A Morning Stroll Around Hoan Kiem Lake In Hanoi

Posted by : foongpc | Monday, October 6, 2014 | Published in


On my second day in Hanoi, I woke up early to take a morning stroll around the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Lake Of The Restored Sword. 

I actually woke up much earlier to have breakfast at my hotel. My friend from Kuala Lumpur would be arriving later in the morning to join me for the rest of my Hanoi trip. While waiting for his arrival, I went out to have a stroll around Old Quarter. 

I passed by Hapro Mart, one of the many local retail supermarkets in Hanoi.

After my friend finally landed in Noi Bai International Airport and checked into the Rising Dragon Palace Hotel (by the way we stayed in different rooms in the same hotel because I told him I prefer to have the whole room to myself haha!), we walked over to Hoan Kiem Lake.

As usual, it was difficult trying to cross this big junction but I was already getting the hang of it after some guidance from Son, my tour guide from Hanoikids, the day before. Read my tips on how to cross the chaotic road in Hanoi HERE.

Familiar names like AIA, KFC and HSBC could be seen on this building in front of a small roundabout.

Many cafes were located at this multi-storey building overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. If you have read one of my previous posts, you will know I was at Hanoi Soul Cafe with Son the evening before. Honestly, if I were to visit Hanoi again, I would not mind relaxing at one of these cafes with a good view of the lake.

I always thought the word 'Pho' refers to the Vietnamese noodles soup but I was wrong of course. 'Pho' also refers to street as in the case of this street signboard below. Although spelt the same, they are two totally different Vietnamese characters. The first is "phở" (pronounced as 'fuh' as in fur without the letter r) while the second one is "phố" (pronounced as 'foh' with an uptrailing accent).

We walked along Le Thai To road on the west side of the lake and passed by this restaurant by the lake.

The weather was perfect for walking. Not hot, and neither was it too cold. Just pleasant.

Look at the wide open space between the lake and the road! Perfect for jogging or group tai chi. In fact, there were many people exercising around this lake although I did not take pictures of them.

I could not help admiring this scene below of a couple sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. Looks kinda romantic, no?

I think I can even do some meditation sitting by the lake.  So peaceful and tranquil.

Not sure what building this is, but it looks nice!

Further down Le Thai To road, we passed by Luc Thuy restaurant. Many people were having breakfast at the open air area.

In the middle of the southern part of Hoan Kiem Lake is a small island where a three-tiered structure stands. This structure is known as Thap Rua or Tortoise Tower.

How did it get the name Tortoise Tower? Perhaps there were many tortoises living in this lake and they would gather at this small island.

Then again, the name Tortoise Tower could somehow be connected to a legend surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake. According to the legend, Emperor Le Thai To was handed a magic sword by a divine tortoise living in the lake in the 15th century. This sword had helped the Emperor fend off the Chinese invaders.

However, after the country achieved its independence, the tortoise snatched back the sword and disappeared into the lake. Efforts were made to locate the sword and the tortoise but to no avail. The Emperor then acknowledged that the sword had gone back to the divine tortoise and renamed the lake  Hoan Kiem Lake or The Lake Of The Restored Sword.

According to Son, my tour guide from Hanoikids, there are in fact, still many tortoises living inside the lake. I would love to explore the Tortoise Tower but of course, there is no way to reach it unless I swim across!

It appears that Hoan Kiem Lake was once part of the Red River and a deep swamp, until the French drained the land in the 19th century.

My friend and I took many photos of Hoan Kiem Lake that day. It was simply too beautiful not to.

We continued to walk and reached the eastern side of the lake.

We passed by Hanoi Central Post Office (Buu Dien Hanoi).

Nice looking building with a clock at the top.

Nearby the post office is the Ly Thai To Park, formerly Indira Gandhi Park. The former name was in remembrance of the 1984 assassination of India's Prime Minister who was a huge supporter of Vietnam.

Now it is known as Ly Thai To Park in honour of the first emperor of the Ly Dynasty, Ly Thai To. (not to be confused with Emperor Le Thai To who was handed the magic sword by the divine tortoise in the 15th century).

A tall statue of Ly Thai To stands in the middle of the park. I guess he deserves much respect as he is the one who moved the capital in the year 1010 to Thang Long, near present-day Hanoi, which resulted in the founding of Hanoi as the capital city of Vietnam.

There were not many people at the park that morning. I guess more people would come out only in the evening as I had experienced the evening before.

I took a picture of VietinBank beside the park. It's a famous bank in Hanoi and is a state-owned Vietnamese bank.

Walking along Dinh Tien Hoang road on the eastern part of the lake, I continued to take pictures of the Tortoise Tower and the lake itself.

It would be nice to walk along this road during the evening and see those interesting looking street lights lighted up.

As we continued walking around the lake, we saw in the distance, a red coloured bridge.

Could not help taking this picture of the red bridge with the lady standing by the lake presumably doing some tai chi exercises.

A beautiful reflection on the water. So, so serene. If the Old Quarter feels chaotic to you,  all you ever need to do is to take a walk to Hoan Kiem Lake and you will enjoy some peace!

The bridge leads to a temple, known as Ngoc Son Temple, located on a small island in the middle of the northern part of the lake. There is a small entrance fee to enter the temple. My friend and I visited the temple that morning, but I shall blog about it in another post.

As we got nearer to the red bridge, we could see many people walking on it.

We were not the only ones taking photos of the lake of course. Many others, especially tourists, were seen busy doing the same. Who wouldn't with such a beautiful scenery in front of you?

I love this reflection of the arched bridge. I did not think my photo completely captured the mood. But to be honest, I was spellbound!

The red-lacquered wooden arched bridge leading to the temple is known as Huc or the Rising Sun Bridge.

After having visited the temple (story in the next post), we dropped by the nearby Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (Mua Roi Nuoc Thang Long) to buy tickets for the evening's performance.

My friend was not too keen to watch the water puppet performance, but I was not going to miss it for the world! How could one visit Hanoi and not watch the famous water puppets?!

Took a couple of pictures of the tram cars (not sure if that's what they are called) parked near Hoan Kiem Lake. I wondered what those tram cars were for. Any Vietnamese reading this knows?

Then I saw what looked like a gigantic book being displayed by the lake. It marks the millennial anniversary of Hanoi which was celebrated back in 2010. As mentioned earlier, Emperor Ly Thai To had moved the capital to Thang Long in the year 1010, so the year 2010 would mark the 1,000th anniversary of this historical event.

If I were to visit Hanoi again, I would definitely take another stroll around this beautiful, picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake.