Hoan Kiem Lake is to Hanoi what Central Park is to New York City. It is a focal point for people to meet and what makes the city such a joy to live in. Early morning is best for a visit as Hanoians come out early to jog, do traditional stretching excercises and play badminton of all things. The name of the lake means Lake of the Restored Sword and comes from the legend about such a magical instrument given the local Emperor to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam. After the war, a giant golden tortoise snatched the sword from him while he was out fishing and took it to the depths of the beautiful lake. Thap Rua or the Tortoise Tower lays scenically on a center island of the lake, making for more reflection photos.
Ho Hoan Kiem means "lake of the returned sword". The story behind the name is a legend. In 1418, the Vietnamese emperor Le Loi fought a war against the Chinese. It wasn't going too well for him so when he walked by the lake one day, he saw a giant tortoise coming out of the water with a magic sword in its mouth. He took the sword and eventually defeated the Chinese army with it. When he was having his victory parade at the shores of Ho Hoan Kiem, the tortoise appeared again and demanded the sword back. Before he could do anything, the sword flew away from his hands to the tortoise's mouth. It disappeared in the water. The emperor had a temple built which can still be seen today.
Now, here's the curious thing: In 1968, a giant tortoise was discovered dead in the lake. Scientists estimate that it's at least 200 years old. It is exhibited in the temple (Jade Hill Temple, located on a small island in Hoan Kiem Lake) and it is really huge: I would guess that it is about 1.5 metres long and weighs probably some 200 kilos or so.
Apart from all that historic stuff (that, btw, can be seen in the water puppet shows in the Water Puppet Theater next to the lake), Ho Hoan Kiem is a wonderful place to relax and watch the wind rippling the water. In the early morning and the evening, hundreds of Hanoians gather at the lakeshore to play badminton or do tai chi. Moreover, when you visit the lake at darkness, the lights of thousands motobikes passing by are beautifully reflected in the water.
You'll probably recognised the red bridge from countless of photographs so it'll compel you to go there and take your own 'expert' shot of it. Keen?
Head for Ho An Kiem Lake, right in the heart of the Old Quarters. Look out for the red laquered bridge attached to a temple.Here's my own crummy shot taken from the side of the temple.
When you go to Hanoi, the favourite destination for tourist and also the local is Hoan Kiem Lake. It is located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. You can have a pleasant walk around the lake. The area is surrounded by parks and gardens with many large trees. You can stop and have a refreshment in several café located near by. There are many activities surrounding the Lake. In the morning you will see the energetic Hanoians and foreign expatriate jog around the lake, some do tai chi and others played badminton. You will see the local trying to catch fish, while the hawkers selling food and other interesting items.
Walking around the lake you will see the Huc Bridge which leads to the Ngoc Son Temple. In the middle of the lake you will see Thap Rua Tortoise tower. Monument of national hero Le Loi is located on the other side of the road, very close.
Hoan Kiem Lake is in habitat by rare giant fresh water Tortoises, presumably the largest fresh water tortoise in the world. Every now and then the giant turtle do come up out of the murky water. It was sighted this year in November 2007, a month after we left Hanoi. I would love to see it but it wasn’t meant to be.
Many Hanoians believed the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake. In the 15th century there was a nobleman named Le Loi who later became King Le Thaito. Le Loi repelled the invading Chinese from the Ming dynasty and finally won the battle with the help of the sword he found in the lake whilst fishing. After many years of peace, King Le Thaito want to return the sword, he went back to the lake and without any warning a giant golden turtle appeared. The king returned the sword to the giant golden turtle and submerged to the depths. King Le Thaito renames Luc Thuy to Hoan Kiem .The meaning of Hoan Kiem is the lake of the Return Sword. The tortoise has important part in Vietnamese culture, the tortoise promote wisdom.
The legend has similararity to King Arthur legend which also happen to be in the same century.
This is the little 18th century temple located in the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake, the one of the red bridge.
Even if you don't wanna enter (2000d) it's a nice walk through the bridge to the center of the lake, under shady trees. It is a very popular place for locals, you will find there many street photographers and groups visiting the place.
One lake you cannot miss in Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake, the lake of the returned sword. The Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) standing in the center of lake is linked to the legend which gave its name to the lake: this legend says that after a victory against the armies of the Chinese Ming emperors, emperor Le Loi handed back a magic sword to the Golden Turtle God in the lake and hence gave it its present name.
The Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) sits on another island to the north of the lake and can be reached over a famous red bridge.
It takes less than one hour to walk (slowly) around this picturesque lake, under the trees, among joggers, families, young people on tour, etc. . . This lake is located to the south and East of the old city, easily reachable from most hotels in the old city or the former French district (to the South). On the western shore there are a few open air cafes and terraces from where you can enjoy fresh air and the view over the lake.
A morning walk around the lake is very pleasant, before the noise of the city grows.
Walking around the Returned Sword Lake at night is very rewarding too, in the cool air, a bit far from noise, looking at people, joggers again, people walking slowly together, and lots of young couples sitting on the benches; a very quiet relaxing atmosphere.
At night the Ngoc son, lit with green light is a sort of a mystic appearance, specially with the red flag in the background! The lights of the city make some beautiful reflections which can be enjoyed all around. On the main picture is the famous The Huc Bridge, which is also wonderful at day.
In the evenings we would go for a walk near Hoan Kiem Lake located in the middle of Hanoi. Its name means "The Lake of the Restored Sword", referring to a 15th-century legend in which the nobleman Le Loi, who fought for the Vietnamese against Ming China, received his sword from a magic turtle living in the lake. The nobleman defeated the Ming and returned home in victory. One day, the emperor was boating in the lake when the turtle surfaced demanding the sword's return. In memory of this event, the emperor built the Tortoise Tower on an island at the south end of the lake.
Enormous turtles still live in the lake today. When they are spotted, it is supposed to herald the death of one of the country's leaders. Some say the turtles are brought to the lake. What do you think?
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.
Also known as Ho Guom, or "Lake of the Restored Sword", This pretty little lake sits on the southern edge of the Old Quarter. A lot of everyday life scenes happen around the lake. If you take an early morning stroll, you will see locals of all ages jogging and practising tai chi. Later in the day, you will find grandparents wheeling kiddies in strollers, and young couples strolling around holding hands.
Legend has it that in the 15th century, following a momentous victory against invading Ming Chinese, Emperor Le Loi was sailing on the lake when a golden turtle appeared from the depths to take back the charmed sword which had secured the victory, to restore it to the Lake from where it came. The Tortoise Tower, on an islet at the southern end of the lake, commemorates the event. The Lake still contains some large turtles. This story is portrayed in water puppet theatres across the country.
On an island at the northern end of the Lake, is the Ngoc Son Temple, dedicated to Van Xuong, the God of Literature. It is reached by crossing a red arched wooden bridge, the Huc (Sunbeam) Bridge. You can cross the bridge & see the temple for 3,000 dong.
The Rising Sun Bridge (The Huc) is a beautifully arched, red coloured wooden bridge leading to the Ngoc Son Temple on an island at Hoan Kiem Lake. This bridge is perhaps one of the most famous and photographed bridge in Vietnam and not to be missed when you are at Hanoi. Part 4 will touch on the Ngoc Son Temple.
We started our stay in Hanoi with a walk to the lake. It is a great point of reference...nothing is very far from it. Whenever we got lost we would just head back there and start fresh. Ho Hoan Kiem (lake of the returned sword) has its name from a legend about a 15th century general (Le Loi) who was given a magic sword by a golden turtle to help him chase off the Chinese. It worked and general Le Loi became Emperor Le Thai To. Sadly...we will never see this magical sword as Mr Turtle came and took it back into the lake. Bugger!
Anyway...Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) was built in the 19th century as a reminder of the mystical happenings.
It is a pretty place to escape (some) of the noise that is Hanoi. People come there early in the morning to excersise...I prefer to sit, drink coffee, and watch. Too much excercise can't be good for you...at least not in all that smog!
Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of Restored Sword) is a famous landmark in Hanoi and a centre of the city. There is an interesting legend behind this lake. Apparently in the 15th century, Emperor Le Thai To of Vietnam was supposedly handed a magic sword by a divine tortoise living in the lake, thus helping him to repel invaders from China. After the country has been liberated, the tortoise snatched back the sword from the emperor and thus the lake is named "Lake of Restored Sword". This lake was once part of the nearby Red Riber (Song Hung) and a swamp, until the French drained the land in the 19th century thus forming this lake. There are several species of tortoise living in this lake, and you will sometimes see them on the water surface. The area surrounding the lake is very beautiful with flowers, trees, benches, paths etc where both locals and tourist relax. Please see part 2 of this tip.
The Tortoise Tower (Thap Rua) is a three-tiered tower located at the southern part of Hanoi's famous Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of Restored Sword) on a small island, and it is dedicated to the mythical tortoise of the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake as mentioned in part 1 of this tip. Part 3 and 4 of this tip will touch on the famoys Rising Sun Bridge (The Huc) and Ngoc Son Temple (Den Nogc Son) located at this lake.
Hoan Kiem lake is one of the nicest places to go to in Hanoi. Not far from the old quarter, this where the locals come for their early morning Tai chi.In the north east corner there is the "Rising sun" bridge leading over to the Ngoc Son pagoda. A short walk from here takes you to the water puppet theatre. Also on the eastern side of the lake is the main post office.