Located in the center of the Hanoi historical district, Hoan Kiem Lake has become a place not only for local people but also for tourists because of its history. For the local citizens, Hoan Kiem Lake is a famous location for them to gather with friends and family on special occasions. It’s been a memory location for many generations.
1. The legend of Hoan Kiem Lake
A long time ago, the emperor Le Loi visited a soldier named Than. He joined the army with the hope of protecting the country from invaders. When Le Loi came to his house, he found a shining bar in the house’s corner. The emperor saw 2 words on the bar “Thuan Thien” (meaning Will of heaven).
One day, the emperor ran into a forest when the enemy chased the army. He suddenly saw a flashlight on top of a tree. He climbed up and found the rest of the sword. He believed it was a sign that the sword was special. With the sword, he won the battle and opened a new history.
Later, when he was on the boat on the lake for a leisure trip, a giant golden turtle raised above the water and asked him to return the sword to the Dragon King. The King gave back the sword without hesitation. After the event, he changed the former name “Luc Thuy (meaning Green Water) into Hoan Kiem Lake (meaning the Lake of Returned Sword) to commemorate the event.
2. Why does this lake become famous ?
Hoan Kiem Lake is not only famous for its historical event but also its beauty. The lake was usually famous because of the water. The surface of the lake changes according to the reflection in the sky. When mist surrounds the lake in the morning, the feeling is like sleeping beauty, waiting for the sun to wake it up. When the sunlight is out, the surface reflects the green of trees and the golden yellow of the sunlight.
Besides that, Hoan Kiem Lake is also the home of tortoises. The turtle in the lake belongs to a rare species – Rafetus swinhoei, which is maybe the largest living freshwater turtle in the world. Many locals claimed that sometimes, the turtles appear on the surface and enjoy the fresh atmosphere.
The lake is well-known because of the oldest age of the turtle. It is named Cu Rua, a massive turtle that was thought to be one of four giant soft-shell turtles worldwide. Unfortunately, she died in early 2016.
Hoan Kiem is the name of a district in Hanoi now and it is also a notable historical area
Around Hoan Kiem Lake, many historical attractions present the spirit of Vietnamese and the architecture.
- Ngon Son Temple:
The name means “Temple of the Jade Mountain.” It is located on a small island in the northern area of Hoan Kiem Lake.
The temple was built in the 18th century to commemorate Tran Hung Dao, a hero who defeated Mongolian soldiers invading Vietnam in the 13th century.
The temple remains one of the most visited temples in Hanoi. During New Year, the temple is packed with hundreds of people wishing for a new year of health and wealth.
- The Huc Bridge:
The Huc Bridge is a connection between Ngoc Son temple and the lakeshore. It is made of fine wood, and the red color makes the lake outstanding above.
The Bridge is a symbol of Buddhist architecture and is famous as “the bridge where light is absorbed.”
- Turtle Tower:
Turtle Towers is a signature of Hanoi. It’s located in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. Standing for around 150 years, the tower has become a significant landmark of Hanoi and the locals. Resting on the bench after a long day and watching the temple in the sunset is the image that visitors can see when walking around the lake.
The temple is not only a monument, a place in honor of a magical turtle that protects the sword. The temple is a symbol of unity and patriotism. During the French invasion, the Vietnamese flag was hung on top to remind the Vietnamese people to be strong and together to protect the country.
Besides being a historical destination for locals and foreigners, Hoan Kiem Lake is the central culture of Hanoi. It is the heart of Hanoi. Spending a day in the lake, tourists can enjoy a daily day as a Vietnamese by doing many activities. It will be a unique experience that allows the visitors to explore the city in a different style.
- An ideal Place for both Vietnamese & Foreigners
Nowadays, the area surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake becomes an ideal place for citizens living near there go for doing morning exercise in the early morning and afternoon.
That’s right! Hoan Kiem Lake is a popular place for exercising and running in the morning. Due to the vast space and fresh atmosphere in the morning, the lake is a favorite space for locals to start a day by joining a group and exercising together. Waking early, enjoying the sunrise, and listening to the sound of morning, is the perfect way to observe and enjoy the Hanoian pace of life.
- Walking Street on weekend
From the evening of Friday to Sunday, the area around Hoan Kiem Lake becomes a pedestrian zone for the community. Many activities happen during the weekends, such as music festivals, traditional games, etc.
Leaving the busy life behind, taking a walk, or joining a group dance shows the Hanoian’s spirit and how Hanoian take rest.
- Drinking coffee and relaxing are most favorite activity of locals here
If you are tired from visiting the spot, a cup of coffee on the rooftop while watching the view of Hoan Kiem Lake is the top choice. There are many coffee restaurants near the lake where you can enjoy high-quality coffee. Significantly, many coffee stores are located inside the old house style. It would be an experience for visitors to explore another aspect of Hanoi.
Hoan Kiem Lake is an excellent destination where locals and tourists should take time to explore the story behind the place to understand the culture and spirit of Hanoi.
Hoan Kiem Lake gained a forever love from both Vietnamese and international citizens. Hopefully, in the future, the lake still remains its current beauty !