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Is Hoi An Prison worth a visit?

Today, I take you to discover an unknown spot: Hoi An Prison.

Many Vietnamese cities showcase remnants of the French colonial era, such as the famous Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi. Hoi An is no exception and offers a different perspective on this historical period.

Hoi An Prison has just opened its doors to visitors, adding a new dimension to the city’s tourist offerings. This historically charged site represents a must-visit during your trip. Should I include it in my article on the must-sees of Hoi An? I’ll tell you everything in this article to help you decide whether a visit is essential.

Brief History of Hoi An Prison

prison de Hoi An

From the late 19th century until 1975, Hoi An served as a political center for Quang Nam province. In this region, alongside military bases, the French and Americans established several large prisons to incarcerate revolutionary fighters and Vietnamese patriots involved in local and external struggle movements.

In the early 20th century, the French ambassador had the Faifo prison (the old name of Hoi An) built, located today at 145-147 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, used until August 1945. In 1947, the French set up another penitentiary facility at 127 Phan Chau Trinh Street, also known as Thong Dang Prison, which served until 1954. Between 1954 and 1959, the Americans renovated and modernized this prison to detain revolutionary prisoners.

In 1958, they undertook the construction of a new prison in the village of Xom Moi, located at 240/12 Ly Thuong Kiet Street (Hoi An Prison), which was active from 1960 to March 1975. Numerous revolutionary activists and patriots were incarcerated in these Hoi An prisons, and some were even deported to other major prisons under colonial and imperial regimes across the country.

On July 14, 1967, it was attacked by the Vietnamese who freed more than 1000 prisoners.

How to Get to Hoi An Prison?

prison de hoi an pancarte

Since the prison opened to tourists at the end of 2023, a signpost has been added, but it’s very easy to miss it.

Here is where Hoi An Prison (Nhà lao Hội An in Vietnamese) is located on Google Maps. It is situated at the end of the alley. You can’t miss it with its gate.

hoi an prison maps google

Price & Opening Hours of Hoi An Prison

  • Free entry
  • Opening hours: 7 AM – 6 PM (7 days a week)
  • Visit duration: 30 min

What to See at Hoi An Prison?

plan de la prison de hoi an

Upon entering the prison grounds, you will notice that many buildings have not yet been restored and remain in ruins, much like the guardhouse located just to your right after the gate.

In front of each building in the prison, a small sign is placed to indicate its original function. However, these signs are only in Vietnamese…

With the renovation and opening of the site to tourists, mannequins representing both the guards and the prisoners have been added, bringing the history of the place to life.

The Museum

The first building you will visit is the Main Hall, which constitutes the captivating heart of Hoi An Prison. This place has been transformed into a small fascinating museum where numerous documents relating to the history of this prison are displayed. You will discover more than 150 photographs and various letters written at the time by the French.

The hall also boasts a variety of objects related to the daily life of the prison and its detainees, including instruments used for torture as well as other more ordinary items.

For a French visitor, this exhibition has a particularly poignant dimension as it touches a fragment of our own history.

Don’t forget to take a photo of the map on the wall of the Main Hall to find your way around the Hoi An Prison.

Women’s and Men’s Cells, Watchtower, Bunker, etc…

As you walk through the prison, you can observe the cells of women and men, arranged on either side of the museum. This provides a concrete glimpse into the detention conditions of the era. Unfortunately, information is lacking.

Just behind the museum, you will discover an impressive watchtower, impossible to miss.

Even more striking, the isolation cells are well highlighted (although this term may seem inappropriate), with several mannequins. This staging helps better understand the isolation conditions of the prisoners, who were confined in very small cells with one foot often shackled… A different era.

To the right, you can also see the remains of a bunker where a mannequin has been placed.

These are roughly the only remaining buildings of the prison.

My Opinion

I found there was a severe lack of explanations except for the museum, which provides context to truly understand the history of the prison.

The cells for women and men have been renovated but they lack explanations. Only the confinement cells have been highlighted.

If you have visited Hoa Lu Prison ( Hanoi ), you might be a bit disappointed, but for me, it remains a worthwhile visit if you have the time.

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