In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
THE "HA NOI HILTON"
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
They were cells of death and torture.
Opened in 1896, Hoa Lo prison was the largest of the French prisons built
in the north of Viet Nam. Constructed in the latter half of the 19th century,
this penitentiary was
part of France’s efforts to restrain the unruly and popular anti-colonial
movements amongst the Vietnamese community. Hoa Lo Prison quickly became a place
where thousands of revolutionary fighters were imprisoned, beaten, cuffed,
beheaded and suffered the worst abuse imaginable.
French-built for the sole purpose of torturing the
Vietnamese dissidents during their occupation and colonialism of 80 years, it
was during this occupation of nearly a century, that significant
crimes against humanity took place, yet we rarely hear about this in the media
We saw several guillotines imported by the French to make
their points to the locals, and thereby suppress any uprisings through fear. We
think it was the lucky ones who were beheaded. Those left behind to endure more
agonies of various sorts including water tortures, beatings, broken bones never
to be mended, paralysis and blindness only had more of the same on the road
ahead of them.
From the Vietnamese point of view, it was capitalism
through French colonialism that was to blame for their troubles. Hence, their
leanings towards communism at that time in history, and even today. The French,
in their “greed for more goods to trade, i.e., capitalism” colonized Vietnam and
basically used the native peoples as slaves to make goods for the French. Anyone
who rose up against this tyranny, was thrown into prison, tormented physically
and mentally, beheaded, or left to “languish," in dark, cramped
cells, with their feet bolted to concrete slabs that served as their bed.
Some cells did not have light, and so the prisoners soon
became blind. Since their feet were bolted down, they could not move, and so
they became paralyzed. It was in this condition, that they lived out the
remainder of their days. This was decades before the Americans ever set foot
upon the Vietnamese country land. We had no idea this existed, and coming
face to face with it, the savagery was shocking.
Following the liberation of North Vietnam from France in
1954, Hoa Lo became a state prison, housing the nation’s own criminal offenders.
However, from August of 1964 to March of 1973, it was also used to detain
American pilots whose aircraft had been shot down over Ha Noi. It was during
this period that the Americans gave Hoa Lo the nickname “Hanoi Hilton.”
We visited what remains of this horror house during our
stay in Hanoi (or as the Vietnamese say Ha Noi). It is here that Senator John
McCain, (upper right) and Ambassador Douglas 'Pete' Peterson (upper center) were
held during the “American War”. McCain’s flight suit, parachute and helmet is proudly displayed behind glass, as well as
photos of other American prisoners.
It was noted on the self directed tour that the Vietnamese’
humane treatment of the American prisoners far surpassed the French treatment of
the Vietnamese nationals during occupation.
We have no idea if that was true or
not. However, there were photos in the prison museum of the American pilots
playing games, playing guitar and singing, and exercising. Also, there was a
photograph of an American receiving medical treatment from the Vietnamese, but
his condition looked questionable at best.
Walking through places like these is sobering. It was just
the two of us at the time, in this barren, bleak, hopeless, blood drenched
place, filled with fear and suffering… We could almost hear the cries of pain
and loneliness, the desperation and futility from the now washed walls. We are
blessed never to have had to endure anything like this sort of abuse in our
lives. It had the effect of making us want to fall to our knees with the weight
of it all; what we humans can do to other humans.
Two thirds of the original prison was demolished in 1993 to
make way for the Hanoi Towers (now known as Somerset Grand Ha Noi) serviced
apartment and office complex. The southeastern corner has been preserved as an
Historic Vestige and memorial to the revolutionaries, both men and women, who
gave their lives for the freedom of their country, Viet Nam.
Open daily, entrance fee is minimal. Located at 1 Hoa Lo,
Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
AND TRAVEL INFORMATION
For more stories and photos
of Vietnam, click here
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
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