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The Lake of Life – Experience Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of Historic Hanoi

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One of Hanoi’s favorite hang out sports has got to be Hoan Kiem Lake. Mind you this is no ordinary body of water. This is an historic lake, home to some of the rarest turtles around. If you spot one of these soft shell guys, give us or the local newspaper a call. It is certainly newsworthy.

Hoan Kiem Lake (which translates into Lake of the Returned Sword) is one of the major scenic spots in the Vietnamese capital and a focal point to the northern city’s life. Take a walk around its banks in the morning and you’ll see citizens partaking in Tai Chi. During the day, don’t be surprised to see couples cuddling with each other at a nearby bench or professional wedding photos being taken. Hanoians will also just relax by the banks, take a walk around it or cycle.

Holidays and festivals, such as Liberation Day and the Tet New Year are also celebrated here. Thousands gather around the lake’s shores and witness marvelous displays of fireworks.

And what’s that in the middle of the lake? That’s none other than Turtle Tower. The small pagoda was built in honor of a legend, in which an emperor handed a magical sword called Heaven’s Will to back to the Golden Turtle God. But this was no ordinary sword, this blade was responsible in liberating Vietnam from the Ming Dynasty. Hence, Turtle Tower was built in the 17th century honoring this legend.

Yes, the Turtle God is depicted as the rare turtle we talked about earlier. Known as the Rafetus Swinhoei, it is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world; however, the species is critically endangered. Very few are said to exist in the wild, and few of those few live here at the lake. Like we said earlier, don’t forget to inform us if you spot it.

Hanoi is certainly one of Asia’s gems of a city. Embrace the charm, atmosphere and flavor of the northern capital as you discover Cultural Hanoi. Going beyond the main tourist sites, you’ll actually experience the people’s way of life as you step into their villages, be a welcome guest at their homes where you’ll sit down for a meal and visit handicraft shops.

See our Vietnam tours for more options in the country.

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