Hoan Kiem Lake is quite picturesque; a beautiful oasis located right by the Old Quarter of Hanoi. There is a legend about the lake that involves a dragon king, a turtle, and a sword.
In the morning, there are groups of women doing Zumba as well as joggers, walkers, and others stretching. Vendors will offer to sell you all manner of trinkets; we always shake our heads and firmly say no. It’s best not to give any hint of being interested in what they are selling. They are very, very persistent.
We enjoy sitting on a park bench and watching people go by. Occasionally, you will meet fellow travelers that want to chat but mainly you will see local people going about their business. And, most likely, you will be approached by young people wanting to practice their English skills. We visited the lake multiple times during our stay, and each time children, teens, and young adults asked if they could talk to us. We were asked the same questions each time; I assume teachers encourage their students to do this. We spent quite a bit of time speaking with a young man that was majoring in English in college. He told me to beware when sitting by the lake – Vietnamese people go there to hunt Americans. Too funny! I know he meant that they seek out Americans to talk to, but his word choice was a little off. We talked to small children whose parents wanted them to talk to us; we talked to high school students whose teacher recorded the conversations; we talked to anyone that wanted to talk! All were very polite; all wanted to know if we liked Vietnam.
On weekends, the road surrounding the lake is closed and the area takes on a festive atmosphere. On a couple of streets, motorized children’s cars line the road. The street becomes a thoroughfare for little ones cruising up and down the block.
Groups of teenagers perform dance routines. Some jump rope.
Bubbles are a popular item.
In the evening, groups of teens and young adults play hacky sack. Others drew game boards on the sidewalk and use pebbles as markers (it looked like the game Mandala). Large groups of teens form circles around hip hop dancers to cheer them on. And, a teen was teaching the little ones to dance as well!
Families and young couples stroll; children play in the street. Everyone from young children to adults competes to see who can build the tallest tower from the wood blocks provided.
This was the tallest, though it toppled right after I took the picture:
Ngoc Sun Temple was lit up, making it look even more magical than usual.
Hanoi can be hectic – take some time to relax by the lake.