Hoan Kiem Lake (Ho Hoan Kiem)
Address: Le Thai To, hanoi
Open hours: Dawn to dusk, daily
This small lake between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter is central to Hanoian folklore. A ghostly shrine (the Turtle Pagoda) standing on an islet at its center pays homage to a golden turtle. In the 15th century, this heroic reptile is said to have returned a magic sword to its home in the lake after it had been taken. These days, the sculptured park along the banks plays host to postcard sellers, hawkers, old men playing chess, freelance money changers, lone photographers looking for a lucrative snap and, at about 5am every day, locals practicing tai chi.