Hoa Lo Prison or Maison Centrale – The hell on earth
Location: Hoa Lo Prison Relic is located on No. 1 Hoa Lo, Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi. It is right in the corner of Tho Nhuom and Hoa Lo Street, about 20-minute walk from Hoan Kiem lake (Sword Lake).
Located right in the center of Hanoi capital, Hoa Lo Prison Relic is an excellent evidence of period of fighting movements, symbol of indomitable spirits of Vietnamese revolutionists and patriots who were detained here by French colonialists. It was originally named by French colonists as Maison Centrale and ranked in the top ten most notorious prisons in the world and is one of the best place must see if you are living in Hanoi.
The prison was built by French colonists in 1896 in order to detain prisoners and thousands of Vietnamese patriotic and revolutionary fighters during the time of French colonization. This area used to be a famous pottery village, also known as Hoa Lo – at Phu Khanh Village, Vinh Xuong, Tho Xuong district in Hanoi in the first half of 19th century. Then all the local residents were forced to move to other places French colonists removed Luu Ly pagoda, Bich Thu pagoda and Bich Hoa pagoda and gave room for building prison. At that time, the French colonialists increasingly put down all the uprising fighting movements of Vietnamese patriots. Building the prison in that place is a part of their plan to suppress Vietnamese revolutionists where held more than 2000 prisoners in subhuman conditions with poor hygienic condition, contagious diseases and poor food quality.
This current relic is just a small section remained in Hoa Lo by the Vietnam government and serves as an attractive visiting place for tourists. Annually, it attracts high number of both domestic and foreign visitors, 70 percent of them are foreign tourists.
On the area of 2000 meter square retained, there are architectural sections, relics and artifacts, original objects and monuments displayed in Hoa Lo Historical Prison relic. This reflects the long history of Hoa Lo prison: from its establishment in 1896 to liberation of Northern Vietnam in October, 1954 served as place for imprisoning Vietnamese patriots and revolutionists ; from 1964 to 1972 served as place for the Vietnam Government to temporarily capture American pilots who were shot down during their bombing raids against North Vietnam.
Surrounding the prison is a stone wall with 4 meter in height and 0.5 meter in width, along with complicated barriers on it to prevent prisoners from escaping. Right next to the wall is the 3-meter wide pavement in order for the jailers to patrol around the prison. Four corners of prison stands four towers so that jailers can observe and keep their eyes on all the inside and outside situation where the prisoners cannot escape from the prison.
Hoa Lo prison historical relic was recognized by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism as valuable historical relic in June, 1997. Hoa Lo prison contributes to educate Vietnamese people, especially young generations about patriotic and revolutionary tradition of Vietnamese patriots who sacrificed themselves for the fatherland’s independence and freedom.
Recently, it has become a must-visit destination for both domestic and international visitors to research and learn more about wars in Vietnam and respect the indomitable spirits and sacrifice of Vietnamese patriots. Come to Hoa Lo Prison Historical Relic to learn more about Vietnamese patriotism, it will definitely be a well-worth visiting historical place. Besides, you can visit the store inside to buy some unique souvenirs.