Once a part of the Red River which flows through Vietnam, the river was dammed a few thousand years ago to create West Lake, which, far from being some tacky tourist trap, serves as a reminder of how beautiful the natural life, flora and fauna, of Vietnam really are. An oasis of green beauty in the middle of the city, the West Lake is also an important piece of Hanoi culture, as you can talk to any one of the locals frequenting the area and chances are good that they can share with you some fascinating piece of local folklore about the lake and its history (determining whether these stories are true or just tall tales is, of course, part of the fun).
The lake has become something of a social hub, thanks to its convenient location. In short walking distance, you’ll find dozens of restaurants and cafes (coffee is another big part of Vietnamese culture), as well as temples, where the local Buddhists pray. The lake stretches across a 17km perimeter.