In late June, dozens of Vietnamese tourists were taken on a trial night tour, the joint creation of the prison’s management board and the Hanoitourist Travel Agency.
Dang Van Bieu, assistant head of the management board, said, “Using light and sound effects, our tour guides tell the story of this site, once called hell on earth. The one-hour tour recounts the extremely poor prison conditions and forms of torture inflicted on Vietnamese revolutionary soldiers, stirring both pity and gratitude for those who sacrificed their youth and life for Vietnam’s independence and freedom.”
|The tour's slogan (Photo: VOV)
The one-hour journey backwards in time takes visitors through the main gate to dark cells, the tropical almond tree, the guillotine, a monument, and blocks for male prisoners, female prisoners, and political prisoners. The stuffy space is embellished by glimmering light and thrilling music.
The frightening spectacle in front of their eyes is disrupted when visitors pass through the yard to hear a song written by Do Nhuan inspired by Hoa Lo prisoners and watch a performance of bamboo flutes under the old tropical almond tree, which used to produce fruit, a source of nutrition for ill prisoners. The prisoners used the tropical almond tree’s branches to make chopsticks and flutes.
A visitors said, “Such a sacred ambience! I learned a lot about the life of political prisoners. It’s really emotion-wrenching.”
Another added, “I was moved by visiting this place at night, and, at the same time, so proud of these courageous Vietnamese soldiers. What impressed me the most about this tour was the light and sound, which resulted in a thrilling effect that I haven’t seen in any other historical museum.”
| A photo exhibited at Hoa Lo prison captures former prisoners.
The night tour to Hoa Lo prison is the first of its kind in Vietnam.
Major General Huynh Dac Huong, former commander of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in Laos, told VOV: “This tour is a great history lesson. The tranquil night time calms one’s mind for contemplating.”
Part of the tour is offering incense and paying tribute to the martyrs at a monument inside the prison. Visitors are served food and beverages made of tropical almond fruit and leaves as a souvenir of Hoa Lo prison.
Tours of Hoa Lo Prison at night will be offered at 7pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning July 24. The tour is not recommended for children under 16.
Hoa Lo prison is named after the coal-fired stoves once sold in the surrounding streets. The prison was built by the French and opened in 1896 to jail anti-French revolutionaries. During later period, it was known to American Prisoners of War as the Hanoi Hilton.