Hoan Kiem Lake
The centrepiece of Hanoi
What we say:
The tortoise presented him with a magical sword with which he could strike down all foes. The tortoise made Le Loi promise to return the sword upon the defeat of the Chinese. True to his word, after defeating the invaders from the north, Le Loi came back to the lake, and the tortoise emerged from the waters to reclaim the sword.
A solitary pagoda on an islet in the middle of the lake has been built in the tortoise's honour; visitors are not permitted here, but can instead head to the northeastern side of the lake to popular Ngoc Son Pagoda.
The pleasant surroundings of the lake make for a perfect break to munch on a baguette or finish off a book. Park benches are dotted all round, though the east side is wider and slightly quieter. Around sunset it can be difficult to find a free seat as young couples congregate to spend time in each other's arms. Early in the morning the lakeside is a popular venue for tai chi and exercise.
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