C: Alana Harris – Unsplash

COVID-19 has made the past year a terrible one for tourism. But as people around the world get vaccinated, the wanderlust you’ve suppressed might start gnawing at you. If that’s the case, you can try seeing these five beautiful lakes in Southeast Asia once it’s safe to do so.

Kayangan Lake (Philippines)

Tucked between the limestone cliffs of Coron Town, Palawan, Vogue reports that the Kayangan Lake in the Philippines is swarmed by tourists each year, and for good reason. To reach it, you have to take a boat ride, then endure a 10-minute hike after. But those willing to put in the work are rewarded with a breathtaking sight: gorgeous, crystal-clear waters and jagged underwater rock formations, all set against a backdrop of lush flora.

Aside from enjoying the scenery, you can go snorkeling to explore the underwater cliffs, or climb the surrounding mountains to find the perfect spot for an Instagram-worthy photo.

West Lake (Vietnam)

West Lake in Vietnam is the largest lake in Hanoi, and it’s steeped in local mythology. According to ExpatBets’ Vietnam travel guide, the river originated from a fierce battle between a nine-tailed fox spirit and the dragon King Lac Long Quan.

You will be hard-pressed to run out of things to do in West Lake. It’s surrounded by hotels, boutiques, and restaurants. There is even a floating one that makes for a memorable dining experience. For a more spiritual excursion, head to the Quan Thanh Temple, where travelers are encouraged to pray for blessings during their trip.

Sun Moon Lake (Taiwan)

Like Vietnam’s West Lake, the Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan is also surrounded by rich cultural lore. The lake currently houses the Thao tribe, and according to legend, the early Thao hunters stumbled upon it when they were hunting a white spotted deer. The tribesmen were so enamored of the greenery and abundant fauna in the lake’s waters that they decided to make it their home, so the story goes.

There are many activities to enjoy in Sun Moon Lake. Though swimming in the water is prohibited, you can take a boat ride across it to take in the crisp, fresh air. Alternatively, you can go on a cable car trip in the nearby aboriginal village to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the lake and the surrounding pagodas and temples. If you’re craving something more physical, the hiking at the Maolanshan Trail next to the lake is a great option.

Chini Lake (Malaysia)

Chini Lake, known locally as Tasik Chini, is the second biggest freshwater lake in Malaysia, and is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is composed of 12 interconnected bodies of water. Years ago, lotus flowers used to blanket the lake in the summer, but dam construction has greatly impacted their numbers. Still, those that do remain are a sight to behold.

A boat ride lets you go lotus flower viewing while exploring the different lakes that make up Tasik Chini. Once you’re done, you can head over to the Orang Asli settlement at Puput Village to buy lovely, handcrafted bamboo trinkets like combs, necklaces, and blowpipes to support the local economy. You can even try your hand at making these souvenirs yourself!

Lake Toba (Indonesia)

With how serene and tranquil the scenery is, no one would guess that Lake Toba had such a violent genesis story.

As the world’s largest crater lake, Lake Toba was born from the eruption of the Toba super volcano roughly 74,000 years ago. Today, it’s home to a thriving Batak community whose ancient relics and customs you can learn about when you visit. Heritage and tourism go hand in hand at Lake Toba. This is evident when you explore the volcanic Samosir Island – nestled in the middle of the lake – to immerse yourself in the local culture.

There’s no shortage of must-see tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, and these lakes are just the tip of the iceberg. Try visiting them the next time you’re on vacation!

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