We had a few hours to spare in Hanoi so decided to visit the Hoa Lo Prison. I was glad we did - this was probably the most educational place we visited in Hanoi, and one of the most worthwhile. Definitely worth a visit.
The prison itself dates from the French colonial times. Be prepared for a very one-sided view of things here, and take it with a pinch of salt - all of the exhibits aim to illustrate how poorly the French colonialists treated the Vietnamese imprisoned here and how well the Vietnamese later treated the US POWs held in the complex (when it was known as the "Hanoi Hilton".
If you stay aware of the bias, though, there's lots to learn here and I got far more out of it than the Ho Chin Museum. It's still not up to the level of many other museums from a labeling perspective - descriptions are short and don't go into much detail - but it's fascinating to go around the prison and imagine the misery of the people held here. The cells for people with death sentences - and the guillotine itself - are must-see elements, as is the relatively new US exhibit which has an interesting video.
Set aside between an hour (if you're in a hurry) and two hours for a more in-depth visit.
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