Guidebook Hoan Kiem Lake

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Hoan Kiem Lake

The lake stirs to life in the early morning as “walkers, joggers and tai chi enthusiasts limber up in the half-light,” writes Rough Guides. “Space is at a premium in this crowded city, and the lake’s strip of park meets multiple needs, at its busiest when lunch-hour hawkers are out in force, and easing down slowly to evenings of old men playing chess and couples seeking twilight privacy on benches half-hidden among the willows.”

The lake’s name means "Lake of the Returned Sword", explains Michael Aquino at Trip Savvy. It alludes to the legend that the future Vietnamese emperor Le Loi “received a sword from a magic turtle at the lake's edge” and then proceeded to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam with the sword, “which was then reclaimed by the turtle after the invaders had left.” Sadly, the lake's turtles have “largely passed into legend, due to pollution and the paving-over of the turtles' egg-laying grounds on the lakeshore,” and the last known turtle resident in the lake died in 2016.

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