AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Hanoi: Day One

Posted on Dec 3, 2013

We decided our first stop would be to visit the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, better known as the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War. It was only a short walk but the streets of Hanoi are chaotic. The footpath is filled with people sat on small plastic stools, or cafes spill out onto the path or usually they are full of parked mopeds. These means we spent a lot of time walking on the road. The roads in Hanoi are crazy! How no-one was getting killed every second I have no idea. It’s a free for all between bikes and cars. They swerve, skip red lights, drive into each other, don’t give way, squeeze, etc. The prison was very different to how either of us expected it. We knew nothing about its history prior to the Vietnam war, and about 85% of the visit is focused on the years prior to 1954 when the French were running the region. It showed how badly the French treated the prisoners and it was pretty bad. But the language used hinted at a huge bias. The prisoners were “Communist revolutionaries” and “patriots” and the French were “imperialists”. When prisoners escaped they were ingenious. There was a small section about the use of the prison during the Vietnam war, which showed American prisoners been well looked after, receiving medical treatment and playing games. The Vietnamese portrayed the prison as a model of how to treat POWs. But this conflicts with American stories of torture and poor treatment. Although apparently treatment was improved towards the end of the war. We bought a guide book but it focused almost totally on the French period. I guess you’d want to focus on that after experiencing such horrible treatment, but the story is told in a biased manner and skips over bits of history, we’re used to more impartial displays and exhibitions and admitting that both sides did wrong. After the prison it was time to eat. We wandered for a while and finally found a bakery. Annemarie’s was fine but I chose badly. My bread had what looked like orange fluff in it. No idea what it was but it tasted horrible. We sat by a fountain near the Opera House. Apparently the opera house is modelled on the opera house in Paris. That was just a stone’s throw from Hoan Kiem Lake, meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword”. The story behind the name sounds like some strong mind altering substances were involved. At the top of the lake is the famous Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre, to see a water puppet show. This is a...

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