in Vietnam. It is open on all days of the week from 7:30 am to 12 pm and 1:30 pm to 5 pm. All visitors are charged an entrance fee of VND 15,000.
7. Long Tan Cross Memorial
This memorial was erected by the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment to commemorate the battle of Long Tan. It marked the Australian involvement in the Vietnam War where a very small number of soldiers confronted the much larger Vietnamese forces. The cross originally placed was removed by the communist forces but was later recovered and put on display by the Dong Nai Province Museum. It was gifted to Australia recently and a replica stands in its place today.
The memorial is frequently visited by Australian war veterans, and commemorates martyrdom. There are a few agencies which include a visit to this memorial along with other nearby places.
8. Hue Imperial Citadel
The Hue Citadel was built by the founder of the Nyugen Dynasty, Gia Long. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Imperial City of Hue once consisted of 160 buildings, but only 10 major ones survived the test of time and the Vietnam War. One must visit this place for its magnificent architecture and beautiful gardens - for your instagramable pictures! The walled city houses temples, gardens, palaces, offices and residential buildings. In the middle of the citadel campus, is the Purple Forbidden City which was where the emperor and his confidantes lived and worked.
A full day guided tour of Hue City including the entrance fee and lunch costs about VND 23,00,000. One can also visit the tombs of the emperors by the Perfume River, the Thein Mu Pagoda or the Bunker Hill when visiting the Imperial City of Hue.
9. Cannon Fort
This fort was first installed by the Japanese forces during World War II, and was later used by the French and the Vietnamese in subsequent battles. The thing to look out for here is the beautiful panoramic view of the jungles of Cat Ba island. The harbour and the ancient lime karsts of the Halong Bay are also visible from here. Reaching the cannon takes a good 30 min walk up a steep hill but the views are definitely worth the effort.
The place is open from 7 in the morning to 10 at night and there is no entrance fee.
10. Vinh Moc Tunnels
During a war, the lives of civilians are in danger just as much as the lives of the soldiers. The Vinh Moc network of tunnels was built at a depth of 30 m by the villagers to protect themselves from the American bombings. This well designed tunnel network consisted of everything a typical village would have: kitchens, wells, family spaces, healthcare, etc. It is believed that around 60 families lived in these tunnels during the war. Unlike the Cu Chi tunnels, these tunnels are much easier to navigate through and there are life-size mannequins depicting life in the tunnel during the war.
The tunnels are pretty much in their original form and at the end of this network, it leads to a beach facing the South China Sea. The entrance fee charged is around VND 25,000.
Do let us know in the comment section, any other historical places in Vietnam we might have missed out!