With a shoreline of 17km, Ho Tay (West Lake) is the largest lake of Hanoi. Tran Quoc pagoda is Hanoi’s oldest Buddhist temple and dates back to the 6th century. The bodhi tree in the garden is even said to be grown from a cutting of the very tree under which Buddha found enlightenment.
Many foreigner travelers may only know about Hoan Kiem Lake as it is the most famous and most beautiful lake in Hanoi. It is true, but it’s not the only one, Ho Tay (West Lake) is also very cultural, as it is not only beautiful but is also surrounded by many villages and pagodas.
West Lake used to be a branch of Red River, the most historic river of Hanoi. In the past, West Lake is also known as "Đầm Xác Cáo" (Fox Corpse Swamp), "Hồ Kim Ngưu" (Golden Buffalo Lake), "Hồ Dâm Đàm" (Foggy Lake)… thanks to its legends and natural conditions. However, the name that we call today was created in 1573 because the people wanted to avoid talking about the real name of Le The Tong King, Duy Đàm, due to the reasons with the name having the same rhythm as Dâm Đàm Lake (Foggy Lake). Moreover, many people believe that the kings of Vietnam wanted to become like China, thus so, they take the name West Lake from the famous lake in Hangzhou of China.
West Lake is surrounded by many beautiful and historical landmarks like Tran Quoc pagoda, Phu Tay Ho (West Lake Palace), Nhat Tan flower village, Thanh Nien road and much more.
In the past, West Lake and Truc Bach Lake was actually not separated and together form an even larger lake. But the fishermen near the lake wanted to connect the village of Yen Phụ with the Yen Ninh village, so they did an embankment about one kilometer long, that divided the huge lake into two parts, the embankment is the foundation for the Thanh Nien road we see today. The road is decorated with a huge amount of trees and flowers. In the morning, it is the place that many locals take for their morning strolls and exercise. At dusk, it becomes a beautiful site that people go on their dates. Thus answer the question why people in Hanoi call Thanh Nien Road as the most romantic road of the capital city.
At the end of Thanh Nien Road is Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hanoi which was built on the island to the south of West Lake during the reign of Ly Nam De Emperor from 544 to 548. Tran Quoc Pagoda used to be the place that many kings of Vietnam had come to visit and perform religious ceremonies, especially at days of full moon, national ceremonies, and festivals. Nowadays, Tran Quoc Pagoda has become not only the Buddhist place for locals come to pray and express their wishes, but also the attractive side for the travelers to visit thanks to the special architecture of the pagoda along with the watery landscape surrounding it.
Every time someone mentions to West Lake, you just have to think about the famous West Lake Palace. The ancient pagoda was built from 1598 to 1607 on an island east of West Lake. Aside from the fact that kings would perform rituals here in the past, the pagoda is a place of worship for Mother Goddesses, and not only Buddhism like many other pagodas and temples all over Vietnam, it is not the one, but one of the few. The worship of Mother Goddesses is the oldest religions in Vietnam, it worships mothers that had great achievements for the country and mothers in legends and tales like mother Au Co, Lieu Hanh Princess… but the locals also come here to ask for protection and aid when they are struggling in life. And on some special occasions, you can also expect some colorful traditional music festival at West Lake Palace.
Ever since the word tourism was created, the attractiveness of the local cuisines has always been one of the key factors for a destination to be a gem in the eyes of tourists. Surrounding West Lake is numerous amounts of stalls that offer all kinds of mouth-watering grubs. Banh Tom (Fried Shrimp Cake) is one of the numerous amounts of dishes available around West Lake, but it is an amazing dish that worth talking about, it has been well known and loved by locals and also tourists. The dish is extremely simple, flour stuffed with shrimps and then fried in oil, what comes out is something that just blows your mind away by just the smell alone, and when you are able to take a crunchy bite, you will truly know why people just simply loves it. But then, that’s just eating the cake by itself, the true reason why it has been so famous is thanks to the sauce that you dip it in. The sauce is based on the Yin and Yang theory of the Vietnamese ways of cooking, it is balancing the flavors within the dish and for this case, it comes of marvelously, and the sauce is composed of fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chilies, fresh carrot, kohlrabi and young papaya. One of the big contestants with Banh Tom for the spotlight is Bun Ca (Fish Noodles), the dish is loved all, and there’s a reason for that, with rice noodles, the secret sauce recipe that makes people goes wild for the dish, vegetables and the most important part, fillet perches. When tasted you would immediately feel slight sour from tomatoes and the distinct smell of dill, all to make the perfect dish. And to make things even better, both of these two dishes can be found in stalls around West Lake Palace.
"Farther along the lake, Quan Thanh Temple, by the northern gate, was built during the reign of Le Thai To King (1010-28). It’s dedicated to Huyen Thien Tran Vo, the god who reigned over Vietnam’s northern regions. Renovated in the 19th century, the impressive temple has a triple gate and courtyard, and features a 3.6m (12-ft.) bronze statue of the god. West Lake is also a hub of local activity, particularly on weekends, when families go paddle-boating on it. Visting this place by make a booking tours:http://hanoidaytours.net/foodie-tours/seeing-hanoi-tasting-street-food-on-motorcycle-31.html