Huc Bridge, Hoan Kiem Lake – Image courtesy of Josh Jackson/Wikimedia Commons
Introducing Hoan Kiem Lake
Known locally as the ‘Lake of the Restored Sword’, this pretty and mystical lake is located in the historical heart of old Hanoi.
It is steeped in Arthurian-style legend: in the 15th century, a giant turtle rose from the lake to reclaim a magical sword that was given to Emperor Le Loi to expel the Chinese army from Vietnam.
Stroll beneath a mix of huge, lush green trees, especially beautiful in June and July when the flame trees flower. Watch the locals exercise and practice martial arts while lovers cuddle on park benches.
Ngoc Son Temple
– Discover one of Hanoi’s most picturesque temples. Surrounded by water and shaded by trees, Ngoc Son (Jade Mountain) Temple sits on a pretty little island in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Said to exemplify the harmony of Taoist feng shui, Ngoc Son Temple is probably the most visited temple in Hanoi.
The temple is easily reached by an elegant red-painted wooden bridge, known as Huc (Flood of Morning Sunlight) Bridge, constructed in classical Vietnamese style and lined with flags.
Built on the 18th century, the temple honours the 13th century military leader, General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century; the scholar, Van Xuong; La To, the patron saint of physicians; and Nguyen Van Sieu, a Confucian master who made extensive repairs to the temple and built the Huc bridge in 1864.
Stroll around the main temple, ponder the three altars and other deities, admire the fine ceramics, some ancient bells and check out the glass case containing a stuffed lake turtle, said to weigh-in at a hefty 250kg.
– The tiny Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) stupa was built in 1886 on a tiny island at the centre of Hoan Kiem Lake. If you’re really lucky you may spot a large soft-shelled turtle basking in the sun beneath the tower.
Location: Historic centre of Hanoi, bordered by Tran Nhat Duat and Phung Hung Sts., Hoan Kiem District
Cost: Entrance fee to temple 12,000VND