Prison Tour - Learning history through experience
Update: Aug 31, 2022
That history is being viewed by students as an unattractive subject, and Hue needs more novel tourism products has motivated me to develop a history learning program through experience for children called “Prison tour” (Touring the prison).

Children visiting and taking photos of Nine Tunnels historical site

Going out one day

When visiting major tourist cities in the United States, if there are prisons exploited for tourism, it is normal for visitors to book a "Prison tour". This is because this type of thrilling tourism is very popular with tourists here. The prison tour is a unique "specialty", evoking curiosity for visitors while being no less interesting than other pleasures.

I chose a rather strange tour : Exploring the Missouri State Penitentiary in the capital city of Jefferson to try being in prison once in a lifetime.

When coming here in the late afternoon, there are quite a few options with prices ranging from $15 to $100 for all horror movie buffs like me, including 2-hour to 3-hour tour to discover the history of the prison, 5-hour or 8-hour tour to investigate supernatural activities through the night, 3-hour photography tour or private tour that makes even people with nerves of steel feel cold, that is, staying overnight in the camp of death row inmates.

Or once I went on a cruise around San Fransisco Bay, peering from the boat with longing eyes to the fortified Alcatraz prison, isolated between the cold waters and strong currents of the bay. Alcatraz, nicknamed "The Rock", is located just 2km from San Francisco. The waters surrounding it are quite icy, with many great white sharks.

When listening to the story of Frank Morris's unprecedented prison escape from this most notorious "super-prison" in the United States of America with his accomplices with rudimentary items such as razors, rice spoons or raincoats, surely every visitor will be surprised and intrigued to explore the prison right away.

Recently, the relic of Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi has received the support and attention of many tourists, especially young people who come to the relic with the desire to learn about history and "revive" a glorious past of the nation. The number of tourists registered to visit is so large that the tours are always in a state of "sold out".

The creation of novel tourism products, taking advantage of the influence of social networking platforms to promote, has helped the relic of Hoa Lo Prison succeed in "pulling" history closer to the public.

Experiencing a basket full of wisdom

Five years ago, in an article for Youth Weekend, I shared about the idea of ​​​​building a program to visit historical evidences of prisons in Hue. It was a tour to Nine Tunnels - "hell on earth", where revolutionary soldiers, participants in the patriotic movement, and wronged or slandered innocent people were detained.

Visitors are likely to find it creepy just by looking at the wax figures reconstructing the prison scene and listening to stories of prisoners living with rats, maggots, and mosquitoes as if they were buried alive in the grave for hundreds of days and nights, or hundreds of people being crammed into one cellar, so many that they could only stand in layers with each other, which caused many people to die just from suffocation.

In the memory of the staunch revolutionary soldiers once being here, the words of their dying inmates still echo in their ears: "At least one of us should try to stay alive so that the crimes of the enemy in this hell can be told to our comrades and compatriots."

As for me, I have always been on the tenterhooks feeling of the need of creating a historical tourism product, yet reaching out to young people in the country and abroad with stronger and more impressive emotions to remember longer when visiting Nine Tunnels.

At the same time, connecting with other attractions such as Ngo Dinh Can relic house - outdoor display area of ​​Thua Thien Hue Museum of History (268 Dien Bien Phu Street) - Thua Phu prison and ending at Thua Thien Hue Museum of History (August 23rd Street) will be a complete program for visitors.

This summer, I boldly experimented with a few "Prison tour" programs for children to learn English in real life while visiting monuments, learning history and learning foreign languages ​​at the same time.

Nguyen Dong Anh – a student at Ly Thuong Kiet Primary School shared: "In addition to learning history in class, when I participate in these English experience activities, I know more about the historical sites of Vietnam, which makes me feel very happy and insightful after this trip." 

“Making hay while the sun shines”, I continue to carry out this program for teenagers returning from abroad and children from all over the country coming to Hue to learn the culture of this city in English. Lilly, a little girl from the United States, was amazed at the guide's stories and promised to read more about Vietnamese history as soon as she returned home.

After the trip, Ms. Cao Hoang Ngoc Anh – a guide of Thua Thien Hue Museum of History also shared : "This is the first time I have welcomed international students to Hue to visit at 3 places, including the historical vestiges of the Nine Tunnels, the historical relic of the Thua Phu prison, Thua Thien HueMuseum of History. My first impression is that the students are very active and able to speak and pronounce English very well. 

During the course of the tutorial, I am even more surprised at their interest and enthusiasm to learn about the history of the country, and the merits of the heroes and martyrs."

According to Ms. Ngoc Anh, the students had the opportunity to experience, participate in games and most importantly, they knew how to contact and ask questions to interact with the guide. It proves that the students are extremely interested in learning about history, and really interested in the relics and landscapes of their homeland.

She hopes that there will be more travel agencies interested in promoting and exploiting this kind of tour more, contributing to Hue tourism with more tourism products that allow experiencing history in the future.

Story & photos: Phan Quoc Vinh

Hue News - - August 31, 2022