When I first flew into Vietnam, I landed in Hanoi. After travelling through Laos, Vietnam was a bit of a shock — it’s more frantic and dirty than any city I’ve ever been to, even crazier than London, Paris, Bangkok and New York all put together. Crossing the street is a matter of life and death, people yell at you in foreign dialects for no apparent reason and you better not let the crowds push you off the sidewalk — the gutter is full of sewage.
But amidst all the indescribable hustle and bustle, there’s an oasis smack dab in the middle of the city — a beautiful lake surrounded by a equally stunning park is a welcome refuge for a weary traveler. And there’s a little castle right in the center on it’s own little island. It’s pretty surreal.
Here’s something I didn’t know about this little lake — there’s a well-known giant turtle in those waters who calls the lake his home.
The Great Grand Turtle, also known as Professor Turtle or Rafetus Leloi, has been emerging from the waters a record number of times this year — 78 to be exact, compared with around 50 last year — and it’s hoped he will pop up more often. In fact, scientists are trying to clean up pollution around the lake to guarantee it. Appearances are a delight to school children and tourists in Hanoi, because it’s believed the turtle was instrumental in the magic that fought off Ming invaders from China in the 15th century.
No wonder they call him the Great Grand Turtle — he’s 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) long and 1.1 meters (3ft 7 in) wide, and he weights 200 kg (440 lb)!