Sunday, August 29, 2004


I probably should have mentioned in a previous post that I've been planning a trip to Hanoi. My dad and sister arrived in Hong Kong on Friday night and we flew together to Hanoi on Saturday morning. We're going to return to HK on Tuesday night and then they'll fly back to Sydney on Friday.

Our holiday so far has involved a lot of eating and walking around. We're staying in the old quarter of the city and the old buildings and tree lined streets are very beautiful. Except for the huge number of motorbikes and scooters on the road, this place is incredibly peaceful... relative to HK anyway.

This morning we went to see the 'Hanoi Hilton'. During the colonial era it was the prison where the French kept nationalist insurgents. Then, during the Vietnam War, the Communists used it for captured American soldiers who had parachuted into the city after their planes were shot down.

The prison has now been turned into a museum which attempts to contrast two very different prison experiences. Preserved cells, guillotines and torture equipment show the harsh punishment meted out to Vietnamese by the French. In the midst of all this horror, a photographic display provides a juxtaposed view of the treatment of the Americans by the Vietnamese. Photos include:
- American prisoners recieving gifts sent by family
- American prisoners attending church
- American prisoners cooking (with several whole chickens)
- American prisoners talking with Vietnamese officers
My favourite photo was cationed 'Citizens and soldiers of Hanoi rescuing an American who parachuted into the lake'.

I'm inclined to believe that the treatment of prisoners in the two eras really was very different. Still, it was my first time to see such an obvious spin put on a museum exhibition. That was very interesting.

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