Ho Tay is Hanoi's biggest lake. According to a legend, it was created when a Chinese buffalo mistook the sound of a bell of a pagoda for its mother's voice and ran away, creating the lake by stepping into a small hollow... I'd say, it must have been a giant little buffalo!!!
Ho Tay is a vast area of water, situated in the Northwest of Hanoi. Some of the city's most expensive hotels are located there, the place to get the best coconut icecream (eaten out of a coconut) - located at the top end of the dike road between Truc Bach Lake and Ho Tay, a 3-storey icecream place -, the Highlands Coffee with its chill-out ship and many things more (e.g. pagodas!)... An afternoon is easily spent at Ho Tay, especially if you include a cruise with a tourist boat.
Btw, combining Ho Tay with a visit to the nearby Ho Chi Minh Museum and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is useful.
This temple on West Lake is purportedly the first Buddhist temple in Vietnam. However it was closed when we visited.
Across the street from the temple is a good lakeside restaurant. Of note is the fact that the restaurant overlooks the lake from which former US presidential hopeful John McCain was rescued when he parachuted from his stricken aircraft during the Vietnam War.
On my last morning in Hanoi, I walked through the rain to visit Tran Quoc temple, whose pagoda I had seen every morning as I commuted from my hotel into downtown. I have no idea what the history of the temple is, but it seemed to be quite popular with westerners and locals alike. I only had a few minutes to spare, and I wish could have spent a little more time here when the rain was gone.
To the west of the city is the largest lake in Hanoi, West Lake. Situated on an islet on the lake is Tran Quoc Pagoda. The pagoda was built under the reign of King Ly Nam De (544-548) under its original name of Khai Quoc (National Founder). It was originally built on the bank of the Red River (then West Lake and the Red River met). In the time of King Le Kinh Tong (1600-1618), the pagoda was removed to the Kim Ngu (Golden Fish) islet due to the river bank crumbling and was renamed Tran Quoc (National Defence).
From the pagoda, there are splendid views of West Lake.
Massive West Lake is north of the Presidential Palace and west of Truc Bach Lake. Along the southern shore of West Lake there are several restaurant/bars from which you can enjoy a beautiful sunset over the water. The area around this lake is highly sought after and filled with modern hotels and expensive residences.
This beautiful pagoda is situated on an island in West Lake connected to the shore with a small bridge. It is a surprisingly big complex --and *almost* possible to get lost there! Don't be afraid to explore though as there is a second row of altars tucked way at the back
This huge water feature lies to the west of Hanoi. There are actually two lakes here - the larger one called West Lake and a smaller one called White Silk Lake. Across the road from the White Silk Lake is a restaurant that offers a delightful buffet lunch with more than 70 variety of Vietnamese cuisine for only VND115000. A good place for quick try of Vietnamese specialties from the north, south and central parts of the country.
Located on an island on the West Lake is Tran Quoc (National Defense) Pagoda. The island can be reached via a short walk on a bridge from Thanh Nien Road. It is also callled the Twelve-Roofed pagoda. After visiting you can cross Thanh Nien Road and have a snack in any restaurant facing Tran Bach Lake.
To the north of the old quarter is the enormous Ho Tay. Pretty it ain't, surrounded as it is by residential quarters of various ages and exclusiveness (it has a shoreline of 13kms). The lake was the setting for various palaces and pavillions, all of which have been destroyed by various feudal wars.
But is has become something of a recreational spot, there are the two pagodas (see previous tips), there are a couple of new (western style) cafes open on the main road and you can take these rather ugly swans out on a pedalo trip if so inspired....
This lake is the largest in Hanoi with a shore length of around 17km (10.6 miles) and is a popular place for recreation with many surrounding gardens, hotels and villas. One legend suggests that the lake was shaped after a battle between Lac Long Quan and a night-tail fox spirit, which is why the lake was once called "Fox Corpse Swamp". The lake is bordered with many significant places in history of Hanoi such as Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Vietnam, built in 6th century and located on a small island in the middle of the lake, plus Quan Thanh Temple, one of the Four Sacred Temples of ancient Hanoi.
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