Tran Quoc Pagoda, Chùa Trấn Quốc in Vietnamese, is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi and dates back to the 6th century. The story of the pagoda is told on a stele from 1639. Apparently, it was founded on the red river during the early Ly-Dynasty of Emperor Lý Nam Đế. However, after a flooding, the pagoda was moved to its present location on the West Lake in 1615.
The pagoda is connected to the mainland via the palm-lined Thanh Nien causeway and despite urbanization, the Tran Quoc Pagoda has mostly been able to retain its original look. Most recognizable is the stupa composed of 11 floors whose windows all hold gemstone statues. It towers above the other buildings and casts a shimmering reflection across the lake. The design of the pagoda and the rest of the complex adheres strictly to the rules of Buddhist architecture, with buildings forming layers, connecting floors and exact adherence to symmetry. Behind the main altar stocked with an array of statues, Buddha images and replicas of Daoist entities, a small garden invites to relax. The mighty Bodhi tree that grows there was a gift from the former Indian President Nehru Jawaharlal during a state visit in 1958. It was taken as a cutting from the original tree in Bodh Gaya, under which, according to the legends, Buddha sat and achieved his enlightenment.
Tran Quoc Pagoda can be found on the edge of West Lake on Tanh Nien Road. The pagoda opens daily from 7am to 11:30am and from 1:30pm to 6pm. Be aware that visitors must wear modest clothing with long sleeves to be allowed to enter.