Timings : 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM, 1:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Time Required : 1-2 hrs
Entry Fee : Adults: VND 30,000
Students (with Identification): VND 15,000
Children (under 15 years): No Entry Fee
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Hoa Lo Museum is all that remains of the Hoa Lo Prison, which was used to capture Vietnamese and American political prisoners during the colonial period and the Vietnam war respectively. It is located in the Hoan Kiem area.The interrogation room, guillotine and John McCain's suit all are on display, a silent reminder of gruesome past Vietnam has had to witness.
Once a fearsome prison used to suppress voices of dissent, Hoa La Prison was built by the French during the colonial era. It was first used to house Vietnamese revolutionaries opposing French rule and was later used for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. It is sarcastically known as 'Hanoi Hilton' for its brutal living conditions. Today, most of the prison has been razed to the ground, but a small section remains that has become a museum.
The Hoa Lo Prison was built with 13 feet high stone walls that are over two feet thick. These walls were topped with high-voltage electric wires and shards of glass. The imposing iron doors were constructed in France, and then shipped to Vietnam. It was kept after independence for its historical significance, but in time, it became used by the Vietnamese for the very purpose it was built against them. Of course, Hoa La was not a successful prison - hundreds managed to escape over the years, especially through its sewage grates under the ground.The Hoa Lo Prison museum that stands there today attempts to recreate the living conditions of the colonial era and the Vietnam War. Many believe that it has been 'whitewashed' to appear less brutal than it was. Whatever the case, it is open to the public through tours, so we'll let you decide how you feel about the prison! Over the years, Hoa La prison became home to many prominent soldiers. Some noteworthy names include: William Lawrence, a US Navy pilot and future Superintendent of the US Naval Academy, James Stockdale, a US Navy pilot, Medal of Honour recipient and the 1992 Vice-Presidential candidate, and Sam Johnston, a future Republican Congressman of Texas. One of the most famous prisoners of Hoa La Prison was John McCain, a US Navy pilot and 2008 Presidential nominee. Decades after the war, McCain returned to the prison, advocating better relations with the U.S. and Vietnam.