Best Lakes for Standup Paddleboarding in Southeast Asia

Rohan Mathew

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most popular destinations, not just for tourists, but for digital nomads as well and with good reason. The region is bursting with stunning natural beauty that will surely fill anyone with awe. This new breed of world travellers is in search of new adventures to try out as well as new sights to behold. 

What is Stand up Paddleboarding?

Stand up paddle boarding or SUP is a boardsport that started in Hawaii. This started as an offshoot of surfing that became its distinct sport and has evolved over time. To put it simply, it is a cross between surfing and kayaking. 

Like surfing, the rider uses a board to ride the waves or just travel across the water. But unlike surfing, the rider uses a paddle with a long shaft to get around, kind of like a canoe or a kayak. Since its inception all those years ago, the support has spread to different parts of the globe.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the 7 best lakes to try SUP in Southeast Asia:

Chini Lake, Malaysia

Also known by its local name, Tasik Chini, Chini Lake is the largest lake in Peninsular Malaysia. The lake is composed of 12 smaller freshwater lakes. Found in the Pekang District in Pahang, Malaysia, it is said to be the home of a mystical dragon, the Naga Seri Gumum.

Chini Lake itself is as magical as the legends of the lake dragon. Kayaking and boat tours are the popular modes to explore the lake’s mysterious waters. Stand up paddleboarding, though relatively new, is also a great way to experience the lake’s tranquil beauties. Who knows? You might catch a glimpse of the water dragon while out there.

Lake Holon, Philippines

Speaking of magical and mysterious lakes, check out Lake Holon from the Philippines. Found on the island of Mindanao, Lake Holon is one of the country’s most pristine natural wonders. Holon is actually a crater lake at the top of Mount Parker in South Cotabato. Its clear warm waters are surrounded by lush greenery that will surely invigorate one’s soul after the arduous trek.

Camping and hiking are one of the most popular activities in the lake. Swimming in the lake is quite pleasant. Its volcanic nature means that the water is warm and surprisingly soothing. Perfect for aching muscles. Kayaking and stand up paddleboarding are also great things to try out if you get the chance. See for more info about paddleboards and SUP.

Lake Tamblingan, Indonesia

Deep in the heart of the idyllic paradise of Bali, Indonesia is Lake Tamblingan. Just like Lake Holon, Tamnblingan Danau⁠—as it is called in Bahasa Indonesia⁠—is a caldera lake located at the foot of Mt Lesung. Aside from its natural beauty, what makes this lake truly unique is the many ancient Balinese temples that dot the whole area. This is because the lake is considered a holy site by the indigenous people that call the lake’s shores home.

Modern powered boats are not allowed in the lake as to not disturb its peace and tranquillity. But modern water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and stand up paddle boarding are permitted to an extent. Just be sure to be respectful and mindful of the local’s customs at all times.

Cheow Lan Lake, Thailand

Unlike the other lakes on this list, Cheow Lan Lake in southern Thailand is man-made. But this does not mean it isn’t as spectacular as the others. The lake came to be as the result of the construction of the Ratchaprapha Dam in the 1980s. The dam was built as a means for electricity production, irrigation, and fisheries among others.

Today, the dam is a protected area with thousands of plant and animal species exists. Because of the calm waters, kayaking and SUPing are favorite activities by locals and tourists alike. You can even spot wild animals, like elephants and monkeys among others, in and around the lake.

Indawgyi Lake, Myanmar

Next on the list, we have the largest lake in Myanmar: Indawgyi Lake. This hidden gem is one of Myanmar’s best-kept secrets. Is located in the Kachin State, one of Myanmar’s most remote regions. Because of this, the lake has remained pristine and largely untouched by human civilization. Because of this, it has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The lake is open for tourism but being one of the most inaccessible places in the country, not a lot do so. Even then, there are plenty of things to do. One of which is visiting the Shwe Myitzu Pagoda. This eye-catching monument looks magical, especially when seen on the water. You can do this via SUP or kayak.

West Lake, Vietnam

From the untouched and secluded lake, we head on over to another great lake surrounded by a different kind of jungle. Vietnam’s West Lake is Hanoi’s largest lake and serves as a major recreational area in the metropolis. Legend has it that the lake came to be as a result of a battle between a man and a 9-tailed fox.

Surrounding the lake are various restaurants and hotels and for good reason. The calm waters of the lake and the city skyline at the far end makes for a truly wonderful sight. The lake is also a popular kayaking and paddle boarding destination for tourists, expats, and locals alike. Out of the water, there are also several sights worth seeing such as the different parks, temples, and pagodas.

Lake Yeak Laom, Cambodia

Another majestic beauty in the neighboring country of Cambodia is Yeak Laom. This crater lake is known for its almost perfect circular form. It is surrounded by lush greenery which is best seen during and shortly after the rainy season. The water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming, SUP, and kayaking. 

The local Tampuan people regard the lake as sacred but access to it is not forbidden. The people believe that the lake has deep spiritual importance to them as a people. This is why rituals and ceremonies are offered to the lake during important events.

Getting here is easy as well. It is roughly 5 kilometers from the nearest major city Banlung⁠—the capital of Ratanakiri Province in Northeastern Cambodia. Roads are accessible and the lake can be reached through public transport like taxis.