The legend of Gia Lai: To Nung Lake (Bien Ho)

Published:  16:25 Friday - July 08, 2016

Bien Ho is a famous name for all Vietnamese people, but not many know about its original name as To Nung lake. This legendary lake will make you fall in love at first sight with the feeling of being in an heaven on earth.

Located 6km north of downtown Pleiku (Gia Lai) To Nung Lake is in fact the crater of a volcano that became extinct millions of years ago. The lake has a surface of 280ha and an average depth of 16 -19m, reaching 40m at its deepest.



The lake lies on the top of an extinct volcano. The view is spectacular with the lush vegetation and the colorful insects around the lake. From the bank of the lake, one can get a general view of the area including Bien Ho Tea processing farm, Pleiku town (Gia Lai),and Kon Tum town. Legendary Ham rong Mountain nearby makes the lake even more beautiful. One can visit several Rong houses and meet hospitable highland inhabitants. To Nung Lake is the pride of the Pleiku highland area.

The eye-catching beauty of the natural surrounding offers visitors the best sight at dawn when they can turn their head round to take in as much greenery of the far away primitive forests as possible while the singing of birds hidden among low bushes nearby the surrounding low hilly bushes serves as backdrop music. Primitive tranquility is completely preserved. The poetic scenery is added with several early sailing boats in the lake shrouded with fog and mist. With this scenery in mind many visitors has regarded To Nung Lake as the pearl of the Pleiku in particular and the Central Highlands in general.

The lake owes its name, To Nung, a village that existed a long time ago in the legendary region of Gia Lai and Kontum Provinces, now called Central Highlands. To Nung village was a very beautiful and prosperous one where people lived in peace and harmony with each other. One day the volcano erupted and buried the whole village in hot lava. The lake grew from the tears shed by the survivors mourning their loved ones, to which the name of To Nung was given in memory of the dead village.

To Nung is also called the "Pearl of Pleiku" and is a place visitors should not miss when visiting Pleiku. An asphalted road leads up the whole way through narrow passages of steep rocks to To Nung Lake. Situated on top of an old extinguished volcano, the lake offers a panoramic view that seems to stretch to the horizon forever. Standing on the banks of To Nung, visitors have the impression of being at the sea-side due to the size of the lake. This may explain To Nung Lake’s second name of Bien Ho (Sea Lake).

Visitors will agree that, at times, To Nung seems to be the rendezvous place for flowers, birds and fish, from the most humble to the most precious species. In spring they all bloom and bring vivacious colours and life to the greenness of the environment and the softness of the blue sky. Wandering the narrow tracks around To Nung, visitors will encounter many species of birds, from the most ordinary to the most exotic. At sunset, the lake becomes even more alive with the familiar noises made by flocks of birds in their rush back to their nests.

To Nung is also called the fish basket of the Central Highlands. The lake is home to various kinds of carp, from red-eyed carps to black carps. Through the limpid water of the lake they can be seen gliding swiftly and gracefully along among the algae.

Visitors can discover To Nung Lake by boat, but they can also choose to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of To Nung from the back of an elephant. In the evening, they can share a dance, a song, or some can wine with some of the local ethnic people, while listening to their traditional gong music.

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