No 7B/121 Ngoc Thuy – Long Bien – Hanoi
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Hoan Kiem Lake lake is considered as the culmination of myths, the foundation of beauty, the heart of Hanoi, a wonderful bucket of flowers in the center of the city. It’s the place people live in the present, the past and the future at the same time.
A large urban district in Hanoi, Hoan Kiem District is in the central part of the city and has the population close to 430,000 people. It is also a commercial center, with a few large employers and service companies, mainly banks and official companies. The main places of interest of the district are the National History Museum, the National Opera, the Old Quarter, and many more.
Hoan Kiem lake means “lake of the returned sword”. This name relates to the famous historical legend of King Le Thai To. And before this legend, Hoan Kiem Lake has a name which is Luc Thuy Lake (or Green Water Lake) since the water was green all year-round. In the 15th century, Hoan Kiem Lake was its new name after the legend of Emperor Le Thai To, which is somehow similar to the story of King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake.
This legend is really interesting. Close your eyes and turn back time to the Le Dynasty 6 centuries ago to witness the legendary story. During the war against the Minh aggressors, King Le Thai To was given a precious fairy Sword by the Golden Turtle God. After 10 years of continuous struggling, the King finally defeated the Chinese and reclaimed the nation’s independence. After that, on a nice day, while boating on lake Luc Thuy, a large turtle came towards him.
It immediately grabbed the sword with its mouth and submerged. The king mourned the loss of such a valuable sword, yet could not find either the turtle or the sword. He realized that God must have lent him the sword to drive back the enemy, but then that his nation was free. He understands that he should return the sword. Hence, King Le Thai To named the lake Ho Hoan Kiem or Lake of the Restored Sword after this episode.
Since the reign of King Le Trung Hung (XVI century), every King in the Le dynasty, and Lord Trinh have all contributed to the beauty of the lake. Lord Trinh Giang built Khanh Thuy shrine on Ngoc island on the north end of the lake. He also had the two man-made hills built across from Ngoc son Shrine. At the end of the Le Dynasty, Khanh Thuy was toppled by Chieu Thong. A philanthropist named Tin Trai built Ngoc Son pagoda, which was renamed into Ngoc Son shrine during the reign of Thieu Tri III (1843) as it was no longer a Buddhist shrine. Instead, it became a shrine of Van Xuong, a deity, in charge of literature and the various tests required to become a Mandarin. It has also been a shrine of General Tran Hung Dao, a national Hero who secured numerous victories against the Mongols.
Turtle Tower is in the center of the lake under the influence of French architecture. Some people said that if Hoan Kiem Lake is like a bouquet of Hanoi, Turtle Tower is considered the most beautiful and impressive flower in this bouquet. The tower has a distinct and unique beauty of the combination of European styles and Vietnam architecture. Being constructed in a harmonized position with nature, the Tower has ancient and sacred beauty.
The Huc Bridge is a connecting point between Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple. The Bridge was constructed in 1865 and painted in red color, which makes it become outstanding and in harmony with the surrounding landscape. “The Huc” means a place welcoming the sunlight in the early morning. Additionally, a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake will not be fulfilled if tourists do not visit Ngoc Son Temple. The Temple is a beautiful architecture containing many historical values of Vietnam. It consists of two main temples. The first one is in the north worshipping Tran Hung Dao and Van Xuong. In the south, Tran Ba Temple has a unique architecture. In general, the architecture of Ngoc Son Temple is very beautiful and is a typical example of combinations between natural landscapes and manmade architecture.
Located in the center of the lake, you can easily find the Ngoc Son temple by looking from any side of the lake. The name of the temple means “Temple of the Jade Mountain.”
Built-in the 18th century in Jade Island, it is dedicated to Tran Hung Dao, a war hero who defeated 300,000 Mongolian soldiers invading Vietnam in the 13th century. In the temple, you can find the alters, some artifacts and a 250 kg preserved specimen of a giant turtle.
On the west side of the lake, the St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a historic building which was built back in 1886. For over 100 years, it is still one of the biggest churches in Hanoi where many local Vietnamese Catholics come and pray.
The church is open to the public. But before you go, please remember to be appropriately dressed and do not take pictures inside the church. After visiting the church, it would be great if you have time sitting in a café near there and enjoy the view of the church.
Here is the link which you can refer for further Hanoi attractions