When I first saw this abandoned building in Co Loa, 15km from central Hanoi, I thought it was the film studios that were once at the heart of the Vietnamese film industry. The way it was built made this structure look like a school, but the 1960s-era architectural embellishments suggested something else. It was too good for a school.
With no help from Google Maps and even less help from other content online, I wrote about the place and described it as potentially being the once famous film studios in Co Loa. Although I was clear on one thing — I wasn’t sure.
A recent visit made me realise my error. It was just after Tet and with the temples of Co Loa a favourite pilgrimage spot, the front yard was being used as a car and motorbike park.
“What is this place?” I asked the older of the two parking attendants.
“It used to be a middle school,” he replied.
“So not the film studios.”
“No, not the film studios. They are way over in that direction.”
“How do you get there?”
At that the conversation tapered off. He was obviously not one for providing directions.
Co Loa is in the countryside, and here there is space — a lot of space. Land is not at a centre-of-the-city premium. So for people like me who pleasure in wandering the empty rooms, the falling-down staircases and the overgrown gardens out back, this building is a dream. But more importantly, unless there is an urgent need of this land — which is unlikely — for the foreseeable future this building will stay.
Go take a look. It could even be haunted. — Nick Ross