In Europe and the USA we probably know Hoa Lo Prison by the nickname 'Hanoi Hilton' coined while it was used from 1964-1973 to imprison US pilots captured during the Vietnam War. The prison was originally built at the end of the 19th century by French colonialists on the site of a craft village renowned for the quality of its earthenware. Some of these pots, dishes and kettles are on display. You'll also see the guillotine imported from France and the original entrance door with its huge locks and bolts which were also specially imported. I defy anyone not to be moved almost to tears by the sight of rows of shackled prisoners in one of the large detention rooms. These figures have been crafted so finely that they appear almost lifelike. The French reckoned the prison was the most secure in Indochina but even so 100 political prisoners escaped over six nights in 1945 and you'll see sections of the sewer through which they got away. Also on display is the flight suit worn by pilot Major John McCain (a future Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee). Photographs give the impression that captured US pilots enjoyed a comfortable incarceration so if you want an inmate's view of life inside the 'Hanoi Hilton' I suggest you search out McCain's memoir to read when you get home. There is an informative guidebook and plenty of information panels throughout the building, obviously written from a Vietnamese point of view. Putting the propaganda aside, a visit to this place is a stark reminder of man's inhumanity to man and I'd highly recommend it. Entrance is 20,000 dong (1 US dollar) and opening hours are 8am to 5pm every day including weekends and holidays.
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