Head out to west Lake,easily walkable from Hoan Kiem Lake. (About 45 minutes)
The whole circumference of the lake is 10.6 miles.There are nice small cafes around the edge of the lake,but then you don't see any cafes for a long time in a few spots,so be sure to stock up on your water and suntan lotion and take a hat as there is no shade around the lake and can get very hot!
The walk is very flat and easy although after walking 10.6 miles,plus the walk from Hoan Kiem Lake and back again can be tireing on your feet,i left Hoan Kiem Lake at 10 am,didn't return till 4.30pm.
You can always catch a taxi there and just walk around west lake.
Along the way,you will se plenty of fisherman in the water.
The only bad thing i can say about west lake,is there are parts where the lake stinks and there are a few dead fish along the way as well!
There are also sellers where you can release turtles in to the lake.
On a few day trip in Hanoi, we were so lucky to visit there in May when the lotus flowers in West Lake were in blossom. The newly open flowers among wide greenish leaves cover lake surface. Late afternoon is the best moment to enjoy the fresh air and have a short cycling around the lake. It seems to be the favorite place for many couples for dating. The same number of people find here for short run to do some exercise. Due to the cool breeze from suface lake, many people came there to avoid the heat and noise from the crowded street. Let's come and enjoy scent there.
Ho Tay, the West Lake, 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... 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 ice-cream (eaten out of a coconut) - located at the top end of the dike road between Truc Bach Lake and Ho Tay, a 3-storey ice-cream 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.
Combining Ho Tay with a visit to the nearby Ho Chi Minh Museum and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is useful.
The enigma of Hanoi is that looking at the housing in general there seems to be no discrepancies in income. Majority of the houses are three to four story structures so thin that it is difficult to imagine that they are anything else but single family homes. Despite the clouds of dust and general pollution of all, land, water and air, there are no slums to ogle at and presume dirt comes from. Still, there are some people with things to take care so much so that they have cordoned off an area of lake properties but this appears to be more of an exception than a rule. The West Lake is large, actually the largest in town hence the longest shore line where people of note can build their nests. It is also home to some of the most expensive hotels such as the Sheraton and the Intercontinental, which despite their lavish interior and extravagant exterior are no strangers to the general pollution of Hanoi in particular and Viet Nam as a whole. So the views are as “misty” as anywhere else; just the triple-glazed windows and some air filters do not let the dust in. Not a small feat in Hanoi!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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....
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