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
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 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
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./.