Friday, March 11th, 2016
My wake up call involved a smack on the arm, followed by the assistant yelling, “HA-NOI!” in my face. I quickly went from being scared shitless, to being in a total daze. An unmarked taxi dropped us out front of “Golden Time Hostel,” which wasn’t open yet. We took a short stroll down the street to eat Pho Bo at “Co Yen Beo,” then had coffee drinks at a nearby cafe.
We returned to the hostel, which was now open, but our room wasn’t ready yet. So we decided to discuss Halong Bay tours with the lady at the front desk. She showed us two recommended options, and one of them was budget-friendly. So we booked and paid for the tour, then reserved a room for when we returned.
When our room was ready, we studied the map to see where some points of interest were located. Then we started our walk around Hanoi, first strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake (aka: “Lake of the Restored Sword”). In the middle of the lake, we could see Thap Rua Tower (aka Turtle Tower).
Next, we headed towards Hang Duong Street. We stopped at “Hanoi Rocks Hostel” where we sampled two beers, HaNoi and Saigon Special, while watching blooper videos on TV.
On our way to Hoa Lo Prison Museum, we grabbed lunch at a busy place called “Tan Tan” where we got Bun Thang (Soft Noodles with Chicken, Fried Eggs, Pork Pies, and Mushrooms).
Hoa Lo Prison had been demolished, aside from the front gate, which has since been restored into the museum.
In the late 19th century, the French colonialists increased suppressive forces on the Vietnamese by adding a court system of law, a prison network and police forces. Prisoners included thousands of revolutionary patriotic soldiers, and many leaders of the government and the Vietnamese Communist Party.
Living conditions were bad, with cruel treatment of the prisoners, but the prisoners used the system as a school to propagate the revolutionary argument. Some escaped through the sewer systems.
The North was liberated in 1954, but the jail was still used for lawbreakers. From August 5th, 1964 through March 29th, 1973, it was used to keep prisoners of the Vietnam War, specifically U.S. pilots whose planes were shot down. Unlike that of the revolutionaries, conditions were fairly pleasant for them, so it was sarcastically called the “Hanoi Hilton”.
Jump Back to Part 15: Hairy Dentistry, Disorder & Xanax
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Busing Across the Border to Ho Chi Minh City