If you are in Hanoi and only have two hours to spare for sightseeing, I would recommend to visit Ho Hoan Kiem or Hoan Kiem Lake located between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter.
Hilton Opera & Hanoi Opera House
I have visited Hanoi multiple times but only for business. I usually stay at Hilton Opera, next to the Hanoi Opera House. At the Opera House, there is an alfresco cafe that serve great Vietnamese coffee. I love the taste of Vietnamese coffee especially when served with condense milk, drinking Vietnamese coffee like the local.
My first visit to Hanoi was with my colleague who is very familiar with Vietnam and its history. After checking in, we headed to the restaurant on the mezzanine floor of Hilton Opera for late lunch. We had fresh spring roll and beef pho. This has became a ritual for me whenever I visit Hanoi.
Crossing the Road in Vietnam
After getting our work done, my colleague brought me to Hoan Kiem Lake, walking distance from Hilton Opera. My first experience crossing the road in Vietnam was rather terrifying. I had problem crossing or should I say I dare not cross as there were so many motorbikes and cars on the road. My colleague guided me along, reminding me to walk at a consistent pace so that the motorcyclist could predict and weaved around us. I was so scared that I hastened my pace, almost running. My colleague stopped me, like an adult telling a little girl – “Don’t run. Don’t run”. It was an experience that I will not forget. After a number of visits to Vietnam, I still find it challenging to cross the road alone.
Ho Hoan Kiem (Hoan Kiem Lake)
When we reached the Hoan Kiem Lake, I felt relax and calm. It is a scenic lake with its banks transformed into a lovely park. The locals were sitting and relaxing by the lake after a day’s work or class.
Hoan Kiem Lake or “Ho Hoan Kiem” translates literally as “Lake of the Returned Sword”. The lake takes its name from an ancient legend of Emperor Le Loi’s encounter with a Golden Turtle God. Emperor Le Loi was boating on the lake when a Golden Turtle God surfaced and asked the Emperor to return the sword that it’s master, the Dragon King, gave to the Emperor during his revolt against Ming China. Emperor Le Loi returned the sword to the turtle after fighting off the Chinese. Today, there is a small pagoda in the middle of the lake, known as the Turtle Tower in honour of the returned of the sword.
At the northern shore of the lake, is the Jade Island where the Temple of the Jade Mountain stands. The Jade Island is connected to the shore by the red wooden bridge, The Huc Bridge.
After walking around the lake and visiting the temple, my colleague brought me to the City View Cafe for a drink, a panoramic view of the Hoan Kiem Lake and the evening view of the Old Quarter.
Sunset at the Old Quarters
The sun began to set, the fireball descending at the Old Quarters, shining through the cloud, illuminating the sky.
When I visit Hanoi, I would find time to have a drink at the City Cafe to watch the lovely the sunset at the Old Quarter and the Hoan Kiem Lake.
This post is part of My Vietnam Travel Series, for more on my travel experience in Vietnam, check here.
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