Lak Lake Vietnam in photos

Lak Lake Vietnam in photos

Lak Lake in the Central Highlands of Vietnam is a magical place.

In this article the photographs will tell their own story about this wonderful region.  Join me as I show you beautiful, tranquil images from this region   I spent almost a week recharging my batteries with my friend, the extremely talented photographer Gosia, living in communal longhouses, cycling around dusty lanes and paddy fields and getting to know the local people.

Lak Lake, reflections

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

It was here at Lak Lake that I finally, eventually came to love Vietnam.  Most people live in traditional villages with the majority of the homes being the wooden communal longhouses.  The residents are farmers, working hard in the paddy fields, walking their buffalo and cattle to the fields each day and rearing the friendly little black Vietnamese pigs and chickens.

Lak Lake sunset

sunset over Lak Lake


Lak Lake dawn

Dawn over Lak Lake

If you want the opportunity to travel with me and experience sights like this for yourself I can now offer you the chance.  Read more about it on my Travel with Me page here


Lak Lake paddy fields

hard at work preparing the rice fields for planting


Lak Lake beautiful lady

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

The lady above had childlike qualities.  She would wander around the village muttering quietly to herself and moving with perfect grace and poise.  Gosia gave her some biscuits.  The lady sat down and seemed confused by this action which is when Gosia took this image of her.

Lak Lake cows

taking the cows home through the town


Lake Lake farmers

taking the farm workers home


Lak Lake fishing

fishing on the shallow lake


Lak Lake market

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

I love the grumpy face on this market trader. She agreed to her photograph being taken but refused to smile for it.

Lak Lake lake

we cycled several hours in searing heat to get to this reservoir


Lak Lake children

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

We stopped at a roadside cart selling sugar cane juice.  These three little girls were playing outside their home and pretending to be shy.  Their father (the juice seller) was encouraging them to come over and chat to us.  This photograph was totally unposed

Lak Lake bamboo

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska


Lak lake motorcyclists

motorcyclists stopping for directions


Lak Lake transport

transporting troops I think


Lak Lake sunset

another stunning sunset across the paddy fields


:Lak Lake transport

more transport options. Sadly the elephant rides were quite popular with the day trippers


31 people in a 15 seater minivan. For 5 HOURS!!!

31 people in a 15 seater minivan. For 5 HOURS!!!  No air conditioning and copious vomiting by the Vietnamese


Lak Lake lunchbreak

ladies herding their buffalo breaking for lunch in the shade


Lak Lake kids

taking the kids to school


Lak Lake children

children playing in their family boat


Lak Lake goat

a friendly goat


Lak Lake wedding

the wedding marquee set up in the main street


Lak Lake wedding

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

Drinking rice whiskey, rice wine and rice vodka at the wedding.

Lak Lake beds

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

We stayed in three different communal longhouses.  This was the first one


Lak Lake paddy fields

Paddy fields


Lak Lake fish

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska


Lak Lake homes

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska


Lak Lake longhouses

traditional communal longhouses

Every village had its own customs, house designs and traditions.  In some of them, the number of windows would signify the number of females in the home.  Each time a girl was born a new window would be cut out of the side of the house.

Lak Lake lunch

Woller choosing his breakfast


Lak Lake motorbike

wide load #noroadrules


Lak Lake motorbike

nothing is impossible

I helped this lady load her motorbike as she couldn’t balance the boxes and tie them all down by herself.  I watched her ride away with my heart in my mouth – hoping that I had strapped things down properly with her

Lak Lake motorbike

problem? what problem?


Lak Lake breakfast

our favourite breakfast stop in the market

This lady would bring all the other stall holders over to watch us eating at her place.  She was so proud.  And hardworking. In the evenings she ran a food stall out on the street with her children helping her.

Lak Lake hammock

hammocks outside a roadside drink stall. So sensible


Lak Lake pigs

cute little piggies


Lak Lake baby

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

Another proud father on his motorbike who asked Gosia to take a picture of his daughter

Lak Lake food

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska


Lak Lake food

roadside food stall

People hate the sun and wrap up tightly against it despite the heat.  To be brown signifies to be a poor farmer.  Pale is more beautiful

Lak Lake market

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

Would you eat your breakfast here?  This would be a perfect food challenge if you are doing the Smash the Pumpkin Project.  Read about that project here and find out how challenging yourself with little things like where you eat your lunch can boost your self-confidence and self- esteem

Lak Lake sunset

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska


Lak Lake dancers

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

We gatecrashed a Russian tour group’s cultural evening.

Lak Lake cows

rural life


Lak Lake view

view across Lak Lake


Lak Lake coffee blossom

coffee blossom

The coffee shrubs were in full blossom when we were there.  The scent was amazing – similar to jasmine.

Lak Lake rice

drying rice in the road


Lak Lake cooking

cooking up the pigs lunch


Lak Lake bicycle

stopping for a break


Lak Lake children

meeting the kids

We had stopped for a beer at a tiny hut by the road.  I gave some old teeshirts to the mum.  They were worn and slightly damaged but she dragged me over to see her sewing machine and then dragged the kids over to pose with me.  She would alter them for the children

Lak Lake children

children by Lak Lake


Lak Lake children

kids are the same the world over

One evening there was a tap at our door and these two little boys came in.  They poked around our bags and belongings and then spotted the computer.  They only left when the battery ran flat

Lak Lake elephants

elephant rides at Lak Lake. Be a good traveller.  Don’t ride elephants


Lak Lake sunset

another sunset over Lak Lake


Lak Lake hostel

staying at the hostel on Lak Lake


Lak Lake rural scene

rural scene unchanged for years


Lak Lake cemetary

funeral flowers at the cemetery


Lak Lake reservoir

panoramic view at one of the reservoirs on our bike ride


Lak Lake reservoir

Peace and quiet


Lak Lake cycling

cycling along almost deserted dusty lanes


Lak Lake lotus flowers

green fields and lotus flowers in the lake


Lak Lake boat

ordinary people living their ordinary lives


food cooked by the side of the road

Photo: Gosia Czerwinska

You can read more about Lak Lake on my blog post at this link: Dalat Lake or Lak Lake.  What’s the difference?

Thank you to Gosia Czerwinska for some amazing photographs and some wonderful memories.

Dalat Lake or Lak Lake. What’s the difference?

Dalat Lake or Lak Lake. What’s the difference?

Lakes in the Central Highlands of Vietnam

Vietnam has lakes.  Lots of them!  Two of the most beautiful lakes – Dalat Lake and Lak Lake are in the Central Highlands – yet they couldn’t be more different from each other.

Dalat Lake

Dalat is a mountain town famous with honeymooners and romantics. At Dalat Lake manicured grass lawns sweep down to the water where boats shaped like swans float around and couples pose for selfies or drape themselves over each other dressed in beautiful wedding outfits.

Dalat Lake

Dalat Lake

On the hillsides above Dalat Lake you can catch glimpses of luxury villas which hail from another era.  They are painted in subdued pastels and sit safely behind walls and gates.  Dalat is sophistication rising above the chaos of a busy Vietnamese town.

The traffic spoils the peaceful looking views as it circles the main road around the lake.  Lorries heave themselves out of the town coughing grim grey smoke into the air and motorbikes are a constant buzzing nuisance until you get used to them and then you hardly pay them any attention any more.

I had arrived at Dalat Lake on the night bus from Hoi An, breaking for a couple of hours at five in the morning at Nga Trang and switching to a mini van for the journey up into the mountains.

Not long out of Hoi An our bus hit something.  It swerved and rocked violently and I was almost shaken from my precarious perch – top bunk in the centre.  The driver slowed right down but never stopped and I do still wonder what we hit.

on the night bus

night bus experience

There is a problem in many countries in S E Asia with hit and runs.  I am never too sure if it is an urban myth although there is stuff on the internet to support it.  The rule tends to be that if you injure a person you are responsible for their medical fees and for the support of their family which can obviously run into thousands and thousands of pounds whereas if you kill somebody you get a one off fine of maybe five thousand pounds!  Many stories circulate of drivers reversing over bodies to make sure of the fine rather than a lifetime of debt.

At night time the central square below the main market and close to Dalat Lake comes alive with street vendors selling food of all descriptions.  The bars and clubs thump out their beat and spill backpackers and locals alike out onto the pavements and everybody promenades around the town just waiting to be seen

There are rooms here to be had for the taking, from hostels to luxury pads. Many places are advertised as homestays although in reality they are family run hostels.

Dalat Lake in the sun

Dalat Lake in the sunshine

Vietnam is a country with a coffee culture and everywhere vendors serve the best coffee in the world from tiny little shops or street stalls.  People perch on their little plastic chairs while the caramel, smokey flavoured nectar drips tantalisingly slowly through the filter and into their cup.

There are many things to see and to do at Dalat Lake.  There is of course the lake itself, there is the Crazy Hotel which a labyrinth of weird.  Here tourists pay to wander around the grounds, tunnels and passages have been constructed throughout the building and across the roof stairways designed by goblins curl up to tiny little snooks in something that reminded me of Gaudi on acid.   Outside the town there are a riot of waterfalls and beauty spots waiting to be explored.  You can easily pick up a guide from one of the touts or tour operators in town and go off on an organised tour or hire a scooter and ride out yourself.

Dalat Lake, Crazy Hotel

Crazy Hotel

Lak Lake

In total contrast to Dalat Lake, this vast expanse of water at Lak – the largest natural body in Vietnam – is edged by paddy fields, reeds and forest.  The villages that surround Lak Lake are populated by some of the ethnic tribes who still live, for the most part in their traditional communities.

Long wooden communal houses on stilts turned silver in the strong sunshine blend with the trees.  Buffalo and pot bellied pigs live underneath the homes, wandering along the dusty mud street looking for scraps while chickens squawk and chase each other, avoiding the elephants which wander along.

Lak Lake

elephant crossing Lak Lake

Yes, you did read that correctly.  Elephants are owned and worked here – sadly now for tourists to ride, but they have owners who commute on them and who ride them to their homes, tying them under a shady tree while they go and have their lunch.

Here the noise, depending on the season, is of the primitive looking tractors which plough up and down in the gloopy muddy water as the villagers prepare to plant the rice, the wind makes the ears of rice hum and the lake water shiver, the occasional ‘plosh’ as the fisherman quietly throw their nets from their wooden canoes and the grunting of contented, happy animals settling down under the wooden homes to sleep.

Lak Lake sunset

peace and tranquillity at Lak Lake


There is a tiny restaurant for when you want your coffee fix, or you could go to the local shop where the owner will drag her little table over to the edge of her patch and you can take your coffee with Lak Lake as a backdrop.

There is a lodge here which offers rooms – private and in a shared dormitory, a small guesthouse and there are homestays. These homestays are in the communal longhouses on their wooden stilts.  You may end up in a large room with simple mattresses on the floor and mosquito nets all by yourself or you may be sharing with 10 other people and with the family sleeping behind a curtain at the other end of the room.

Lak Lake communal home

traditional communal homes at Lak Lake

There are a few bicycles for hire so take yourself off into the surrounding countryside.  You won’t be bored as you cycle through the different villages each with subtle differences in housing and the people, through the rice fields where the workers always jump up and wave a cheery hello, along the forest paths or across the river on one of S E Asia’s floating planks ferries.

Evening entertainment for us was being invited to see a traditional dance and music presentation, sitting on a log by Lak Lake and watching the stars, wandering into the local town for unidentifiable but excellent street food and, on one very blurry night, being dragged into a local wedding party.

Every day a new tent would be erected outside a groom’s family home (or the bride’s, depending on whether the village people were a matriarchal or a patriarchal group). The basic marquee with brightly coloured curtains of fabric would then host a few days of serious drinking and partying and karaoke turned up at full volume which would blast across the lake.

Gosia and I were stood listening to a live band which was playing in one marquee and we were commenting on the numerous plastic water bottles which were on the tables when the drummer broke off his playing and came outside to drag us in.

Lake Lake wedding party

the bride and groom

Sitting us in the thick of the celebrations we then became the attraction with the bride and groom and their family lining up to have photos taken with them, they brought us plates of food and people kept insisting that we drink the water.

Eventually, frustrated by our reluctance to just drink water at a wedding party, one guy on our table grabbed some shot glasses and handed them to us.  Oh well, water shots was a new one on me but not wanting to offend I downed it in one.

Water? Seriously, this was rice whiskey at its roughest. Choking back tears as the liquid burnt my throat the ladies then brought over the gourd from which you drink from a shared straw.  Rice wine, rice whiskey and lao cao, I’m not sure which was which by the time we staggered home but I woke up the next day with a hangover from hell.

Returning to the home with a tin of biscuits as a thank you present, there was no sign that there had been a party; just a family of the hairy black Vietnamese pigs snuffling about where the marquee had stood.

Which lake is the best?

I am going to sit on the fence here and advise you to visit both Dalat Lake and Lak Lake.  They offer totally different experiences and the bus ride from Dalat to Lak is worth it just by itself.

Do stay in one of the communal longhouses in Lak and do go and get your breakfast at the local market. You really should cycle around the countryside and dodge the herds of cows which wander up the main street on their way to and from their grazing and you should certainly sample a Vietnamese pizza from one of the ladies cooking on the steps at the night market in Dalat.

Lak Lake, cows end elephants

bringing the cows (and the elephants) home

The minibus ride to beat all minbus rides

It seemed every minivan ride that we had taken in Laos and then Vietnam was squashed and oversubscribed so when we got into our fifteen-seater for the five hour ride back to Dalat and there were spaces to spare Gosia and I were overjoyed.

Just twenty minutes into our journey we stopped at a local ethnic community where three teenage girls were waiting with, we thought half of of the village gathered to wave them off

The three girls got on – and then the rest of the village until it was physically impossible to push anybody else in through the door.  They were sitting in the foot-well, lying in the aisle and standing behind each row of seats holding on tight, occasionally collapsing onto the knees of the people behind them.

And then we continued, swerving around switchbacks for four and a half hours, my camera was passed around for hundreds of selfies and the plastic bags came out as just about everybody started to vomit.

There were THIRTY ONE people in a minivan for fifteen but not one person complained moaned or was miserable despite the vomiting and the cramped conditions.  It is a lesson to us all – be grateful for what you have.  The alternative was no ride to the town.

There is a transport challenge in the Smash the Pumpkin Project.  I certainly think that this minivan ride would fit the criteria for that challenge.

Check out this page and discover how you can build your self confidence with a series of motivational challenges.  I have also decided to plan my travels a little more so that I can give some of you the opportunity to travel with me (click here for more information).

I would love for you to join me later this year in Spain or early next year in Malaysia, but in the meantime, you can continue to get your travel fix by signing up for regular updates to my blog in the box on my website

I look forward to connecting with you.  Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

Dalat Lake view

Dalat Lake




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