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.
Set on an islet at the southern end of Hoan Kiem Lake is the Tortoise Tower, inspired by the myth behind Hoan Kiem Lake (see tip above on Hoan Kiem Lake).
But are there real tortoises in the lake? The surprising answer is yes - and some are HUGE ones, like the one which was retrieved in 1968 that weighed 250 kilos and was 2.1 meters long. I would have loved to see one, even a teeny weeny bit one, but luck was not on my side.
How they got there. or whether they are indeed descendants of Le Thai To's golden tortoise remains a mystery.
Near the main gate of Ngoc Son Temple is a nondescript monument that looks like a miniature pagoda. This piece of concrete is the Martyr's Temple, which was built to honor the men and women who died for Vietnam's independence. Foreign tourists may overlook it, but its historical significance is apparent from the number of local tourists stopping by for some picture taking opportunities.
Set on an island at the northern corner of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple is perhaps Hanoi's most visited temple by tourists - partly because it's right smack in the center of the old city, and partly because of its importance. The temple was built in the 1800s in honor of not just one but three great Vietnamese: the scholar Van Xuong; a 13th century local hero General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols; and the patron saint of physicians, La To.
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. There is something striking with the image of a red bridge across a man-made lake in the middle city that makes it a favorite subject of shutter-happy tourists.
If there is one thing you can't escape when visiting Hanoi, that would probably be Ho Kiem Lake. It is a man-made lake - one of many built around the city. Clearly, it is the focal point of social and civic life in Hanoi.
According to legend, a 15th century emperor received a magical sword from heaven to drive away the Chinese. After emerging victorious from the war (why do you think Vietnam is not a province of China?), the emperor saw a giant golden tortoise which snatched the magical sword from the emperor, and then disappeared into the lake. Hence, the name, Ho Hoan Kiem - in English, Lake of the Restored Sword.
This delightful tower stands on its own little island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. It was erected in 1886 on Turtle islet, the former fishing site under King Le Thanh Tong. Before it was built, the Restored Le Dynasty (17th and 18th centuries), known as the Trinh Lords, had Ta Vong Temple built on the islet, but this left no trace into the Nguyen Dynasty.
At the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, just down the street from the Water Puppet Theatre, sits Ngoc Son Pagoda, or Pagoda of the Jade Mountain. It's on an islet accessed via an old red wooden bridge, the Bridge of the Rising Sun.
The site has been used as a temple since ancient times, but most of the current structures were built during the 19th century. It offers an eclectic variety of forefathers for Vietnamese to pay homage to: the pagoda honours Confucian and Taoist notables, as well as Van Xuong, the spirit of the intellectuals, and national hero Tran Hung Dao, among others. At the entrance to the bridge are two monuments constructed in 1864, one representing an ink brush (a tall tower) and the other an inkwell (a hollow rock held by three frogs). It’s a big tourist attraction due to its location but is also well used by locals who come here to light incense and offer prayers.
Admission: 3,000 VND.
Hoan Kiem Lake, (meaning “Lake of the Restored Sword”), is located just to the south of the Old Quarter and forms the centrepiece of Hanoi. The name of the lake comes from a legend in which Emperor Le Loi, worried about advancing Chinese, was boating on the lake when a giant tortoise rose from the murky waters. The tortoise presented him with a magical sword with which he could strike down all foes. The tortoise made Le Loi promise to bring back the sword upon the defeat of the Chinese. True to his word, the tortoise rose again to take back the sword following the success of Le Loi's campaign, and since then the lake has been known as the Lake of the Restored Sword. A solitary pagoda, known as the Tortoise Tower, on an islet to the west side of the lake, has been built in the tortoise's honour. At the northern end of the lake sits Ngoc Son Pagoda, which sits on another island known as Jade Island and is connected to the bank of the lake by a red bridge known as Huc Bridge (meaning “Bridge of the Rising Sun”).
In the morning the lake area is crowded with folks out for their morning exercise - running or walking in a circle around the lake or joining in with the many tai chi, martial arts, calisthenics, aerobics, and even ballroom dancing groups that meet in the open areas at water's edge. It also hosts the Tet (Vietnamese lunar New Year) celebrations where fireworks are set off and people let off paper lanterns into the nights sky.
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