Friday, January 31, 2020

Hỏa Lò Prison

Hỏa Lò Prison was first used by the French colonists in French Indochina to hold political prisoners and later by North Vietnam to hold U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War, at which time it was known to Americans as the Hanoi Hilton.  The museum on the site of the former prison provides insight into both periods in Vietnamese history.

The entrance to the prison shows the layout and the conditions encountered by the prisoners held by the French, many of whom later became leaders of the North Vietnam government.

 Layout of the prison


Artwork depicts the daily life of the prisoners and one display shows the guillotine used by the French in the prison.

 Prison life

The guillotine

The most moving displays are the stories of prisoners, both those held by the French and those held by the North Vietnamese.

  Stories of prisoners held by the French

 Stories of prisoners held by the North Vietnamese

 Along the way on the path through the prison are also plaques listing and commemorating the people who have been held here.

 Lists of prisoners

This has been quite a sobering and reflective visit, viewing the history and conditions of confinement in both eras of the life of Hỏa Lò.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Quan Su Pagoda and Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi

Quan Su Pagoda is 4-5 blocks southwest of Hoan Kiem Lake and has served as the headquarters of the Vietnamese Buddhist Association since 1858.  "Quan Su" is derived from an ancient word for "embassy: in the 15th century, ambassadors came to offer tribute to Vietnam and the Quan Su building was constructed to welcome them.  Since they were all Buddhists, the building was built as a temple for worship, dedicated to Buddha.

Quan Su Pagoda

At the end of the Vietnamese Le Dynasty (1428-1788), many pagodas in Vietnam were destroyed, but Quan Su was saved and was opened to the public in 1822.  The temple is full of worshipers and visitors, with a peaceful atmosphere inside this beautiful space.

 Inside Quan Su Pagoda

A few blocks away, on an island in Hoan Kiem Lake, the Ngoc Song Temple is the most-visited temple in Hanoi. The temple was built in the 18th century in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was was instrumental in the defeat of two Mongol invasions led by Kublai Khan in the 1280s, driving the Mongols back into China, which they had conquered in the previous decade.  The temple is built on Jade Island in Hoan Kiem Lake and is accessed by the Rising Sun Bridge.

 Rising Sun Bridge and entrance to Ngoc Song Temple

The inside of the temple has alters dedicated to Tran Hung Dao and displays commemorating the soft-shell turtles who live in Hoan Kiem Lake, including a 250kg (551 pound) preserved turtle found in the lake.

 Temple grounds

 Inside the temple

The turtle

The Quan Su Pagoda and the Ngoc Son Temple have offered two fabulous views of historic and traditional religious settings and have made for a great afternoon of exploration.