Located in the island of Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Coconut Prison is also known as the “Phu Quoc Prison”. The prison serves as a war museum, which is a sad reminder of the country’s tumultuous past. It is where thousands of people were imprisoned and tortured during the Vietnam War. Here, you’ll find torture instruments, exhibits of brutal punishments, and pictures of former detainees.
If you are visiting Phu Quoc for a beach holiday, you may want to check out the Coconut Prison as well. The prison plays an important role in the history of Vietnam and visiting it will make you understand the country even more.
All about the Coconut Prison
Built during 1949 by the French colonists, the Coconut Prison use to hold more than 40,000 Vietnamese soldiers including prominent political figures who are against the French forces. The name “Coconut” was derived from the Indochina War when the French dominated the entire country. At the end of the Indochina War, most of the prisoners were let out. However, a lot of them have suffered from mental and physical disabilities as a result of the barbaric treatment they got while inside the jail.
When the Vietnam War started, the US troops rebuilt the prison but kept the same name. The new prison separated men, women, and elders. As time passed by, the prison is being expanded in order to accommodate more prisoners, including Vietnamese troops. The prison is divided into 12 main areas and each area is divided into four sub areas. Security is very tight and tight supervision is ensured at all times.
It was in the year 1995 when the Coconut Prison was declared a historical site by the Vietnamese government and was opened to the public. Nowadays, you’ll find numerous life-sized mannequins made of wax that exhibit the graphic scenes of barbaric tortures the prisoners have suffered from. These include electrocution, food deprivation, crucifixion, and other types of torture.
One of the most prominent exhibits inside the prison is the row of tiger cages. This is where the prisoners are kept in total darkness and exposed to extreme cold and heat for a prolonged time period. As a result, some prisoners have suffered from blindness and pneumonia.
Visiting the Coconut Prison
The Coconut Prison is one of the most iconic landmarks not only in Phu Quoc but all over Vietnam as well. Each year it attracts more than 10,000 visitors who want to learn more about the country’s history, especially during the Vietnam War. Tourists who have come to Phu Quoc for the beach will also drop by at the Coconut Prison during their holiday.
The Coconut Prison is about 45 minutes drive away from the town of Dương Đông. Most tourists would rent a motorbike and drive from the beaches going to the Coconut Prison. There are also local tour agencies that offer tour packages that include a visit to the Coconut Prison and other attractions in Phu Quoc, such as the Sung Hung Pagoda, Ham Ninh Fishing Village, and more. For those who are staying at a resort in the beaches of Phu Quoc, check if they can arrange a tour for you.
The entrance fee is at VND 3,000 per person and there are also guided tours available in different languages, such as French, English, and Vietnamese. The museum is open daily from 7:30 AM until 11 AM and from 1:30 PM until 5:00 PM.
How to Get to Phu Quoc
Whether you are going to the beach or visiting the Coconut Prison, you’re probably interested to know how to get to Phu Quoc. The island of Phu Quoc is accessible from the city of Ho Chi Minh. You can travel by plane, which is the fastest route, taking only an hour. If you are planning to travel by plane going to Phu Quoc, it is best to purchase your tickets in advance. Aside from getting a much cheaper fare, the seats are often limited and there are no overnight flights. But if you’re not in a hurry, the cheaper way is to take the bus with a change to a ferry.
Traveling by bus and ferry will take more than 10 hours and the entire trip costs around $20. The bus is $8 while the ferry is $12. For this route, you’ll be taking the bus from Ho Chi Minh and transfer to a ferry at the Ha Tien Pier. You can purchase your bus ticket ahead of time online or from the bus station in Ho Chi Minh.
Remember that Vietnamese drivers have to follow a strict timetable and they will not wait for those who are late. So you better make sure to arrive at the station before your bus departs. Most buses leave in the evening and will arrive at Rach Gia at midnight. You can wait at a waiting hall until morning in order to take the ferry going to Phu Quoc.