With some extra time prior to our water puppet show, we decided to take a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. Although it isn't all that large (one could circumnavigate it in around 30 minutes), it is considered the spiritual heart of Hanoi and is a great orientation landmark. Park benches and paths ringed the lake. In the evening, people enjoyed the slightly cooler temperatures and went for a stroll. I even saw a wedding couple posing for photographs. In the early morning, the area was a popular place for doing tai chi and other exercising.
Besides the red Huc bridge, the other lake structure that caught my eye was the Turtle Tower. Erected in 1886, this tower is linked to the legend of a golden turtle god who asked the emperor for his magic sword - hence the name "Lake of the Restored Sword." The lake indeed is well known for its large freshwater turtles. In fact, the largest one recorded weighed 250 kilograms (550 pounds) and 2.1 meters (6.89 feet) long.
I loved the French colonial buildings across the street. Some were converted into cafés and high-class restaurants.
I bet this hotel cost quite a bit more than our $22/night place.
We were enjoying our leisurely stroll so much that we nearly were late for the water puppet show. Thank goodness we had spotted the show's location earlier, enabling us to quicken our paces and arrive just as it started.