Located south of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake (还剑湖) or Lake of the Returned Sword got its name from a legend of King Le Thai To returning sword to God of Turtle in the 15th century. Known for its green water all year round, tourists and locals alike are drawn to this major scenic spot to get away from the chaos of Hanoi.
The best way to enjoy the lake would be to take a leisurely stroll along its shore and pay a visit to Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) that sits in the Jade Island.
The small temple is dedicated to a military national hero, Tran Hung Dao, a Taoist scholar, Van Xuong and La To, the patron saint of physicians.
There is a preserved giant turtle displayed in a room inside the temple. The giant turtle weighing 250kg is said to be at least 500 years old. The turtle that is preserved is said to be the same specimen of giant turtles found in the lake.
At the opposite end of Hoan Kiem Lake to Ngoc Son Temple stands Thap Rua or Turtle Tower. Built in 1886 on Turtle islet, it’s to honour King Le Thai To for liberating Vietnam from the Chinese as well as remembering the legendary giant turtle and the magical sword.
As the lake is a central part of Hanoian’s daily lives, during Vietnam’s 70th year of independence celebration, decorations marking the occasion were put up around the lake.
The lake is very popular with locals all day long for exercise, relaxation, spending time with family & friends and people watching.
If you happen to visit Hanoi, do pay a visit to this scenic lake. Who knows, you might be able to get a glimpse of the elusive giant turtle.