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West Lake Story

Hanoi’s now-gentrified West Lake district still offers plenty of vistas of its picturesque past.(Reported by Nga Hoang. Credits: Tiger Tales Asia in-flight magazine)

As a city built on lowlands bounded by rivers, Hanoi has no shortage of waterfront retreats - and the West Lake area is up there with the best of them.

It serves as a rare green lung in the ever-growing concrete jungle. Once a sleepy, northern suburb thronging with fishing villages, the West Lake (or Tay Ho District to the locals) area now personifies ‘urban cool'.

Home to condominiums, upmarket restaurants and buzzing watering holes, the precinct offers all the elements of the cosmopolitan lifestyle coveted by modern city dwellers. At a much earlier time, the district was also a favorite with Vietnamese royalty who had their summer retreats at the West Lake about 400 years ago. With the fresh air, scenic views and tranquil surroundings that linger to this day, it's no wonder why.

Secluded and idyllic, the West Lake is as good a spot for fishing as it is for swimming. Fishing is a popular local pastime, but it is a real test of patience. Urban fishermen can be seen balancing themselves on stepping stones as they cast their bamboo poles out into the waters. They may spend a whole day under the baking sun and leave with nothing in their nets.

The odd charm of the area is manifested in the worn out, ghost-like Ferris wheel at Tay Ho Water Park. The park operates on an intermittent basis.

Young diving enthusiasts take pleasure in plunging from a high board at the water park.

The ceramic dragon gates at the far end of the West Lake were installed to mark the arrival of the Year of the Dragon, according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

Tran Quoc Pagoda (‘The Guardian of the Nation'), the oldest temple in Hanoi, dates back more than 1,500 years and draws a large number of worshippers and curious visitors. It juts out over a small island near the east bank of the West Lake. The six-sided brick tower has 11 levels, with each level housing small, white statues that represent the different stages of the life of Buddha.

There is a growing demand for scenic backdrops in the city, for photography sessions. The pier at Hanoi Kayak Club is a popular venue for pre-wedding shoots. Brides- and grooms-to-be, dressed in their full wedding attire, can be seen putting on public displays of affection for their photographers - much to the amusement of passers-by.

Father and son soak up the sunset at the West Lake.

With winding roads and minimal traffic, cycling is the ideal way to explore the shores of the West Lake.

Positioned on a peninsula in the middle of the West Lake, Phu Tay Ho pagoda stands as a tribute to Thanh Mau, the Mother Goddess of Vietnamese religious folk beliefs. She's believed to have appeared briefly - as a little girl - to a fisherman on the lake in the 17th century. On the first and 15th days of each lunar month, unwed couples go there to burn offerings in the hope that they will be blessed with good fortune and happiness.

A canon ball of fun

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Nga Hoang

Bitten by the storytelling bug at an early age, Hanoi-born freelance writer, Nga Hoang has evolved from an avid listener of her tailor-grandfather's exotic tales to a passionate writer and a hobbyist photographer. Her work has been published in a number of international publications such as Jetstar Asia Magazine, International Traveller Magazine, Luxury Travel Magazine, Voyeur Magazine and NZ Life & Leisure Magazine, etc. When not on assignment, she enjoys wandering aimlessly around the streets with her camera and capturing the odds and quirks of everyday life.