Southeast Asia is often known for its beautiful beaches or mountainous landscapes but much less for its lakes. However, the lakes of Southeast Asia offer a beautiful diversity of landscapes and allow you to discover real places to live. By visiting the lakes of Southeast Asia, you will have an original experience, less touristic and closer to the local population.
The charm of Lake Inlé
One of the most beautiful lakes in Southeast Asia
Lake Inle, in Burma, is a real jewel perched at an altitude of 1000 meters. On a trip to Myanmar; you can discover these unique landscapes of 120 km² of fresh water surrounded by large mountains. In addition to being a magnificent place, the lake is an important place to live with 70,000 inhabitants in its surroundings. Many of them live in the floating villages surrounding the lake, which include dozens of houses on stilts. These traditional villages have totally adapted to their environment and their life is punctuated by the lake.
You will have the opportunity to meet many fishermen, essential for the life of the region. Indeed, the populations feed mainly on the lake’s resources. These fishermen perform a unique choreography by rowing on one leg, a pleasure for travellers looking for an original photo. The inhabitants also grow fruit and vegetables directly on the lake. During various boat tours, you can sneak through these plantations.
Immerse yourself in the heart of life on the Lake
“The 5-day market” is a must on Lake Inlé. This market brings together the inhabitants of the surrounding villages to exchange fruits, vegetables or fish. You will have the opportunity to enjoy a privileged experience by observing the traditional economic life of these local populations. This market changes location every day by moving around 5 different places, hence its name: “the 5-day market”. We recommend the Nam Pan market which is quite large and not very touristy.
The village of Indein also hosts the five-day market but it is interesting to visit it to discover its many stupas. These Buddhist temples with their original architecture contrast with the usual landscape around Lake Inle. To access the village, you can navigate in the small Inn Thein stream, which is only accessible during the rainy season. It is interesting to observe the contrast between the renovated pagodas and those left as they have been for decades.
Ba Be Lake, a discreet place in northern Vietnam
A preserved national park
Ba Be Lake is located in Vietnam within the National Park of the same name. The place hides a diversity of species quite unique in Vietnam with “1268 species of animals and plants” according to the park. The lake is therefore located in an exceptional setting between forests and mountains. Ba Be includes three small lakes: Pe Lam, Pe Lu and Pe Leng for a total of 650 hectares and a depth of about 20 meters on average. Travellers who go to the lake experience this excursion as a real break with the dynamism of Vietnam.
An excursion beyond Ba Be Lake
By going to Ba Be Lake, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the activities inside the park. Starting with the Puong cave, 30 metres high and 300 metres long! This huge cave was formed with the currents of the Ba Be Rivers. Today, the cave welcomes thousands of bats of 18 different species so be careful!
A few villages also occupy the park and it is always interesting to visit them. The village of Pac Ngoi, which has been preserving its traditions for generations, is ideal to discover how people live within this particular environment. Authentic houses on stilts overlook the lake to blend into the landscape. The village of Ban Cam is also worth a visit. This isolated place in the valley is home to the Tay ethnic group, the second largest ethnic group in Vietnam.
The park is located in northern Vietnam; you can visit it very well after an excursion in Ha Giang district for example. The lake is also accessible from Hanoi after a 5-hour drive.
The Tonle Sap, the largest lake in Southeast Asia
The central point of Cambodia
The Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, is the true heart of Cambodia! This lake, which covers an area of 12,000 km² during the rainy season, it accounts for 75% of the country’s fishing. Fish caught in the lake provide protein for two-thirds of Cambodia’s population. Designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO since 1997, Tonle Sap is home to no less than 400 marine species. However, for several years now, illegal fishing, overpopulation and deforestation have considerably reduced family fishing. The government and NGOs are putting measures in place to try to ensure some stability for the lake’s inhabitants.
The 2 million people who live around the lake have also adapted completely to life on the lake. There are many houses, schools and markets floating around the lake. By visiting Tonlé Sap, you will have the opportunity to discover a unique way of life.
What to visit in Tonle Sap?
Our favourite is the floating village of Kompong Phluk where many fishermen live. This village, protected from mass tourism, is an ideal place to meet local people. The houses on stilts are about 7 metres high, which is even more impressive during the dry season. In monsoon season, you can also sail through the flooded forest near the village for an unusual excursion!
We recommend that you visit Prek Toal, the largest bird sanctuary in Southeast Asia. Accessible by boat from Siem Reap or Battambang, the park has a rather impressive diversity of birds. Little present in the tourist routes, Prek Toal is a perfect stopover to discover a rich and peaceful corner of nature.
The 5 lakes of Bach Ma
Bach Ma is an exceptional natural park, ideal for all nature lovers. The 20,000 hectare site is mountainous and hilly, offering magnificent views. Near Hué, we advise you to visit the park for a day during a stay in central Vietnam. Bach Ma has an area of 220 km² and is located in one of the wettest areas in Vietnam, which can give it the appearance of a jungle. At the time of colonization, this park was a holiday resort for the French with residences and even a hospital.
The place is most often preferred by trekking enthusiasts. Indeed, many hiking trails enter the dense forests of Bach Ma. A path leads along the “5 lakes”, which is of particular interest to us here. The 5 small wild lakes have nothing to do with the previous Asian lakes we presented to you. These wells were formed in the middle of a long waterfall, which makes them unique. They are located in the middle of dense vegetation, which makes them very wild. The bravest can even swim after a challenging hike.