Vietnam lakes can be found just about everywhere in the country because of its many rivers. Two of the greatest rivers in Asia flow through the country—the Red River and the Mekong River. As these rivers shifted course over the millennia, many lakes were formed by the resultant oxbows. Additionally, many lakes were created by canals, levees, and damns, particularly in the two large delta areas. The Red River Delta begins around the capital city, and thus the lakes in Hanoi are famous. The Mekong Delta covers virtually the entire southern portion of the country (all the way into neighboring Cambodia), and lakes were created here primarily to irrigate the extensive rice paddies.
A notable exception to the Vietnam lakes created by rivers or by humans is Ba Be, located north of Hanoi and only about 50 miles from the border with China. This is the largest natural freshwater lake in the country, and is protected by a national park. It is actually three lakes that are joined and is located in vast karst mountains similar to the karst formations in Halong Bay. In addition to the lakes, there are numerous caves and excellent hiking and cycling trails.
It is the lakes in Hanoi that are the most famous. They serve as beautiful romantic spots just as the canals of Venice in Italy do. There are nearly twenty lakes in and around the city, several of which figure prominently in the history and literature of the region and city. You will find Dong Ho drawings and paintings of these lakes in Hanoi when shopping at the Dong Xuan traditional market in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the very center of the city. It is undoubtedly the most famous of these, and is part of the city’s creation myth. It additionally is one of the borders of the Old Quarter, and a useful landmark to orient yourself when exploring on your own.
Hoan Kiem Lake is extremely popular with the local residents. Like Central Park in New York City, this is where the residents come for romantic moonlit strolls and cruises, jogging, and tai chi and martial arts classes. Many visit some of the city’s most beautiful pagodas here. Located in the center of Hoan Kiem Lake is the Tortoise Pagoda, accessible only by the exquisite Bridge of the Rising Sun. The bridge is typical of those found in Chinese temples.
West Lake Hanoi boasts a circumference of a bit more than ten miles, and is the largest lake in the city. This one was created hundreds of years ago by an oxbow of the Red River. There are a number of pagodas here, as well as some of the finest of the city’s luxury hotels and dining spots.
Other Vietnam lakes can be found on islands around Halong Bay and in the Mekong Delta around Ho Chi Minh City. Things to do at Vietnamese lakes around Halong Bay include swimming, hiking, and diving in caves. In the Mekong Delta, you can book river cruises, some lasting for several days on deluxe river ships and others just day excursions on traditional sampans.