Lak Lake, Vietnam

Lake Locations:

Vietnam -

Also known as:  Ho Lak

One of the few places in the world where visitors can meet the elusive M’nong people of Vietnam is beautiful Lak Lake. Here in the Central Highlands, several minority ethnic groups collectively called Montagnards practice their traditional way of life along the changing shores of the country’s second largest natural lake. The shoreline changes as the lake expands to over 1,730 acres during the rainy season. During the dry period, the lake shrinks to around 1,000 acres, leaving the exposed wet areas to be planted in rice. Worked with water buffalo, the rice paddies provide picture-book scenery against green and forested mountains. Sunrise and sunset across Lak Lake are delightful, and many visitors come here just for the photographic possibilities. The lake has always had a reputation for beauty. The last feudal emperor, King Bao Dai, built a palace overlooking the lake which he used for hunting and training military elephants. Sadly, the palace no longer exists.

Lak means lake in the M’nong language. Although the alternative name is Ho Lak, most tourism websites refer to the water body as Lak Lake. The lake drains north into the Krong Ana River. During the dry season, Lak Lake averages less than six feet in depth. Lotus and water lilies rim the shore. The local people depend on Ho Lak’s waters for fish to supplement their diet. About 150 tons of small fish are caught each year, mostly netted by native fishermen from small dug-out canoes. Visitors looking for more authentic adventure come for canoe rides in the dugouts made from a single hollowed-out log and for elephant rides across the lake in the dry season. From their high perch atop the backs of the elephants, riders remain dry and can view the surprisingly unafraid fish swimming in the water.

Two ethnic villages are located on the shoreline of Ho Lak. In Jun Village, the native people live in longhouses, containing several related families. Often these longhouses are on stilts to remain above high water in the rainy season. Although there are a couple of more modern lodgings along the lake, reviews run the gamut in terms of their quality. Many visitors arrange with their tour groups to enjoy a ‘homestay’ in one of the longhouses where they will take part in family meals and possibly witness a traditional evening gong performance. Authentic souvenirs of the local peoples can be purchased here. M’nong crafts include cotton weaving, mostly by women. Men weave basketry of bamboo and rattan. A matriarchal society, newlyweds live with the wife’s family.

Many of the tours arrange for boat passage across the lake to visit the small National Forest Reserve of Lak Lake on the north shore. This area experienced heaving fighting during the Vietnam War and much deforestation during French Colonial occupation for agriculture, so the remaining stands of natural forest have been placed under protection as reserves. Although this mountainous area has been little surveyed, at least three new mammal species have been discovered in the Central Highlands in the past few years. Statistics show at least 61 animal species, 132 bird species, 548 plant types and 43 kinds of amphibians and reptiles in the region, many found nowhere else. Some of the men in the local community pride themselves on their ability to capture and train young elephants for the purpose of providing elephant rides across the lake.

Settlement around Ho Lak appears very different than more populous cities with major influence from Western civilization. Here things are done the way they have been done for untold generations. Although the M’nong and other Montagnards are considered mountain dwellers, as the name Montagnard signifies, their entire culture is tightly tied to water. Many of their ceremonies and stories invoke rivers and lakes. According to M’nong legend, the God of Water and the God of Fire engaged in a heated battle. The battle was won by the God of Fire, who immediately caused a drought. A young man, child of a local M’nong woman and the God of Fire, went looking for water for his people. During his quest, he found and saved a small eel from dying for lack of water. As a reward, the eel led him to Ho Lak where his people could settle and thrive.

Vietnam’s Central Highlands have often been the battleground for war. The central plateau borders both Cambodia and Laos. The M’nong and other Montagnard tribes are Vietnamese citizens but not ethnic Vietnamese. They have suffered persecution by both South Vietnam and unified Vietnam. Forced colonization of their lands, to which they had no legal title until recently, has brought in many ethnic Vietnamese, called Kinh, to clear forests for coffee plantations and the current planned agricultural economy. Once the dominant culture, the M’nong are now reduced to about 15% of the local population of Dak Lak Province. Even their traditional wooden longhouses are under threat as government factions feel they use too much wood-wood that could be harvested and sold. Although efforts are underway to protect their cultural and human rights and secure valid modern title to their lands, the M’nong and other Montagnard tribes are endangered as they resist modernizing influences and the demands of Communism. Tourism is one of the few ways in which their way of traditional life can be supported and strengthened.

Many types of tours come to Ho Lak (usually referred to in their brochures as Lak Lake). Ho Lak can be reached by tour bus in about an hour from Buon Ma Thuot, capital of Dak Lak Province. Buon Ma Thuot is a much bigger city and has other forms of lodgings. Many tourists choose to visit Ho Lak for the day and return to Buon Ma Thuot at night. A number of bicycling tour organizations plan Ho Lak as a featured stop on their tours as do the popular motorbike tours. There is little information on camping facilities publicly available, but several tour companies organize camping trips and treks into the Forest Reserves. Many of the tours leave from Da Lat a few hours to the south.

Unified Vietnam is relatively new to the tourism trade, and the government has yet to set up organized lodgings and tourist information. However, travel agents usually can find the most complete information and arrange the most suitable lodgings. So whether you choose a luxury hotel for your slumber or allow your adventurous nature to enjoy a homestay in a longhouse, Lak Lake has a variety of possibilities. Come to meet the M’nong before they exist in their traditional lifestyle no more.

*Few statistics are available for this lake.

Things to do at Lak Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Biking
  • Hunting
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Lak Lake

  • Eel
  • Perch

Lak Lake Photo Gallery

Lak Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,000 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,366 feet

Average Depth: 6 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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