Vietnam // The central highlands //

Lak Lake

A hundred and fifty kilometres north of Da Lat and 40km south of Buon Ma Thuot, Highway 27 passes serene LAK LAKE, a charming spot that has become very popular with tourists. Five thousand people, mostly from the Mnong community, once lived on the lake itself, but have since moved into distinctive longhouses in shoreside villages. There are a number of (slightly cheesy) activities available here, including musical gong performances and elephant rides; note that the latter can no longer be recommended, since you’ll be sitting atop a metal cage that’s doubtless extremely painful for the poor pachyderm. Still, the lake itself is a glorious place, as once attested by Emperor Bao Dai himself – he grabbed some of the best sites in southern Vietnam for his many palaces, so it comes as no surprise to learn that he had one here, in a prime spot on a small hill overlooking the lake. The palace is long gone, but the site is now home to a small hotel.