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Hanoi Launches Night Tour at Hoa Lo Prison to Attract Domestic Tourists

History buffs from the rest of the country might find the night tour an opportunity to observe the storied historical site from a different perspective.

As Vietnam continues to bar foreign tourists from entering the country to minimize COVID-19 spread, tourist destinations across the nation now face a new challenge to stay afloat relying only on domestic demand.

In a bid to attract more visitors, Hanoi’s Hoa Lo Prison Museum has launched a new night tour, offering spectators a chance to browse the site during twilight. The campaign is a joint effect between the location’s management board and Hanoitourist Travel Agency, reports Tuoi Tre.

Tours are conducted with guidance from museum staff and are open for any participant older than 16, though they are advised to dress conservatively to comply with site rules. Guests are also not allowed to use mobile phones, take pictures or record videos.

The tour, titled “Sacred Night — Glorious Vietnamese Spirit,” will take visitors through the main gates, dark cellars, and blocks for male prisoners, female prisoners, and political prisoners.

Guests can sign up for tours from July 24 on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights, each starting at 7pm and lasting 45 minutes.

Hoa Lo, as the prison is known among locals, is named after the coal-fired stoves sold on streets surrounding the structure. The prison was built by the French administration and opened in 1886 to jail anti-French revolutionaries. The complex was called Maison Centrale (Central House) by the French; the name is still present today above the entrance gate. American prisoners of war, however, gave it the sarcastic moniker “Hanoi Hilton.”

In 1990, Hoa Lo was shut down, with most of its buildings demolished to make room for real estate projects. The main gate was kept and converted into a museum.

The new tour is among a range of measures the Hanoi Department of Tourism is taking to boost heritage tourism among domestic tourists, as it seeks to actualize the goal of welcoming 11 million travelers by the end of the year.

From January to May, the capital only collected US$715 million from tourism, a sharp decline compared to the same period last year. This slump is mainly attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

[Photo via Flicker user Matthias Rosenkranz]