An insight to West Lake

What we say: 3.5 stars

West Lake is my favourite spot in Hanoi, yet is often overlooked by visitors to the city. When we visited in 2009, we took cyclos from Hanoi’s Old Quarter out to Quan Thanh temple then walked along Duong Thanh Nien, the road that runs between West Lake and Truc Bach, and I fell in love.

Fisherman at West Lake

Fisherman at West Lake

Just that one road offers such an insight into the different sides of Hanoi: fishermen line the railings, patiently waiting for a catch; young lovers peddle around Truc Bach in giant swan boats; large paddle steamers host weddings and parties for the better off; teenagers eat ice cream from the “Kem” restaurant and tourists and locals alike flock to the beautiful Tran Quoc temple, all overlooked by the grandeur of the Sofitel Plaza Hotel.

Even now, I still get a buzz when driving across that road, although I must admit, it loses its appeal in the winter a little. But West Lake isn’t just about that road, it has a lot more to offer. After all, it’s about 15km in circumference.

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Tran Quoc Pagoda

I’ll write more about it in future posts but for now let me just mention a couple of other things worth a look near that main road. Firstly, Yen Phu Street. Walk to the northern end of the road and pretty much opposite the Sofitel you’ll see a left turn. Follow this road and it turns into Yen Phu. I used to hate Yen Phu — it’s manic and at rush hour can be a nightmare to drive along — but then one day I walked along it and it really is an interesting street. Not unlike many others in Hanoi, but it offers an honest look into Vietnamese life and is worth a look if you have the time and are in the area.

The other place I’ll mention for now is the park at the southern end of the lake. It’s nothing special to look at, but pull up a stool, grab a glass of tea and watch the world go by.

Duong Thanh Nien is quite a walk from Old Quarter but a pleasant enough stroll along pavements that are wide enough to allow you to walk on them, rather than in the street. Or take a cyclo or taxi to the northern end and walk back.

Last updated: 9th October, 2014

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