Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is a majestic capital city. (Hà Nội là một thủ đô hùng vĩ).

Built between 1900 and 1906 to house the French Governor—General of Indochina. It was constructed by Auguste Henri Vildieu, the official French architect for French Indochina. Mango trees grow on the grounds. The yellow palace stands behind wrought iron gates flanked by sentry boxes. It incorporates elements of Italian Renaissance design including columns. When Vietnam achieved independence in 1954, Ho Chi Minh was claimed to have refused to live in the grand structure for symbolic reasons, although he still received state guests there, he eventually built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house and carp pond on the grounds. His house and the grounds were made into the Presidential Palace Historical Site in 1975. The palace hosts government meetings. It is not open to the public, although one may walk around the grounds for a fee.

The lake is located in the park in Hanoi’s historic district. In 1428, legend has it that Emperor Le Loi obtained a magical sword from the Dragon King to fight against Chinese oppressors. The sword came from the Hoan Kiem lake. After the successful battle against the Chinese invaders, Emperor Le Loi visited the beautiful lake. He was boating through the still waters when an enormous golden turtle surfaced. The turtle explained that he was sent by his master, the Dragon King, to retrieve the sword from Le Loi. Loi returned the sword to the turtle, who swam back beneath the jade waters. Loi then named the area Hoan Kiem lake, meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword” to commemorate the spectacular event.

Turtle Tower lies on an island in the middle of the lake. After the gigantic turtle reclaimed the sword for its master, turtles began to be revered around Hoan Kiem lake. There was one turtle living in the water that was thought to be the incarnation of the mythical turtle Le Loi met in 1428. Affectionately named Cu Rua, the massive turtle was thought to be one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles in the entire world. Sadly, she was discovered dead in early 2016 and the entire country mourned her death. She was embalmed and put on display at Vietnam’s National Museum of Natural History.

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