Saturday, November 20, 2010

City of Lakes

San Pablo City in the Philippines is known as the "city of the seven lakes". Hanoi (Vietnam), on the other hand, is nicknamed "city of lakes". According to the Vietnam Tourism website, the city has 18 lakes! In my week's stay in the city, I was fortunate to be in proximity to three of them.

The Royal Gate Hotel (where I stayed with the INQR and the GQNPC people) is found very close to two famous and adjacent lakes: Truc Bach Lake and the West Lake, both in the French Quarter (Ba Dinh District). These lakes are said to be walking distances away from interesting cultural tourist spots such as temples. True enough, there's a pagoda somewhere between the two lakes that could be seen from the hotel. I wasn't able to explore these areas during my stay, though.

As afternoon turned to dusk on my first day in Hanoi, I wanted very badly to photograph these lakes because I was going to miss the sunset. However, after a whole day of travelling (from Manila to Hong Kong, and then to Hanoi), I was just too tired to lug my tripod (the camera was with me every time) all the way to the West Lake (which was a lot bigger). I decided to just concentrate on photographing the nearer Truc Bach Lake.

Reflection at Truc Bach Lake
(Truc Bach Lake at night)

Missing the sunset wasn't too bad after all. The view was beautiful at night! Warm lights from the buildings reflected on the calm water and I enjoyed taking picture after picture. :) 

Then there's the Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old District. In English, it's the "lake of the restored sword"; to me, that meant that the history of the area is akin to the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake. A bit more crowded, this area was when I visited it, compared with the Truc Bach Lake area. But then, aside from its two cultural icons, this lake is just a stone's throw away from the market and from the water puppet theatre; tourists gravitate to the area. It's literally the centre of the action in the district.

The icons... In the middle of the lake is the Turtle Temple, a reminder to the foreign tourist that Vietnam has its own architectural legacy that dates back at least a thousand years. I'm not sure how to get there, though. On my third evening there, I contented myself taking photos of the temple from the side of the lake. 

Turtle Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake
(Turtle Temple)

On the northern side of the lake, I noticed a curious structure. A second island, perhaps? It turns out to be the Ngoc Son (Jade Mountain) Temple, which is accessible via the Huc (Rising Sun) bridge. I was, and still am, clueless at what the temple's name means. 

The Huc (Rising Sun) bridge to Jade Island
(The Huc bridge)

I wonder what's inside the temple itself. I've never been inside a Buddhist temple (and I assume that this is a Buddhist temple). Lucky me, the doors were padlocked. No way for me to know what's in there during my visit.

My missing out on many tourist spots during my week's stay in Hanoi means only one thing: I am going back to visit the city someday. :)