Hanoi West Lake
Hanoi West Lake, also called Ho Tay, is the biggest lake in central Hanoi with area of over 500ha. The road running around the lake is 17km long. Hanoi West Lake was once a part of the Red River. This part turned into a lake when the river changed its course.
The lake itself and its name are originated from many legends. According to the Ho Tinh (Succubus) story, the lake was called Xac Cao (Fox Carcass) because there was a nine-tail fox which often harmed people died here. The lake was the vestige of the fox's cave after it was destroyed by Dragon King when he raised the water level to kill the fox. Whereas, according to the "Khong Lo casts a bell" story, the lake was called Kim Nguu (Gold Buffalo). The story tells that monk Khong Lo had the power to collect all the black bronze of the North and cast a bell. The echo of the bell attracted a Gold Buffalo to follow the sound to look for its mother. When arriving at this area, the sound of the bell ended, the buffalo didn't know where to go. It trampled upon the ground and the sunken area became the lake. According to ancient books, the lake was named Dam Dam (Fog Lake) in the 11th century. In 1573, it was called Tay Ho (West Lake) to avoid coinciding with King Le The Tong's real name of Duy Dam.
Described as the most romantic part in the colourful Ha Noi panorama, West Lake has been creating an endless source of inspiration for poets, writers and artists for their works that have gone down deep to the heart of many people.
With the vast blue water, the violet and red flowers in summer, the soft sunshine and cool climate in autumn, the near-freezing winds in winter and the pure air as dawn breaks in spring, West Lake is known as a friend with whom people can share their feelings. In early morning, hundreds of people, old and young, flock to the lake to enjoy the fresh air as they do morning exercises. From the Thanh Nien (Youth) slope near the lake, flower-loaded bikes and vendors balancing baskets of traditional snacks hung on the ends of bamboo sticks on their shoulders are seen fanning into Hanoi's busy streets.
The lake has become a habitual rendez-vous for many people. The beautiful Thanh Nien Road, previously called Co Ngu, that separates West Lake and Truc Bach Lake is jammed at every sunset. Some people search for a niche by the lake to enjoy a coffee, shrimp pancakes, snail noodles or ice creams. Others treat themselves with luxurious restaurants on boats that cruise around the lake while the rest prefer a simple walk in the fresh air. During weekends, the lake often witnesses weddings of couples who wish to make the most memorable day in their life on a boat.
Not only an ideal tourist attraction, West Lake is rich in cultural values. Up to 21 pagodas, shrines and communal houses with many valuable artifacts dot the lake's rim. From the Ly and Tran dynasties, many palaces and pagodas were built there such as Thuy Hoa Palace under the Ly Dynasty, afterward Ham Nguyen Palace under the Tran Dynasty and now Tran Quoc Pagoda; Tu Hoa Palace under the Ly Dynasty, now Kim Lien Pagoda. The 17km path around the lake leads to Nghi Tam flower village, Tay Ho, Nhat Tan peach villages and Tay Ho Temple, built in honor of Princess Lieu Hanh.
Most frequently visited ones include Quan Thanh Temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda and Tay Ho Temple where visitors can enjoy the beautiful architecture after praying for blessing. Villages located in the west of the lake have their specific characteristic. Nghi Tam Village boasts the unique architecture of Kim Lien Pagoda while Xuan Tao Village takes pride as home to Soc Temple dedicated to Saint Giong. Trich Sai Village houses Thien Nien Pagoda, Ke Buoi Village houses Dong Co Temple while Thuy Khue Village houses Ba Danh Pagoda.
Nhat Tan Village has been known as the source of most beautiful peach blossoms, a must-have floral home decoration to every Hanoi family at the approach of the traditional New Year. Many of the traditional sketches of the villages like century-old dwelling houses, village gates and communal houses are still preserved in face of the urbanization process that has brought high-rise buildings, hotels and villas to the land around the lake.
West Lake isn't only a place for Hanoians to relax, but also an ideal residential place for foreigners working in the city with hundreds of villas built near the lake.
Quite a few describe the lake as a mirror of Hanoi, but still many others call it "a lung of the city".
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