Hoan Kiem Lake aka Sword Lake
At the center of Hanoi’s Old Quarter lies Hoan Kiem Lake. Loosely translated into English as Sword Lake, this lake serves as the cultural center for Hanoi.
Legend has it that after defeating the Ming Dynasty a Golden Turtle surfaced in the lake and asked emperor Le Loi to return his magic sword to the spirit realm. To mark the auspicious event Loi renamed the lake and the rest is history.
People have long debated whether any turtles actually live in Hoan Kiem Lake. The waters are murky at best and do not support much marine life. However, in 2011 a 440 pound turtle was pulled from lake after a number of sightings. Biologists estimated it was 100 years. After treatment for a skin ailment the turtle was returned to its habitat.
Adding to the mystique of Hoan Kiem Lake are its two pagodas. The smaller of the two is inaccessible while the larger of the two rests on Jade Island and is named Temple of the Jade Mountain. Jade Island can be reached via the colorful The Huc Bridge, which is one of many icons of old Hanoi.
While a morning coffee on the misty shores of the lake is a must do, the real highlight of the Lake is after sunset. This is when the lights of the Old Quarter come alive and reflect off the surface.