Ho Hoan Kiem (or Lake of the Restored Sword) was once part of the Red river (song Hong). Throughout thousands of years of geographical changes, the lake moved eastward to its present position kilometers from the river. Before the famous historical legend of King Le Loi here, Hoan Kiem Lake used to be called Luc Thuy Lake (or Green Water Lake) since the water was green all the year round. In 15th century, it was named Hoan Kiem Lake after the legend of Emperor Le Thai To, which is somehow similar to the story of King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake's. . During the wedding season, I'd seen professional photographers snap shots of brides and grooms on the green lawns beside the water. Traditionally, at midnight on the first night of the Tet New Year celebration, the most significant moment in Vietnam's year, the smoke cloud of a millioin exploding firecrackers covered the lake like a blanket on a newborn. Hanoians didn't even call Hoan Kiem Lake by its popular name, but used a shorthand term of endearment, bo ho, "the shore of the lake." No one had to ask, which shore? which lake? Bo ho wasn't merely the heart of the city, but its lungs, and mind, and soul as well. The ‘tortoises’ of Hoan Kiem Lake are actually rare Asian soft-shelled freshwater giant turtles (the word ‘rua’ in Vietnamese covers both species). An unknown number still inhabit the murky water –occasionally a head pops up, a powerful omen of good luck for anyone fortunate to witness the event.
Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the centre of Hanoi. The lake's name means Lake of the Returned Sword. Warrior Le Loi was presented with a sword by a magic turtle on the lake's edge. Le Loi used this sword to fight the Chinese and drive them out of Vietnam. After his great victory, he was made emperor of Vietnam. One day when he was sailing on the lake, his sword fell into the waters. No matter how hard he looked he could not find it. It had been returned to the magic turtles of the lake.
There are two temples on the lake: Tortoise Pagoda (Thap Rua) at the south end of the lake and Ngoc Son Temple at the north end.
Ngoc Son Temple, which dates from the 14th century, can be reached by crossing the Huc (Morning Sunlight) Bridge - a pretty red wooden bridge.
Ngoc Son Temple (meaning “Jade Mountain”) is located on an island of Hoan Kiem Lake in central Hanoi. It honours some national heroes, and was founded in the 14th century, but the current temple buildings are from the around 1850.
You have to walk through the Three-Passage Gate (Tam Quan) and across the Flood of Morning Sunlight Bridge (The Huc) to enter the temple. At the Huc Bridge stands a 9 meter high obelisk called the Pen Tower (Thap But) because its tip resembles a brush. It is written in Chinese characters: A pen to write on the blue sky.
The temple didn't look very interesting from outside, but inside it was fascinating with many small rooms filled with incense, candles, and colourful statues. The island was a peaceful place for many older Vietnamese, who sat beneath the shady trees and played Chinese chess or checkers. A nice place.
Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the centre of Hanoi - within walking distance from the Old Quarter – and is one of the major scenic spots in the city. Hoan Kiem means "returned sword", and the name comes from a legend in which King Le Loi in the 15th century was given a magical sword by the gods. He used the sword to drive out the invading Chinese Ming Dynasty, and after he used the sword, a giant turtle returned it to the gods. Rumours say that the giant turtle still inhabit the lake, and the Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) - standing on a small island near the center of lake - is linked to the legend.
Another island is located near the northern shore, it is the Jade Island on which the Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) stands (read my other tips).
Hoan Kiem Lake is a nice place for a walk and you can walk around it in 30-45 minutes. There are a few restaurants with a great view of the lake. If you visit the lake in the morning or late afternoon you can watch many people exercising tai chi.
Tuong singing was imported from China around the 13th century. Stories in the opera tend to be ostensibly historical and frequently focus on the rules of social decorum. Like chèo and other forms of opera from around the world, tuồng employs the use of stock characters who are recognizable from their make-up and costumes, which are typically very elaborate and extravagant.
For hundreds years, Tuong increasingly has become an soulful enjoyment in Viet nam people's spiritual life.
In an attempt to express their aspiration,ordinary people organise shows,where performers tell the audiences folk stories. The actor- audience relationship is positioned as close as spectators have an opportunity for interacting with performers, developing their own imagination and stimulating actor's creation.
An unique aspects of Tuong is the concept of space and time which is depicted by acting,dancing and music, an ephemeral art.
Recently, Viet Nam Tuong Theatre often organises Tuong plays for tourists who visit Ha Noi, Viet Nam from 6pm to 7pm on thursday and friday weekly. It has become an unique and powerful traditional theatrical form of Viet Nam.
The Hoam kiem lake is one of the nicest parts of Hanoi in my opinion.
it´s one of the many lakes in Hanoi and it´s located right next to the old part of town.
You have the charming little "turtle tower" out in the middle of the lake and if you go to the lake in the morning then you will see hundreds of people doing Thai Chi, playing badminton, jogging and doing other excercise there.
The Hoam Kiem lake is one of the breathing holes of Hanoi and i really like it.
A pleasant way to spend an afternoon is to take a walk by the Hoan Kiem Lake..Located in the heart of Hanoi is easy to find and a leisurely stroll around its perimeter is relaxing..The standout is the little pagoda type structure that stands in the centre of the Lake but wasn't sure what its significance was...closeby is the Main Post office if you have anything to mail...this is the place to do it and it is so easy to notice the french influence in the Architecture here. this is a great Landmark to find your bearings around this Old Quarter
My wife and I first visited Hanoi in 2008 and we were intrigued by the story of the giant mythical, turtle but believed that in a small polluted lake any such animals if they ever existed there would be long gone. In a subsequent visit in 2010 we heard shrieks of excitement from a group of locals at the temple end of the lake and went to check. We couldn't believe our eyes - there was this massive turtle swimming right near the edge. Our hotel manager assurred us that after that sighting we were to be blessed with a good life. Most long time Hanoi residents were normally not so lucky in a lifetime. We later learned that in March 2011 after many attempts it was captured to treat it for injuries. It seems that around the time of our sighting the creature was surfacing a lot, probably because it was unwell. I haven't heard anything since and when we return in October 2011 we hope the story has a happy ending. and that the world population of these beautiful creatures hasn't been cut to three.
You might not be lucky enough to see the turtle but the lake environs and the nearby Old Quarter are well worth a few days of your time.
Many people visit The Huc Bridge in day time.This Lake number one in Hanoi
The temple may be one of Hanoi's most important and most popular, but it is the iconic red bridge that connects the temple to the main land - The Huc (The Rising Sun) - that gets the top spot in terms of the most photographed.
Water Puppet Show theater are nearby.
When you arrive in the center Hanoi, you will not miss Hoan Kiem Lake. It is located at the main tourist district in Hanoi where the Tourist Information Centre, hotels, the Water Puppet Show theater are nearby.
There are several attractions around the lake including Ngoc Sun Temple, the Red bridge, and the Tortoise Tower in the middle of the lake.
It is a great place to walk around in the early morning. The temperature is fresher as the traffic are not so busy in the early morning. You can see many locals doing exercises near the lake including running, dancing, Tia Chi, weight training, and etc. It is a peaceful way of living in Hanoi.
There is a public toilet, and some cafes and restaurants nearby the lake.
The Ngoc Son Temple is dedicated to national hero Tran Hung Dao who defeated an alleged force of 30,000 Mongol warriors dispatched by Kublai Khan to extend his empire. In a separate room to the side of the main altar is a preserved giant turtle, which sadly died from injuries suffered after the Ha Noi Food Company caught it in 1967. Weighing about 200kgs, the company intended selling the meat when the Ha Noi People’s Committee intervened and prevented the sale.
However, don’t rush inside – first view the architectural adornments on the outside of the temple…
The legend of the Hoan Kiem turtle has great significance for Vietnamese people, dating back to the 15th century. It is believed that while cruising the lake, a turtle surfaced and demanded from king Le Loi that he return to the lake a sacred sword used in defeating the Ming.
The turtle either grabbed the sword or Le Loi unsheathed and gave it to the turtle, renaming it Hoan Kiem “Lake of Returned Sword”. It is still hotly debated whether the lake contains a single turtle, which reputedly lives up to 700 years, or whether there are five turtles that surface to mark important national events. Apparently, three Hoan Kiem turtles are held in captivity, two in Chinese zoos.
Turtle Tower is built on a small island on the southern side of Hoan Kiem Lake.
The Huc Bridge, a very scenic red lacquered timber bridge, is situated at the north-eastern corner of Hoan Kiem Lake – a tranquil setting in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The “Flood of Morning Sunlight” provides views towards Turtle Island and access to the Ngoc Son Temple.
Should be high up on any Hanoi itinerary, particularly for romantic types or photographic buffs.
This is another “attraction”, something interesting to see when you’re exploring the Hoan Kiem Lake area. The temple is located basically on the north east side of the lake and is easily recognized by the colorful two towered gateway that serves as it entranceway. The gate itself is known as Tam Quan or “Three Passage Gate” and it leads to Huc Bridge, the infamous red lacquered bridge that is so often associated with modern day Ha Noi.
The Ngoc Son is also known as the Jade Mountain Temple and was last modified in the 1800’s and was initially built to honor a 13th century military figure Tran Hung Dao, and scholar Van Xuong, Tran Hung Dao was responsible for protecting the northern borders of what is now Vietnam during the Mongol Resistance Wars of the 1250’s
Nguyen Van Sieu was the man that was instrumental in its restoration in 1864. Van Sieu was responsible for the additions of the Tower that sits on a rock mound just inside the Tam Quan. The tower, named Thap But is a 30 foot high symbolic representation of a “paint brush”, sometimes referred to as the “Pen Tower”
In addition to this a part of his design is a shaped rock found close by that is meant to be symbolic of a “writing pad” so illustrating the constant connection seen in Vietnam between the artist and religion in this culture.
You can see here two completely different altars both ornately decorated and designed as well as a statue of Quan Vu and many religious symbols . There is also a stuffed turtle that can be seen here, supposedly found dead in the lake in 1968 . If you’ve been reading her at VT you know of the myth connecting the Lake with a turtle and this is a specimen that once inhabited the lake.
The smallish yet colorful temple, so close the lake, provides a little interlude from the hectic pace of the traffic filled streets so close by. There are benches set along the perimeter of the site next to the water so you can sit and relax after you’ve had a look inside.
I visited here twice during my time here in Ha Noi and its well worth the time to investigate.
Access to the temple is a mere 10 000 Dong…about a half dollar USA equivalent. And you can visit every day from 0800 – 1700.
Hoan Kiem Lake, smack in the downtown core, is a large lake surrounded by urban landscape, roads, businesses, walkways; it’s a central gathering place in the center of the city. People come here to socialize, to talk, to do business, and
relax a little.. As early as pre dawn on any given day hundreds of people are exercising and have already started they’re days here, walking, jogging, and stretching. Along the banks of the lake there are more than a few historical sites that are connected to the long history of the city and its all FREE to enjoy!
“The Lake of the Restored Sword” is connected to the legend connecting Le Thai To a name assumed by the infamous Le Loi who fought the occupying Chinese armies. Le Thai To was essentially a “resistance” fighter that fought to rid the country of Chinese occupiers…
Le Thai To or Le Loi , according to the legend was in a boat out on the lake with an entourage. A golden tortoise appeared and requested that Le Thai To return the sacred sword that he had fought the Chinese invaders with to the King of the Sea. The sword had been lent to him. As the tortoise spoke the sword “left” its sheath and flew towards the tortoise. The tortoise took the sword in its mouth and dove under the water as a bright flash of lightning lit up the sky. Since then the lake has been called Lake of the Returned Sword or Ho Guom for short. It’s certainly a good plot for a movie I think.
Some other places of interest here or CLOSE to the lake that you can explore include the “Turtle Tower” or Thap Rua and the Ngoc Son Pagoda. In addition to these attractions get yourself across Le Thai To street on the west side of the lake and you can find and spend some time at a Memorial and Temple dedicated to Le Thai To himself.
You can sit and relax all along the lake, enjoying the views, watching people going about they’re lives, buy an ice cream cone or enjoy a coffee. There are many areas where benches exist and some café’s or you can walk around the lake, taking it all in..its not a strenuous walk and takes about forty minutes, depending how slow or fast you walk.
Come see for yourself what Hoan Kiem Lake offers, visit it at different times of the day and Im sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty unique attraction that oozes culture of the people of Ha Noi.