Very fancy tai chi for 6:00 am with red fans
It's about a warrior called Le Loi and a golden turtle who swallowed his sword, as the turtle had the wisdom to realize that once the Chinese had been driven away, Le Loi didn't need his sword anymore. You'll find Le Loi to be a main artery in Sai Gon, and we'll get to that eventually. I'm sure many other things are named after this 15th century hero of the Viet Namese people.
It is reported that this lake was once part of the Red River (it's huge, and we were there up close when we went west of Ha Noi to a pottery village) and moved eastward through thousands of years' changes in the topography. Originally name Luc Thuy lake, it was changed to Ho Hoan Kiem, which means Lake of the Returned Sword, by Le Loi.
At the north end of the Lake, Lord Trinh Giang built Khanh Thuy shrine on Ngoc island, which was destroyed and rebuilt into a pagoda. It is now referred to as Ngoc Son Shrine. We did not go into the shrine, but did make our way through the huge portal, immediately after which there is a recessed spot onto a rocky hill where one can burn incense and offer a prayer or blessing. This time, I had the camera and took pictures as Chuck negotiated his way up, studied the movements of the woman before him, and repeated her motions and came down. The aroma of incense is quite intoxicating and adds to the spiritual feeling that reigns along the lake.
the lake at night
Occasionally one will see lovers sitting on a bench, but it's not very often, as Viet Namese, especially in the north, are not quite as emancipated as their brothers in the south, or the West for that matter. There is no public kissing whatsoever, but it is, without a doubt, one of the most romantic places to be and see. Also amazing and inspiring are the scores of older generation Viet Namese either exercising, or speaking French. The younger generation aspires to speak English and many to whom we talked dream of going to America. Hard to believe, isn't it?
soaking the sun at City View Café
Seeing the lake from up high is a treat, as I mentioned before. We were lucky to catch the sun in Ha Noi for lunch one day, and had the most exquisite spaghetti al fresco. The year before, we had dinner at Kim Quy, an elegant restaurant opposite that high building and across the water fountain, and the night views were reminiscent of Paris. You can never tire of Hoan Kiem Lake or what adorns it, no matter what time of day it is.
the fountain taken from Kim Quy Restaurant on the second floor