The Charming Neighborhood of Truc Bach, Hanoi

Truc Bach’s narrowly spaced buildings alongside the nearby lake

photography by: Omri Westmark

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As life in the Vietnamese capital runs at a breakneck pace, it is often extremely hard to come across a hubbub-free place. Luckily though, a centrally located neighborhood by the name of Truc Bach offers a much-needed respite from the notorious hustle and bustle of Hanoi. Located along the lake with which it shares its name, this surprisingly quiet neighborhood is replete with trendy cafés, authentic eateries as well as plenty of sweeping urban vistas.

Whoever strolls in the exceedingly congested streets of Hanoi is promised a hodgepodge of scooter horns, tenacious touts and unwalkable pavements. It might come as an utter surprise, but there are also a couple of places throughout the city which managed to dodge this very hectic nature.


Nestled on the outskirts of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the neighborhood of Truc Bach gives its visitors the impression as if they were teleported here from a faraway place. With laid-back vibes, traffic-free streets and no gawking tourists, this serene enclave is a refreshing alternative to the city’s incessant din.


The neighborhood owes its name to the adjacent lake, hồ Trúc Bạch, which up until the 17th century was an indistinguishable part of its much larger counterpart, the West Lake (Hồ Tây). In the 1620’s, the residents of a lakeside hamlet opted to construct a massive dyke to facilitate their fishing practices, thereby cutting the lake into two separate bodies of water.


Since then, the fishing village has gradually evolved into a distinct part of the city, with its own unique history and urban design. In fact, in the early 18th century, a feudal ruler by the name of Trịnh Giang, erected a sumptuous palace on the lakefront, where concubines deemed as contumacious were incarcerated. As part of their reeducation program, the mistresses were tasked with weaving silk garments. These would later become a coveted luxury item, better known as “Bamboo Village Silk”.

While this ghastly prison no longer exists, other historical landmarks still stand across the neighborhood, perhaps the most notable of which being Đền Thủy Trung Tiên. Perching on an artificial island at the northwestern part of the lake, the well-hidden temple is apparently associated with a local fable that allegedly took place a millennium ago.


Legend has it that a female dog in Từ Sơn (now a satellite city of Hanoi) gave birth to a puppy, whose fur was emblazoned with a prophecy about a future king. A few years later, Lý Thái Tổ, who was born at the year of dog, became the emperor of Vietnam, purportedly resonating with that spooky revelation. As a tribute to this canine protagonist, a shrine was erected on a manmade isle, adorned with pagoda and sculptures of dog. After year of disrepair, the recently-resorted temple welcomes visitors and followers alike.

During the late 1950’s, the embankment which runs between the pair of lakes was turned into a four-lane road. Eagle-eyed visitors who walk along the busy thoroughfare will notice a small memorial dedicated to former US senator John McCain. As it turns out, at the height of the Vietnam War, McCain parachuted into the Trúc Bạch Lake after his plane was hit by an anti-aircraft missile. Soon thereafter, an angry mob attacked McCain, who was later taken as a prisoner of war.


In addition to its historical merit, this lakeside neighborhood is home to a plethora of worthy place to dine or sip a scrumptious Cà phê trứng (Vietnamese egg-yolk coffee). Furthermore, a well-maintained esplanade along the waterfront serves as breathtaking vantage point of the lake, whose murky waters are often infested with swan-shaped pedalos.