Lake of tears

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Legend, among the ethnic minorities for whom the Central Highlands is home, has it that a peaceful village once stood where the T'Nung Lake is today.

One day, a volcano erupted, killing most of the villagers and leaving behind a huge crater where the village used to be.

The survivors stood around the crater and cried their hearts out. Their tears filled up the crater and the lake was born.

In fact, it took so long for locals to go around the lake, that they began calling it Bien Ho (Sea Lake), or T'Nung, which means a "sea on the mountain."

T'Nung Lake is a well-known scenic spot in the Central Highlands today. It is a regular stop for tourists on their way from Gia Lai Province's Pleiku Town to Kontum Province.

The lake stands amidst pine forests and mountains about seven kilometers from Pleiku Town. It covers 230 hectares during the summer, expanding to almost double that during the monsoon.

The lake has a maximum depth of 30 meters. It is said that the water at its bed flows to the East Sea.

Although the lake was certified as a national scenic spot in 1988 by the then Ministry of Culture and Information, it has not been over-exploited and retains its wilderness.

To explore the lake, tourists have to use a dugout canoe, a delightful experience as it sails gently through forests and around mountains. Many wild birds in the vicinity can be spotted, and patches of water lilies and lotuses put the finishing touches on a beautiful scene.

The lake is also a good fishing spot as it is home to many kinds of fish and turtles, some which are believed to be over 100 years old.

Further into the lake, one can see on its banks villages of ethnic minority groups like Ba Na, Ede and Gia Rai who subsist mainly on the lake's offerings. Their hospitality and friendliness adds greatly to the charm of the T'Nung Lake.

Tourists have the option of spending the night by T'Nung Lake, making a camp fire, enjoying the fish they've caught, along with sips of the ruou can (rice wine in jars drunk with long bamboo straws).

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