VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Central Highands

Da Lat - Around Da Lat - Di Linh - Bao Loc - Dan Nhim Lake - Ngoan Muc Pass - Buon Ma Thuot - Around Boun Ma Thuot - Pleiku - Kon Tum

BUON MA THUOT

IDD Code: (+ 84 ) 50
The caffeine capital of Vietnam, the biggest buzz you'll get in Buon Ma Thuot (also known as Ban Me Thuot) is from the beans. There's not a lot to do here, but it makes for a good base to explore Yok Don National Park and several stunning waterfalls in the vicinity. Before WWI1, this was a centre for big-game hunting, but the animals have all but disappeared - along with most of the region's rainforest,
The capital of Dac Lac province, the city has grown exponentially over the last few years, with the coffee industry largely responsible for its improving fortunes. The major approach roads are currently being upgraded to cope with the extra traffic, but it can still be a crawl in and out of town. A large percentage of the area's population is made up of Montagnards. The government's policy of assimilation has been effective: nearly all of the Montagnards now speak Vietnamese fluently. Not a lot of English is spoken here though, and you won't see too many Western tourists. The rainy season around Buon Ma Thuot lasts from May to October, though downpours are usually short. Because of its lower elevation, Buon Ma Thuot is warmer and more humid than Dalat; it is also very windy.
Information
MEDICAL SERVICES
Dak Lak General Hospital Tell: 852 665; 2 Đ Mai Hac LI-MONEY Agriculture & Rural Development Bank (tell: 853 930; 37 Đ Phan Boi Chau) This branch can make foreign-currency exchanges and cash travellers cheques.
Vietcombank (1 Nguyen Tat Thanh) ATM in front of Thang Loi Hotel.
POST & INTERNET ACCESS Main post office Tell: 852 612; 6 Đ Le Duan;( 6.30am-9pm) Also has internet access.
TRAVEL AGENCIES
Both agencies offer tours of the surrounding villages, waterfalls, Lak Lake and Yok Don National Park.
DaklakTourist( 3 Đ Phan Chu Trinh; 7.30-Ham & 1.30-Spm)
Damsan Tourist (212-214 Đ Nguyen Cong Tru; (7am-6pm) Attached to the Damsan Hotel.
TRAVEL PERMITS
Permits are still required if you wish to visit certain minority villages in the area surrounding Buon Ma Thuot. Contact DakLak Tourist to get these valuable bits of paper,
Sights
VICTORY MONUMENT
You can hardly miss this monument, as it dominates the square in the centre of town. The victory monument commemorates the events of 10 March 1975, when VC and North Vietnamese troops liberated the city. It was this battle that triggered the complete collapse of South Vietnam. It's one of the most interesting pieces of socialist realist sculpture in the country, con sisting of a column supporting a central group of figures holding a flag, with a modernist arch forming a rainbow over a concrete replica tank. The frieze, starting from the right-hand side of the column, shows hill-tribe people with their traditional gongs and a communal wine vessel. On the rear panel the minority women are shown hugging a proud soldier, while on the left side there's a glimpse into a socialist future, peopled with happy nurses, farmers, industrial workers and children carrying a globe. It's a far cry from the reality of the situation in these parts, where many of the hill-tribe people fought with the Americans, and there are continuing allegations of mistreatment at the hands of corrupt officials.
AKO DHONG VILLAGE
Between the northern end of Buon Ma Thuot and outlying coffee plantations, the Ede village of Ako Dhong is a neat little community of stilt-house suburbia. Strolling the village makes for a pleasant break from the downtown din (such as it is), and you may be able to find some locals at work weaving traditional fabrics - which might also be for sale. The village is located about 1.5km from the centre of town and makes an easy walk; take Đ Phan Chu Trinh northward and hang a left on Đ Tran Nhat Duat.
ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM
There are said to be 31 distinct ethnic groups in Dac Lac province, and the Ethnographic Museum (Tell: 850 426; 4 Đ Nguyen Du; admission 10,000d; 7.30-11am & 2-5pm) is one place to get some understanding of these disparate groups. Displays at the museum feature traditional costumes, agricultural implements, fishing gear, bows and arrows, weaving looms and musical instruments. There is a photo collection with accompanying explanations about the historical contacts between the Montag-nards and the rest of Vietnam - some of the history is plausible, some is pure fiction. The Ethnographic Museum is housed in the Bao Dai Villa, a grand French-colonial building surrounded by gardens that was one of the former emperor's many residences. A local guide can show you around the exhibits for around 5000d.
REVOLUTION MUSEUM
If you're lucky enough to find it open, this little museum (Tell: 850 426; 1ĐLe Duan; admission 10,000d;(7.30-11 am & 2-5pm Wed-Sun) focuses on the city's rote during the American War.
DAK LAK WATER PARK
If sampling the local rocket-fuel coffee doesn't raise your heart rate, then perhaps waterslides will at Dak Lak Water Park (Tell: 950 381; Đ Nguyen Chi Thanh; admission 30,000d; (9am-6pm). It's about 4km from the centre of town, just before the bus station.
Sleeping
BUDGET
Nguyen Nhi Hotel (Tell: 859 868; fax 810 662; 164 Đ Ly Thuong Kiel; s/d/tr/q 160,000/180,000/320,000/350,000d; Nobody speaks any English here, but this shiny place has good-value spacious rooms and free wireless internet access.
My Linh Hotel (27-29 Đ le Đai Hanh;r150,000-220,000d; This chic minihotel borders on the boutique, with modern decor and new computers in the reception. It's a shame about the slains on the sheets.
Tay Nguyen Hotel (110 Đ Ly Thuong Kiet;s/dUS$14/16;The paint is peeling and it's definitely past its prime, hut this decent place has clean rooms and good facilities. The comfortable doubles have terraces and are more spacious than the singles.
Ban Me Hotel (Tell: 951 001; fax 954 741; 9 Đ Nguyen Chi Thanh; r US$10-207; About 4km north of the centre but within walking distance of the bus station is this large, friendly motel with a tidy, garden-like setting. A xe om to the centre costs about 10,000d. Air-con rates include breakfast, but fan rooms are more spacious and arguably more comfortable, with bigger terraces upstairs.
MIDRANGE
Cao Nguyen Hotel ( 65 Đ Phan Chu Trinh; r US$15-45; The Cao Nguyen is a few years old but still fairly luxurious and now offers free wi-fi. It's known for its dance hall, karaoke and massage service.
Damsan Hotel (212-214 D Nguyen Cong Tru; r US$25-40; Although the communal areas arc looking a little shabby, the rooms are surprisingly nice, making Damsan the best deal in town. This quiet hotel features clean rooms with wooden floors, bathtubs and satellite TV, plus a rau-cous restaurant (breakfast is included). Rooms at the back of the building overlook the swimming pool, tennis court and neighbouring coffee plantations.
White Horse Hotel (Khach San Bach Ma 9-11 Đ Nguyen Due Canh; rUS$25-40; Sparkling with varnished surfaces and marble, the White Horse has immaculate, comfortable rooms with satellite TV.
Thang Loi Hotel ( 1 Đ Phan Chu Trinh; r US$25-40; You'll find most amenities at this government-run hotel, including satellite TV and bathtubs. Thang hi means 'victory', so it's not surprising that the hotel faces the eponymous monument.
Eating
There aren't a lot of great restaurants in Buon Ma Thuot - unless you're not bothered by rowdy beer halls and the odd rat.
Thanh Loan (Tell:818 464; 14-16 Đ ly Thuong Kiel; meals 12,000d) It would be tempting to eat at this wonderful roll-your-own rice-paper-roll joint every night. You get a massive plate of green vegies, herbs and edible leaves to roll up in fresh rice paper with fried pork, crunchy rice paper and raw garlic, and then dip in either a meaty broth or a mix of fish sauce and chilli. Delicious.
Dac Biet Bun Bo (Tell: 810 135; 10 Đ Le Hong Phong;meals 12,000d) With its big stock pot bubbling on the street, this popular humble eatery serves big hunks of meat in a spicy broth over white noodles, served with a plate of fresh herbs. Kem (50 Đ Ly Thuong Kiet; ice cream 5000d) After Thanh Loan you can stop here, a few doors down, for a delectable ice cream.
Hanoi Bakery (Tell: 853 609; 123-125 Đ Le Hong Phong;pastries 5000d; (breakfast & lunch) Not only are there shelves of freshly-baked pastries, but it also carries snack foods like cheese and chocolate.
Drinking
Buon Ma Thuot is justifiably famous for its coffee, which is the best in Vietnam. As usual, the Vietnamese serve it so strong and sweet that it will make your hair stand on end, and typically in a very tiny cup that allows no room to water it down. There are dozens of cafes to explore in the streets around Đ Le Thanh Ton. Some also serve alcohol.
Cafe Hoa Da Quy (Tell: 851304; 173 Đ Nguyen Cong Tru) This stylish open-sided three-storey bar-cafe is a popular night-time spot and has a good selection of top-shelf spirits.
Da Ly (Tell: 812 243; 188 Đ Nguyen Cong Tru) There are great views over a coffee plantation from the garden of this chic cafe.
Shopping
If you like the coffee enough to take some home, be sure to pick up a bag here because the price is lower and the quality higher than in HCMC or Hanoi. You can buy whole beans or ground coffee at around 15,000d per 500g. Good places to buy the brown gold include Thanh BaoCafe (Tell: 854164;32 Hoang Dieu), as well as along the guest-house strip on D Ly Thuong Kiet.
Getting There & Around
AIR
There are daily Vietnam Airlines (ĐT:955 055; fax 956 265; 67 Đ Nguyen Tat Thanh;8am-5pm) flights from both HCMC and Danang- The airport is 8km west of town. A taxi should cost less than 20,000d.
BUS
Buon Ma Thuot's bus station (71 Đ Nguyen Chi Thanh) is about 4km from the centre, with plenty of services to Dalat (65,000d, four hours) and Pleiku (46.000d, four hours).
CAR & MOTORBIKE
The road linking the coast with Buon Ma Thuot intersects Hwy 1A at Ninh Hoa (157km), 34km north of Nha Trang. The road is surfaced and in good condition, though fairly steep. Hwy 14 to Pleiku is excellent. There's also a scenic sealed road connecting Buon Ma Thuot with Dalat (via Lak Lake). Though full of twists and turns, it's mainly in good condition.