Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake, 'Lake of the Restored Sword', forms the centrepiece of Hanoi. The name of the lake comes from a legend in which Emperor Le Loi, worried about the advancing Chinese, was boating on the lake when a giant tortoise rose from the murky waters.
The tortoise presented him with a magical sword with which he could strike down all foes. The tortoise made Le Loi promise to return the sword upon the defeat of the Chinese. True to his word, after defeating the invaders from the north, Le Loi came back to the lake, and the tortoise emerged from the waters to reclaim the sword. Since then, the lake has been known as the Lake of the Restored Sword. A solitary pagoda on an islet in the middle of the lake has been built in the tortoise's honour, which cannot be visited. At the northeastern side of the lake sits Ngoc Son Pagoda, which is easy to visit and a popular spot.
The pleasant surroundings of the lake make for a perfect break to munch out on a baguette or finish off a book. Park benches are dotted all round, though the east side is wider and slightly quieter. Around sunset it is difficult to find a free seat as young couples congregate to spend time in each other's arms. Early in the morning the lakeside is a popular venue for tai chi and exercise.
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