Ho Tay – West Lake – is a mirror, a lung of the capital city with the area of more than 500ha. The ring road of the lake is about 17km long. It is proved that West Lake is a part of Red River after the changes of the water stream. Maybe that changes lead to many legends and stories about the name of the lake.
According to the story of Ho Tinh, the lake was named Xac Cao Lake (frog Body Lake). It is said that there was a nine-tale frog hiding in this area and harm the people. The king of the water had the water raised to destroy the frog den, and then it was died coughing out the water to create West Lake like today.
According to the story of “Khong Lo making the bell”, the lake was named Golden Buffalo (Trau Vang). The story is about the man named Khong Lo who was talented in making the bell. He collected all the black bronze of the north area and made a bronze bell. The bell was rung and its sound was heard in the North Country. The legend had it that black bronze was the mother of the gold buffalo, so after hearing the bell tone, the buffalo ran to find his mother. When it came to this area, it struggled till being hurt and its blood was flooding to create West Lake.
The West Lake is beautiful not only because of the pure water or the purple of crape myrtle or red of flamboyant when the summer comes. It is not because of the vague sadness of the area or the willow on the lake side, but it is beautiful for the shape of a heart embracing the feeling of many people. West Lake has becoming a date location for the people like inertia. The Thanh Nien (or Co Ngu) road separates West Lake and Truc Bach Lake, is crowded in the late afternoon for the people come and find a location for take some fresh air or shipping the coffee cup. Banh Tom (shrimp pastry) and ice cream are also famous specialties of West Lake. There are also luxury restaurant on the water surface of the lake or beside the ring road. There are people come to West Lake just to sell the pure air or sitting beside the lake to watch the vast area of the water.
West Lake is not only the ideal destination but also contained the value of the nation. There are 21 temples or communal houses around the lake which are listed in the national heritage list with many famous vestiges and objects. Among them, the Quan Thanh temple, Tran Quoc pafoda and Tay Ho temple are the famous tourist destinations of the West Lake.
Tran Quoc pagoda is one of the most ancient pagodas in Vietnam. Located beside the Thanh Nien Road, it is in the area of Yen Phu village with the temple honoring the God. There is a procession of the temple to pagoda every year with the group of boat. The pagoda was built since VI century. In 1615, the river side was broken to the side of the pagoda; therefore it is relocated inside the deck. The pagoda was renamed many times: An Quoc, Tran Bac, Tran Quoc, etc.
Tran Quoc pagoda is located in the East peninsula of West Lake and its road to the pagoda was built by brick to connect it to Thanh Nien road. There are two lines of straight high trees to beautify the landscape. There is a tower garden with many towers. There is a bo tree inside the ground of the pagoda, which was the gift from the president of India when he visited Hanoi in 1959. This is one of the beautiful pagodas of North Vietnam with the history of 1500 years.
Tay Ho temple is located in a peninsula in the middle of West Lake. It was the area of an ancient village but now it is Quang An ward, Tay Ho district, Hanoi. Tay Ho temple worships Lieu Hanh Goddess – one of the representatives of Mau (mother) faith in Vietnam. She was Quynh Hoa, daughter of the Jade Emperor, who was exiled to the earth for breaking the precious stone cup. She traveled around and stayed in this area for the nice view. Quynh Hoa disappeared after seeing Trang Bung Phung Khac Khoan for poem retorting. People made a temple to worship and named God of Lieu Hanh and considered one of the four immortals. The Tay Ho temple is also related to the legend of gold buffalo and there is also a temple worshipping the buffalo named Kim Nguu De inside the temple.
In the occasion of first lunar month day, people crowdedly pilgrim to this temple. They wish for the peace and luck for their lives. Before coming to the entrance door, there are some ancient trees with their roots cover around which overwhelmed the visitors. In that space visitors could be free to enjoy the harmony between the nature and people. Besides, Tay Ho also attracts customers for having the range of restaurant with the famous Banh Tom Ho Tay and Bun Oc (noodle of shellfish soup). Shrimp and shellfish are caught right in the west lake.
Ho Tay Water Park is also a complex of modern entertainment area. It is a nice combination of the nature and achievement of the people. With the area of more than 10ha, West Lake Park contained a water park and Mat Troi Moi (new sun) park with many kinds of games.
Coming to Ho Tay, we could not forget the ancient villages beside the lake like Xuan Tao, Ho Khau, Vong Thi, Nghi Tam, Nhat Tan, Thuy Chuong, Quang Ba, with the famous craft jobs like making the giay do (paper made from the cover of the trunk of do tree), planning kumquat, peach trees, planning flowers, raising the fish, etc.