18/03/2010 | 10:11:00

Hanoi’s Lakes

The capital of Hanoi occupies a bit more than 900km2 and in this urban centre there are 100 lakes dotting the city. There are natural and man-made lakes, each with its own unique history. They are more than just the soul of the City.
 
When seen from high above, Hoan Kiem Lake appears in the city’s center like a striking blue gem. The long-standing Tortoise Tower in the lake’s center reflects off the lake’s transparent blue water. Along the shore of the lake the willow tree branches sway in the autumn breezes reminiscent of young girls combing their long hair. Nearby, Loc Vung trees flaunt their branches laden with red flowers that droop down to just above the water’s surface.
 
Hoan Kiem Lake is surrounded by historical sites, including the magnificent statue of King Le Loi and the ancient Ngoc Son Temple with a preserved corpse of an old tortoise. The tortoise relates to the famous legend about the King who fought invaders with the assistance of a tortoise saint who provided him with a magical sword, and his return of the sword to the saint when he returned in triumph: hence the name Restored Sword Lake (Hoan Kiem Lake). Then there is the red-painted The Huc Bridge, meaning “sun beams,” and the Pen Tower, which is in the shape of a pen pointing toward the sky (Ta Thien Thanh). The artefacts surrounding the lake not only relate to past events but also provide a platform for modern life. Every morning the lake awakens to arriving people and their activities that have gone on for years. Amid the fresh morning air, local residents begin a new day, each in their own way. Some do morning exercises by the lake, others having a hot cup of delicious coffee or lotus-scented tea in a shop nearby. It is all part of the lake’s cycle.
 
Unlike Hoan Kiem Lake, Thien Quang Lake, originally named Halais Lake, is particularly tranquil. At night it is smothered with the fragrance of the milk flower, a very distinctive symbol for lovers. In some quiet lane, now and then there comes the scent of the ylang ylang flower, and sounds from a piano played by a talent artist, which rise high in the air then fall upon the lake’s surface.
 
Leaving peaceful Thien Quang Lake, we go to the West Lake, best visited on a breezy afternoon in order to enjoy its wide expanse of wave after wave lapping the shore. It is said that the lake is most beautiful in autumn when the lake has curtains of dew and a mist rises from the surface late in the afternoon. Walking along the narrow lanes adjacent to the lake, visitors will see colourful flowers in Nhat Tan, Quang Ba and Nghi Tam villages, famous for their flower cultivation. Lovers regularly sit by the lake at dusk, enjoying the lake’s late afternoon beauty. From a distance come the echoes of the bell ringing at Tran Quoc Pagoda and there is the aroma of joss-stick incense coming from the Tay Ho Temple. Villas are built around the area and elegant boats for tourists cruise the lake adding a special ambiance to the lake and its surrounding area.
 
On one side of the Thanh Nien (Youth) Boulevard stands Truc Bach Lake, which in one legend is the place where the Fairies come from Heaven to wash their clothes. Beside the lake is the ancient Chau Long Pagoda, where the lovely princess daughter of King Tran Nhan Ton found peace of mind bestowed upon her by the Buddha.
 
The Thu Le Lake is located adjacent to Cau Giay, one of the five gates leading to Hanoi’s downtown. A curving stone bridge crosses the lake to reach a park with shade trees and different rare beasts and animals. Nearby, the 5-star Daewoo Hotel invites guests with its elegant exterior and comfortable interior. It is the destination for nearly all foreign high-ranking government officials when they come to visit Hanoi.
 
In the large Lenin Park is the Bay Mau Lake. With its many shade trees, it is an ideal place for sport and entertainment events. Further south, Linh Dam Lake surrounds a newly-built spacious residential quarter with nice villas and modern apartments.
 
These are not all of Hanoi’s lakes. This is just a quick glimpse at some of the city’s watery spaces. The reality is that it’s impossible to describe the entire beauty of them all./.

Vietnam Pictorial

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