BackTravel » [Photos] Saigoneer Getaways: Dak Lak and an Abundance of Central Highlands Charm

[Photos] Saigoneer Getaways: Dak Lak and an Abundance of Central Highlands Charm

For many, Tet is a time to reunite with family they haven't seen in months. For those like me without relatives in Vietnam, it's the perfect time to take a break from increasingly stressful city life.

I spent my holiday on and around Lak Lake, a massive body of water about an hour south of Buon Ma Thuot, the provincial capital of Dak Lak. Fringed by rolling hills, farm land and livestock pastures, it's as far as one can get from the urban jungle of Saigon.

Villages populated by the M'Nong ethnic minority group stand in contrast to ethnic Vietnamese towns. Hiking, biking and other adventure options abound, though it's also hard to ignore the depressing elephant tourism available at one corner of the lake.

A steady breeze off the water takes the edge away from the Central Highlands dry season heat, and flocks of birds soar through the clear skies. In a word, it's stunning.

Serene Lak Lake on a dry season morning.

Verdant rice paddies, low-slung hills and vast skies are just what the doctor ordered.

Herds of ornery water buffalo occasionally block the dirt paths around the lake.

A relaxing tableaux along Lak Lake.

Discarded cacao pods at a farm. Dak Lak is a major producer of cacao for companies like Marou Chocolate.

Cacao beans drying in the sun.

Tourists ride on captive elephants. The province is home to some of Vietnam's last wild elephants, as well as many of their captured cousins.

A chained elephant under the watchful eyes, and spears, of its handlers.

Sailing toward sunset on immense Lak Lake.

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