Hanoi 2015 || Ice cream for lunch because prison visits are exhausting

I woke up to the girl sleeping on the bottom bunk of my bed packing her bags because she had a 7 AM flight to Thailand. We said a quick goodbye (our only other interaction was when she said ‘hi’ when I came barging in the dark room at 2 AM) and I pondered on how to conduct myself with the rest of my roommates. Do I shower first? How the heck am I going to rummage through my backpack when it’s dark? Should I open the lights then and risk annoying these strangers with hangovers? In the end, I spent the next hour browsing Instagram. Once sunlight shone through the window, I took a shower and headed to the kitchen to eat the free breakfast that came with the $5 rate. The strong coffee was just what I needed.

To be completely honest, I was very hesitant to go out of the hostel. Sap would have reached the bottom of a trunk before I finished eating my breakfast. I knew I was stalling.. and when I finally got to steel myself to ask directions to the train station, Phung informed me that she can book it for me over the phone. Which she did. So I just got a map from her instead and asked her where she can suggest I go.

Off to the prison we go. (Entrance fee: VND 30,000)

I’m not going to go give you historical facts because you can probably just read it all over the internet (and some in the photo below). Prior to visiting, I only had a vague idea about the history of Vietnam. I have never really excelled in History but I spent a solid two hours here because I read all the captions and went to every single room accessible to the public.

I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that this prison was built to accommodate 500 people but there was a point in time wherein over 2,000 inmates were contained here. Can you imagine how that would feel?? (On a side note: do correct me if I’m wrong – my memory is a bit faulty)

This is where they mixed the food for the prisoners and how it was served.

Prison uniform.

All the political prisoners were kept in this room, with their feet shackled together. No bathroom breaks whatsoever. Damn. When they were planning to escape, they found a way to loosen the shackles so they could exercise and place their shackles back on to not get caught.

I did not take photos of the cells in here. I was already having goosebumps with the thought of everyone who must have died in these dreadful isolation rooms. You can peek in the doors and there was a mannequin in different poses. I did not take a look at all the rooms in fear of not finding a mannequin.. silly, I know. But I was the only one in this area at the time and could not ignore the chills.

Boxing gloves used to torture prisoners.

It may have been a good thing that people usually get thinner in prison for them to pull this off. If I was a prisoner here, I would have probably been left behind when they escaped via the sewers (and created a barricade for the remaining ones behind me because I couldn’t fit through). Out of the twenty prisoners who tried to escape, less than ten was successful (again, anyone is welcome to provide me with accurate information).

Haunting.

I felt emotionally drained after my prison visit and went to Quan Su temple afterwards. I went inside and was the only tourist there.. so I was not aware if it’s disrespectful to whip out my camera and take photos (some temples are strict about this). I settled to simply walk around and observe temple goers. I started walking around the area, thinking of where to have lunch, when I found this really cute house. I can see myself living in a house that looks like this.

I saw an establishment that looks nice from the outside and decided to go in – because it was also marked on the map I got from the hostel.

It was an ice cream place! I had to talk myself out of ordering this one..

Journal entry while I was in Fanny’s:

Happiness is staying inside an ice cream cafe. I swear I’m a bit hesitant to go on the streets of Vietnam. Crossing roads is a death-defying stunt in itself and I get hounded by strangers who offer motor tours. I am usually smiling and accommodating of strangers, but I have learned to keep my poker face on and firmly say no while walking. Also, I honestly want to eat everything in here.

The people from Fanny’s gave me a gift! I was asked if it was my first time in Hanoi and as I was leaving, they handed me this city guide (I was drawing circles and routes in the map while leeching off their wifi haha) and told me ‘this is a gift for you from Fanny’s’.

I may have been VND 165,000 lighter when I left the ice cream place but I’m still dreaming about it until now. All the bad juju from being scammed had almost been forgotten (because ICE CREAM).. and the City Guide have proven useful for the rest of my time in Vietnam. Win!

I’m ending this post here because I go through the photos as I write and I have so many photos of random things, it takes a while to relive everything. 🙂

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