Lak Tented Camp | Independent Review

First published December 2020 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | REVIEW | MAP | RELATED POSTS

Spread over a lush hillside on a spur of land jutting into the water on the north shore of Lake Lak in the Dak Lak highlands, Lak Tented Camp is a wonderfully atmospheric accommodation with a deep attachment to the local community and natural environment. With just 15 spacious, safari-style tents, 4 luxury lakeside bungalows, a dorm, and a restaurant in a handsome wooden longhouse, Lak Tented Camp is a small-scale resort set in large grounds on the cusp of an enormous landscape, including the lake, mountains and forests. Only accessible by boat, Lak Tented Camp blends into its natural setting, offering guests comfort and amenities while making the most of the splendor, serenity and cultural heritage of its location. The nearest city, Buon Ma Thuot (45-60 minutes by road) is served by direct flights from Saigon, Danang and Hanoi, making Lak Tented Camp an easy getaway from the big city. Alternatively, stay here as a stopover on one of my highlands motorbike routes, such as the Dak Nong Geopark Loop or the Truong Son Dong Road.

*[To check rates, availability & make a reservation for Lak Tented Camp please BOOK HERE]

Lak Tented Camp, Lak Lake, Dak Lak, Vietnam

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REVIEW: LAK TENTED CAMP, DAK LAK


Address: Yok Nau Village, Lak Lake, Lak District, Dak Lak Province [MAP]

Average Rates: $60-$120 | Email: [email protected]

*Please support Vietnam Coracle: All my reviews are independently researched & financed. I never receive freebies of any sort in exchange for positive reviews or listings. If you use the links on this page to book your accommodation, I make a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

[Click the image below or BOOK HERE]


MAP:

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Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


The second largest naturally occurring lake in Vietnam (the largest being Ba Be) and apparently one of the deepest, Lake Lak (Hồ Lắk) sits in a scenic basin surrounded by farmland, jungle and mountains. Situated between the newly established Dak Nong Geopark and Chu Yang Sin National Park, the area is rich in natural attractions and cultural heritage, including many ethnic minority villages. Some 55km south of Buon Ma Thuot and 160km north of Dalat, Lake Lak has been on the travellers’ radar for over a decade now. However, it’s never gained much momentum. Part of the reason for this is the misconception that Dalat is the gateway to Lake Lak, rather than Buon Ma Thuot. The former is a 3-4 hour drive from the lake, whereas the latter is under an hour away by road. Furthermore, Buon Ma Thuot is now connected to Saigon, Danang, and Hanoi by regular direct flights making it far more accessible than ever before. Once you realize that Buon Ma Thuot is the entry point to Lake Lak, the prospect of a quick weekend getaway to Lak Tented Camp becomes much more of a possibility.     

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


This region of the Central Highlands has been crying out for a high-standard, atmospheric, environmentally conscious, locally inspired and locally involved accommodation for many years: Lak Tented Camp is that accommodation. Although it opened four years ago, Lak Tented Camp hasn’t really received the attention it deserves in travel media, social media, and forums. However, perhaps this is partly due to its limited capacity and relatively high rates: prices range from $50-$150 per night (not including the communal dorm) depending on the season and room type. But, considering the standard of accommodation, location, and availability of outdoor activities, these rates are about right.

I have form in visiting wonderful lakeside rustic-chic accommodation throughout Vietnam in foul weather – Thac Ba Lake and Ba Be Lake being memorable examples. But, even in the wet, windy and misty conditions during my visit, the appeal and atmosphere of Lak Tented Camp still shone through. (Unfortunately, though, because of the bad weather, you’ll have to imagine how much better the landscape and gardens in my images would look were the sun shining on them.)

In general, to see the camp and the lake at their best, visit during the early to mid dry season: November-February. At this time of year, the skies should be clear, the lake placid, the highland colours vivid, the light sharp, and the days warm but the evenings and mornings pleasantly cool. However, such is the ambience of Lak Tented Camp that the resort is fabulous in any weather: my experience, for example, was no less memorable in the rain, mist and cloud.

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Isolated on the north shore of the lake, Lak Tented Camp feels remote. Indeed, the resort is essentially cut-off from the surrounding area because, although there is road access, the way is very muddy and often impassable. The only reliable way to reach the camp is by boat from the jetty on the south shore of the lake (a bracing, thrilling, windy, and sometimes choppy voyage). This, of course, is part of the appeal of the location (and part of the fun of getting there and away). The boat ride only takes a few minutes: in sunny conditions, the lake looks fabulous; in wet conditions, it feels as though you’re crossing the River Styx to Hades’ underworld. (Watch your step going down the steep stairs to the jetty and along the floating pier when boarding and disembarking the boat, especially when wet.) As you approach from the lake, the tents come into view on your left, partially hidden in the foliage on the hillside.

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


From the jetty at Lak Tented Camp, reception is on the right, occupying the ground floor of a beautiful traditional wooden longhouse. The upper floor of this structure is the Y Lak Restaurant & Bar, a cosy place for a meal on a wet evening or, when the sun is shining, you can sit out on the terrace above the lake looking across the water to the mountains.

Accommodation is spread over a wide area: the 15 safari-style tents are mostly to the south of reception, splayed out on a hillside overlooking the lake and accessed via wooden stepped platforms and dirt pathways. The 4 lakeside bungalows, however, are to the north of reception, on a raised headland right on the waters edge. In addition to these, a communal dorm is located behind the vegetable and herb garden, sleeping between 4-8 guests. (When walking between guest rooms and the restaurant and around the resort grounds in general, take care because the pathways and steps can become slippery and muddy when wet.)

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Rates fluctuate depending on time of year, season and occupancy, but all three room types (tents, bungalows, and dorms) include breakfast and boat transfers to/from the resort. The tents ($60-$90/night) are significantly less expensive than the bungalows ($120-$160/night), but the latter are significantly more luxurious and spacious. The communal dorm, of course, is the cheapest option ($20/night per person, minimum 4 guests).

Costs aside, the type of accommodation you choose depends entirely on your taste and what you’re here to experience. Personally, I loved the closeness to nature that you get in the tents – the sound of the wind through the trees, the cool lake breeze coming through the mesh windows, the nighttime chorus of frogs and cicadas, the rain on the canvas roof, the boat engines on the lake in the early morning. In fact, this was one of the biggest appeals about staying at Lak Tented Camp for me. In the bungalows, however, you are far more sheltered from the outside environment. But, the lake views (from your bed and even your bathtub) are more expansive and more impressive than from the tents, and the level of comfort and amenities is far higher.

For romance and attachment to the natural surroundings, I’d go for the tents. But for cosiness and comfort – especially for a couple or small family – I’d go for the bungalows. And for value for money, I’d go for the dorm.

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


The 15 tents are safari-style ‘luxury’ tents set on concrete pillars protruding from the hillside. The tents are laid on attractive wooden floors with a raised balcony looking over the trees and lake. Wide and long with a heavy canvas, the tents are accessed at the back. Inside, it’s spacious and light. The tents are around 3 metres in height with doors onto the balcony and half a dozen windows around the side which can be opened to let the light and air in. Each window has a mosquito mesh so that bugs can’t get in. The bathroom and shower are housed in two separate brick structures either side of the tent entrance. There’s plenty of hot water.

Furnishing is simple and sparse, but sturdy and tasteful: a large wooden bed with fitted mosquito net, a wooden writing desk and stool, a wooden trestle for hanging clothes, a wooden tray and tea and coffee-making set, and wooden furniture out on the balcony. There’s lamp lighting and decorative flourishes here and there in the form of local textiles and little wooden totems and carvings – a squirrel on a patio balustrade, a pigeon on a gatepost – all carved in a rough, rustic manner. A fan circulates the air: this is all you need, really, but there’s also an air-conditioning unit set at 24°C which can’t be adjusted, in order to save energy. The days can be very hot when the weather is sunny, but evenings, nights and mornings are almost always pleasantly cool. All in all, the tents are very nice, cosy, comfortable, atmospheric places to be.

While the tents blend into their natural surrounds, the bungalows are comparatively incongruous, resembling a suburban home. A mixture of wood, brick and glass, the bungalows combine modern and traditional architectural elements. Because there are only four of them, the bungalows are the resort’s most exclusive and comfortable accommodation, featuring two storeys with a separate bedroom, living room, and bathtub with lake views. The dorm, on the other hand, is the cheapest and barest accommodation at Lak Tented Camp. But even the dorm is pleasantly situated in the gardens close to the lake shore, and is particularly good value for a group of friends travelling together.

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


The Y Lak Restaurant, in the lakeside longhouse above reception, is the venue for all meals and drinks. The splendid wooden structure makes for a good dining ambience. Tables and chairs are arranged in rows next to the squat windows with views over the gardens and lake. The attractive bar is at the centre of the room (happy hour from 3-5pm daily). However, when the weather is good, it’s hard to resist having your food and drink outside on the lakeside terrace.

The menu is an extensive list of good Vietnamese dishes and also some Western options. Guests are encouraged to order meals at least a couple of hours in advance, especially if choosing one of the grilled meat dishes, as this involves time-consuming preparation. I hardly scratched the surface of the menu, but the meals I had were good, fresh and nicely presented. Prices are pretty reasonable considering it’s a captive market – the only other options for food and drink being a ferry across the lake into Lien Son village.

The drinks list includes fresh fruit juices, several cocktails, wines and spirits, and locally grown coffee and tea infusions. For breakfast, guests choose from several options, including a cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs and bread (the eggs were fantastic), or a Vietnamese breakfast of noodle soup. Coffee is good, as you’d expect in Vietnam’s primary coffee-growing region, but an espresso machine would be a nice addition.

Because artificial noise pollution at Lak Tented Camp is generally kept to a minimum, I was surprised by the cheesy pop ballads that played over speakers in the Y Lak Restaurant during every meal. The sounds of the birds singing, the breeze blowing, the lake lapping the shore, and the sampans fishing would be far preferable and more in tune with the rest of the resort.

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


One of the great things about staying at Lak Tented Camp is the variety of outdoor activities to pursue right from the resort: kayaking on the lake, trekking to waterfalls, cycling to local H’mong villages, fishing and swimming in the lake, and sunset boat rides. Even just walking around the grounds is rewarding: lakeside pathways lead through vegetable and herb gardens, a cacao plantation, and lots  of fruit trees (papaya, guava, banana, coffee, tamarind and more).

Lak Tented Camp tries to be as low impact as possible and careful with the natural environment. No pesticides are used in their gardens; guests are provided with a glass water bottle which can be refilled for free at any time; tented rooms are naturally ventilated (although air-con in also available); most of the building materials are natural; local people are employed to work on the staff, many of whom live within walking distance of the property. As a guest, you get a real sense that this is a resort that treads carefully on its natural location and tries to work with the environment, rather than bending nature to its will. This being so, if you’re the kind of person who prefers to keep nature at bay or if you have a phobia of insects, perhaps Lak Tented Camp isn’t for you. [To check current rates, availability & make a reservation for Lak Tented Camp please BOOK HERE

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam

*Please support Vietnam Coracle: All my reviews are independently researched & financed. I never receive freebies of any sort in exchange for positive reviews or listings. If you use the links on this page to book your accommodation, I make a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

Lak Tented Camp, Dak Lak, Vietnam


Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this review because I want to: I like this accommodation & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here

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2 Responses to Lak Tented Camp | Independent Review

  1. david ogg says:

    GREAT REVIEW AND WISHED WE HAD STAYED HERE. We spent 3 days in Lak village November last year and enjoyed wandering the country roads by the lake. People were not used to tourists and very little English was spoken. Loved the place and enjoyed getting away from it all.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks, David.

      I’m glad you enjoyed exploring this area. I hope you’ll get a chance to return one day and stay at Lak Tented Camp for a night or two.

      Best,

      Tom

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