Northern Vietnam reservoir packs attractions aplenty for weekend picnics

The natural beauty that surrounds Hoa Binh Reservoir in the eponymous province and its proximity to Hanoi makes it an ideal location for a weekend picnic.

In late July, Doan Manh of Hanoi and some of his friends got into an open pickup truck and spent a weekend on the banks of Hoa Binh Lake.

From Hanoi, via Thang Long Avenue, it takes one and a half hours to reach a picked spot on the lake.

Hoa Binh is one of the country's biggest man-made freshwater lakes, born together with Hoa Binh Hydropower Plant in Hoa Binh Province.

The reservoir can contain up to nine billion cubic meters of water and has a maximum depth of 100 meters. Teeming with spots of great beauty and variety, it is emerging as a popular ecotourism destination.

One of the picnickers puts up his feet after some stand up paddle boarding (SUP), a relatively new recreational water sport.

Manh said that once people bring their own equipment like tents and other tools for whatever water sports they want to enjoy, including surfing boards and oars, the trip becomes very inexpensive. He said the group had to spend just VND2-3 million ($86-130) for the whole trip.

One man paddles a board on his knees.

The still waters of the lake make it suitable for several water sports including SUP, kayaking and canoeing.

Areas near the banks of Hoa Binh Lake, surrounded by green mountains and villages of ethnic minority communities, are likely to see the establishment of more resorts in the future as it grows in popularity.

The existing resorts here are Ba Khan Discovery and Mai Chau Hideaway.

People living in this area are mainly of the Muong ethnic minority, living off farming and fishing. Pictured above are fish farms of the locals.

An aerial view of the place that Manh and friends chose to camp and enjoyed SUP. It is a spacious area with a lot of greenery and superb for camping between June and August.

While it can get quite hot during the day, it can cool down in the evening with refreshing winds blowing through. Camping and sleeping overnight here is best in autumn or spring.

After enjoying their water sports from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m, the group returned to rest at the nearby Muong People Cultural Space Museum.

Apart from camping and water sports, a weekend stay at Hoa Binh Lake can include sightseeing and exploring the daily life and culture of the Muong people at the museum, if visitors have half a day to spare. The entrance fee of the museum is VND50,000 ($2.2) for adults.