Day 3 of the Tour of the Central Highlands of Vietnam – From Buon Ma Thuot to Kon Tum
This morning we went into Buon Ma Thuot to take a look at the Victory Monument which dominates the city centre. The fall of this town in 1975 triggered the collapse of all of South Vietnam. We visited the fascinating market with another amazing selection of never before seen tropical fruits then headed off on the 250km drive north towards Kon Tum. The journey included a stop at a war memorial then a trip through several minority villages and a visit to a rubber plantation where Phu showed us how rubber is extracted from the trees.
We stopped for lunch in Pleiku at a small café called My Tam. This was a place very much frequented by locals which we’d never have found without our guide and driver. As such we enjoyed more excellent local dishes costing practically nothing.
Sea Lake was our next stop where we had a freshly pressed sugar cane drink and bumped into a Dutch couple who were with an Easy Rider. We’d met them last night as they’d stayed at the same place as we had. They had a novel approach to Easy Riding as Mick and his girlfriend were on one motorbike whilst their Easy Rider was on another. They were heading to Hoi An this way then the Easy Rider would have the problem of getting two bikes back to Dalat. No doubt he’d find a traveller in Hoi An who’d take the journey back through the Highlands with him.
Just outside Pleiku we stopped at Phu’s home to meet his parents. Phu is the youngest of 16 children, most of the first half of the family died during the war. Last night Kirsty had sprained her ankle quite badly so Phu’s mother used a potent combination of medicinal herbs in massaging it which removed most of the swelling. She is well practiced in Chinese medicine.
The Children of Kon Tum
Our final destination today was Kon Tum where we checked into the Family Hotel and would spend two nights. No doubt the hotel was named as such because this town attracts childless couples from all over the world who come to adopt children from the local orphanages.
The people running the hotel made us very welcome but there are nicer places to stay in Kon Tum.
We took a stroll around town and were amazed at just how friendly everybody was, especially the local children who shout ‘hello’ to you as they pass on their bikes and wave to you with a huge smile on their face. Such a welcome change from the coast of Vietnam and Hanoi where we would find out later how tourism can destroy people and places as the locals can only see a foreigner as a dollar sign.
For dinner we went in the vehicle to a real local joint on the outskirts of town which I’d bet no foreigners have ever visited. There was a burning barbeque on our table and a case of Saigon Export beer next to us with a bucket of ice (beer doesn’t go in the fridge here for some reason).
We sampled all kinds of local meat dishes including wild pig, goat, porcupine and venison. The venison was certainly the best meat and the porcupine was a bit too “spikey” for my liking! The bill for four of us came to just 200,000 Dong (around $12US) for a fabulous meal with countless beers. Back opposite the Family Hotel there’s a bar which serves local rum. Be very careful or you’ll miss day 4 of the tour!