Night tours of Hanoi’s historic Hoa Lo Prison
Update: Oct 14, 2020
Let's discover Hanoi at night by taking a tour of historic Hoa Loa prison called “Sacred Night - Glorious Vietnamese Spirit”.
Visitors can see and listen to the stories featuring the unyielding spirit of revolutionary soldiers. (Photo:
The night tour was jointly organized by the Hoa Lo prison management board and the Hanoitourist travel agency in response to a program calling on Vietnamese tourists to travel in Vietnam.
The tour is offered at 7pm every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  
Phung Quang Thang, Hanoitourist’s Director, said tour provides an immersive experience from the moment you arrive at the prison’s main gate.
“Outside the main gate was the earth but behind it was hell. It was called hell on earth. Further in was a hell within hell. The colonialists put the prison’s guillotine in front of the gate to show off their power to the public and execute revolutionary soldiers. These details make the tour sacred,” said Thang.
The journey backwards in time takes visitors to dark cells, an almond tree, the guillotine, a monument, and seperate blocks for male and female political prisoners.
The tour takes visitors on a rollercoaster ride of emotions: horror at the brutality of the colonial prison, admiration for the prisoners and their sacrifice, and pride in the unyielding spirit of those who were part of Vietnam’s glorious history.
Visitors also listen to moving stories about the struggles of the political prisoners. Nguyen Hong Ha, a tour guide at the relic, said, “More than 100 political prisoners, including Party General Secretary Do Muoi, escaped from the jail through the sewer. The second jail-break was by 16 prisoners under death sentence detained at the dungeon.”
She went on, “When the French detected how the prisoners had escaped, they reinforced everything - the sewer lines were made smaller with more iron bars. But via a supply route, death row inmates still managed to receive from their relatives iron bars, knives, and saw blades, which helped them organize another successful escape on Christmas Eve 1951.”
Arrested and tortured at Hoa Lo prison more than 70 years ago, Major-General Nguyen Duc Minh often visits the relic with his children to commemorate his companions in arms. He says he felt melancholy but proud when he was invited to participate in the tour.
“This tour is extremely moving and meaningful. We are visiting the place where my comrades and I were jailed. Many of them died here,” said Minh.
Since it was launched 2 months ago, the 45-minute tour has received 520 visitors, 15 of them foreigners, who said they felt emotions the daytime tours can’t match.
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. In a later period, it held American prisoners who dubbed it the Hanoi Hilton.
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