A couple of blocks west of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake—meaning Lake of the Restored Sword—is one of Hanoi’s anchors. It contains a number of sites worth visiting, like Ngoc Soc Temple and the picturesque, red-lacquered Huc Bridge. The greatest fun here is people watching, from men and women jogging round the perimeter to retired folks doing tai chi or dancing. Many locals come to socialize or just take a few moments to escape the city’s chaotic roads and traffic. Visit in the morning as the city is waking up and the air remains blissfully cool. Photo by Binder.donedat/Flickr.
"Come with me!"
A few minutes into my Hanoi experience, I was overtaken by the most intense mix of smells, sounds, and sightings in the downtown that never winds down. From vendors hawking their trades, food stall operators preparing some of the most exotic, and yes delicious bites, to hell-bent cyclo drivers. I emerged from a main street to spot the serene Hoan Kiem lake with its pagoda red Chinese bridge, and there was this local couple staring at the bridge as much as the innocent-eyed tourists who just came off their planes. For a fleeting moment, the man turned to his equally mesmerized partner and whispered something. “Come with me!” he must have said.
A Wish for Peace on Top of the World
In a city where it’s nearly impossible to cross the street because the traffic never stops, it’s hard to imagine that at the center of it all, you’d find peace. But that is the dichotomy of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake. This haven in the center of town draws locals and tourists alike for its beauty and tranquility. If you’re staying in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, it’s an easy walk to P Dinh Tien Hoang street. Around the lake you’ll find a lovely café, park benches perfect for chatting, locals involved in group exercise, and on the east side, a few beautiful sculptures. It’s hard to miss this gigantic sculpture of the globe being held by two protective hands; and on the top of the world, a small dove – the symbol of peace shared throughout the world. It’s a good place to stop and reflect on your journey, the things you’ve seen, and the people you’ve met; and to whisper up a prayer that peace would settle on top of the world.
Walking through the streets of Hanoi, my attention was focused on two things - an intense fear of crossing intersections teeming with all manner of motor vehicle but nothing resembling a traffic light, and an equally intense appreciation of the beautiful juxtaposition of east and west, old and new that permeates Vietnam’s northern hub. In front of the majestic St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the seat of Hanoi’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese, I captured an image which for me sums up this vibrantly diverse city. Traditional Vietnamese dress against a backdrop of old European architecture with a sprinkling of youth to complete the tableau. And thankfully, for one peaceful moment, not a motor vehicle in sight!
With the help of a Turtle
They say that Vietnam help gain its independence from china in 15th century with the help of a mythical turtle. Legend has it that soon after claiming victory the new emperor went boating in the central lake, in what is now Hanoi, when a turtle came up out of the water and reclaimed the sword that helped defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Today the turtle tower seems to float in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. When the city is draped mist the temple is only an outline – much like an ink painting. In the evening when young Vietnamese walk along the edges of the lake – the temple glows.
Me, myself and my cellphone
This girl is having a quiet moment with her cellphone by Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is a scenic spot in Hanoi and it is a full of activities and attractions.
Cyclo Ride on Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake
One of our top experiences for families in Hanoi, one of Asia’s most thrilling cities for families.
Observe the Early Morning Action at Hoan Kiem Lake
Do as the Vietnamese do and make an early start to the day. And by early, we mean the crack of dawn. Make your way down to the northern shore of Hoan Kiem Lake and look on (or join in) as the Vietnamese limber up with T’ai chi routines and other exercises.
Go Hunting for Snails
While drinking bia hoi is an unashamedly masculine pastime, the young ladies of Hanoi prefer to spend their nights with friends in one of the city’s many snail restaurants. Low in calories and relatively tricky to eat in big quantities due to their fiddly nature, snails are the gastronomic treat of choice for the city’s weight-conscious females.