Do you remember our post that talked about seeing brides everywhere near the Tràng Tiền Plaza? For the first time today we actually went inside plaza, renamed by Kian as the "Royal Mall", just to check it out. The mall is actually still very much a work in progress. Only the 1st, 2nd, and 5th floors are open, and even those are only partially complete. It is indeed a very fancy shopping plaza, home to only the best and certainly expensive brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Rolex, etc. We walked in from one side and walked right out from the other!
As we continued our walk towards Ngoc Son Temple, we decided to check out a statue we kept seeing every time we walk to the Old Quarter. We were really curious to find out who it is supposed to be.
It turns out this is the statue of Ly Thai To. He was an emperor that reigned from 1009 to 1028 AD, and he is important for having moved the capital of Vietnam to Hanoi in 1010. We had only stood there for maybe 3 minutes before a few groups of Vietnamese people joined us to take pictures with the statue and ... of course ... with Kian and Hannah!! It is getting a little silly that we can't go anywhere without our kids being picked up or asked to smile for a picture with complete strangers, as nice as they may be!
Ngoc Son Temple & The Legend of Sword Lake
We crossed over the Red Bridge, known as the "Welcoming Morning Sunshine Bridge", and entered the Ngoc Son Temple for a very small fee (children entered for free). The temple itself has many similarities to the Temple of Literature, which we visited a few days ago, however it was the legend of how sword lake received its name that intrigued us the most.
Legend has it that in the 15th century, King Le returned a precious sword to the genius tortoise of Hồ Lục Thủy, the former name of Hồ Gươm (Sword Lake). Since then, the lake has a new name: Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, meaning Lake of Sword Restored, or just Hồ Gươm for short. Over the past centuries, people have and still do believe that the sacred sword is buried somewhere at the bottom of the lake.
We finally understood why the tower in the middle of the lake is known as the tortoise tower.
I always love reading about legends. If you have watched the Disney movie Brave, then you know that "legends are lessons, and they ring with truths".
We enjoyed our leisurely walk around the temple and its gardens before heading out towards the Old Quarter. We didn't spend much time there, but there is always so much happening there that we always snap a few random pictures of every visit!
Pho Ga is a local pho place recommended to us by the person who owns the apartment we are staying at. Like our neighborhood in general, the "restaurant" (I put it in quotes because there is no actual restaurant, they just setup shop on the sidewalk with some tables, chairs, and cooking equipment!) is free of tourists and full of Vietnamese people, and the pho is delicious and cheap! Oh my goodness, so cheap! We had 3 huge bowls of yumtastic pho for $3.50! What!
The broth is really what makes it so good! It is not spicy when it is first brought out, and this is great for the kids. On the tables you can find slices of lemon, small slices of hot pepper (with potent powers!), a jar of garlic juice with sliced pieces of garlic in it, and of course hot sauce. It is up to you how spicy you want to eat your pho.
On our walk back home, the sweet smell of waffles literally stopped us in our tracks! We knew it smelled like waffles, and it more or less looked like waffles, but we had to ask, "what is this?", to which a Vietnamese girl replied, "Egg Bubble Waffles".
We took 2 to go...$1 each!
Oh and they were delicious and sweet! Thanks Mr. Xoay... The bubble waffles made our night!