Sunset at Turtle Lake
One of our favorite places in downtown Saigon is the circular pond at the intersection of Phạm Ngọc Thạch and Võ Văn Tần streets. Every afternoon, especially on the weekends, the pond becomes a popular area in which to hang out with friends, eat junk food and wait for night to fall.
According to one story, Turtle Lake was conceived during the presidency of Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, who had been told by a Feng Shui master that there was a dragon sleeping underneath Saigon. Its head was at the Presidential Palace, and its tail here at this intersection. The master advised trapping the dragon by placing a turtle atop its tail. The pond was built, and a large turtle statue placed inside it.
Today, the turtle is no longer to be found, but the name remains. There aren’t actually any live turtles here, which would have been nice to know before I spent fifteen minutes searching for them. The pond has a number of interconnecting walkways, a large viewing platform over its center, and a tall, concrete flower blooming in its center.
It’s very gray, and not exactly the world’s most gorgeous spot, but the atmosphere around Turtle Lake makes up for it. A wide range of street food vendors are set up around the pond’s perimeter, and students grab snacks such as Bắp Xào (fried corn), Trứng Cút Nướng (quail eggs) or Bánh Tráng Trộn (bags of crushed rice paper), then find a free spot to sit and dangle their feet over the water.
Central, strange, and entertaining, Turtle Lake is a great place to search out if you’d like to see Saigon at its most relaxed.