May 31 2012
Truc Bach Lake lies about three kilometres to the northwest of Hoan Kiem Lake and is easily reachable on foot or by cyclo. It has plenty going on around its banks and no shortage of places to stop for a coffee, beer or lunch, so is worth a wander if you’ve time.
Starting at Quan Thanh Temple at the southeastern edge of the lake, walk across Duong Thanh Nien, the wide road that runs between West Lake and Truc Bach Lake, from where you’ll get good views across both lakes. Stop off at Tran Quoc Pagoda or for an ice cream at Kem Ho Tay if you’re already ready for a break.
Turn onto Truc Bach Street, which starts with a cluster of coffee shops, all affording great views across the lakes, and goes on to be home to numerous restaurants serving up lau ech (frog hotpot) on rush mats by the lake. They’re more prevalent in the evening so it’s likely to be quiet if you’re there in the daytime. Truc Bach is also home to Foodshop 45, which now has a roof terrace if you fancy a beer and a samosa.
Unfortunately the narrow part of the lake that runs between Truc Bach and the island gets rather smelly, so hold your breath and walk past quickly.
If a beer at Foodshop or one of the other cafes didn’t appeal, you could turn left here on Ngu Xa and go to the bia hoi place at the top of the street, on Pho Duc Chinh. The beer’s reasonable, the food’s good and the chairs have legs.
Next cross over the small bridge on Ngu Xa and take a wander around the island. It’s the home of pho cuon, so a great place to stop for lunch, or head to the lakeside along Tran Vu where you’ll have a huge choice of cafes for a coffee or fruit shake. It’s also where Peace Dental Clinic is located — just in case.
Leave the island via the bridge on Tran Vu and continue round past Chau Long Pagoda and Chau Long market. It’s a typical wet market so worth going in for a browse if you haven’t been to one before. There are plenty of fruit sellers around the edge of the market too — be sure to negotiate on price.
The final stretch takes you along Tran Vu Street on the southern edge of the lake. At the easterly end are a few hai san (seafood) restaurants and then further along are yet more cafes and a wonderful ice cream joint called Hai Me Sophie Ice Cream at number 60. Sit upstairs for a view of the lake while you dip into your sundae. Continue on past Truc Bach bia hoi and Happy House restaurant — good cakes, lovely setting, average Vietnamese food — with a stop for a ride on a swan boat if you have the time and are feeling the love.
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