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Around Buon Ma Thuot

BUON MA THUOT.

Tel: 050, Po 186,600 . Elevation 451m

Buon Ma Thuat ( Or Ban Me Thuot), is the capital of Dac Lac Province and the largest town in the western highlands. Befor WWII, the city was a centre for big-game bunting, but the animals have all but disappeared ( along with most of the region’s rainforest).

The region;s main crop is coffee, and it’s the coffee industry that accounts for Buon Ma Thuot’s Current prosperity. Some local plantations are run by German managers. who are said to be as imperiously demainding as their French predecessors. If you can find a good guide, visiting the coffee plantations and processing plants could be interesting.

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 them now speak Vietnamese fluently.
The rainy season around Buon Ma Thuot last from May to October, though down pours are usually short. Because of its lower elevation, Buon Ma Thuot is warmer and more humid than Dalat, it is also very windy.

Buon Ma Thuot is the gateway to Yok Don National Park and even a possible back door to Cat Tien National Park. However, most travellers approach Cat Tien from the Dalat side.

Information

Money: The local branch of the Agriculture & Rural Development Bank ( Tel: 853930, 37 PhanBoi Chau) can make foreign-currency exchanges.

Email & Internet Access: Both Nhip Song Net (35 Hoang Dieu: Tel 851136 email: nhipsong@dng.vnn.vn; open 8am-10pm) and internet service 48 Hung Vuong str.) are two good place to catch up on email for around 10.000d per hour.

Travel Permits: There may still be required to visit certain minority villages in the area surrounding Buon Ma Thuot. Contact Daklak tourist to get these valuable bits of paper.

Victory Monument

You can hardly miss this one, as it dominates the square in the centre of town. The vicory monument commemorates the events of 10 March 1975, when VC and North Vietnamese troups “liberated” the city. It was this battle that triggered the complete collapse of South Vietnam.

As an interesting footnote, there was formerly a real army tank here facing south, but when it was later replaced with a concrete replica, it was turned north ( Toword Pleiku), To indicate the correct direction during Ho Chi Minh’s Campaign to liberate Saigon.

Museum of Dak Lak Province

The Dak lak Procince Museum ( Bao Tang Tinh Dak Lak) is in fact two separate museums, the Ethnographic Museum and the Revolution Museum. The latter is possibly of less interset to foreign tourists.

There are said to be 31 distinct ethnic groups in Dac Lac Province, and the ethnogrphic Museum ( tel 850426 Nguyen Du & Le Duan str. )is one place to get some understanding of these disparate groups. Displays at the museum feature groups. Displays at the museum featura traditional Montagnard dress, as well as agriccultureal 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 Montagnards and the rest of Vietnam – some of the history is plausible, some is pure fiction.

The ethnographic Musuem is in the Former reception of the Bao Dai villa, a grand French colonial Building. A local guide can show you around the exhibits for around 10000d.

The Buon Ma Thuot Revolution Museum ( Tel: 852527, Le Duan, admission 10.000d; open 7h30 – 11am and 2pm- 5pm) Focuses on the city’s role during the American War.

Place to Stay – Budget

Guesthouse 43 (tel: 853921, 43 Ly Thuong Kiet, rooms with/without private toilet: US$10/12) has old and fairly run down fan rooms/

Hong Kong Hotel ( Tel: 852630, 35 Hai Ba Trung, rooms with fan/air-con US$ 10/12) is another cheapie, but likewise is definitely showing its age/

Better budget choices include the Thanh Phat Hotel ( Tel; 854857, Fax 813366, email ksthanhphat@pmail.vnn.vn; 41 Ly Thuong Kiet; rooms with ffan & shared toilet 150,000d with air-con & private bath 180,000 – 250,000d); the all air-con Thanh Binh Hotel ( Tel:853812, fax 811511, 24 D ly thuong Kiet; rooms 150,000d – 180,000d, and the Huy Hoang Hotel 9 Tel: 858020, 30D ly Thuong Kiet; rooms with fan & Shared toilet 100,000d, with air-con & private toilet 190,000-220,000d)

Biet Dien Hotel ( Tel 852177, 12 D Le Duan rooms 180,000d – 220,000d) rents some grotty looking rooms near the roadside, but the nicer rooms in the large A frame house, set back from the road, are much better value

Banme Hotel ( Tel 851001, rooms with fan & Hote water US$ 10-15, rooms with air-con US$ 20) about 3km north of the centre, but within walking distance of the bus station, is a large motel. From the centre, you can catch a motorbike to the hotel for around 5000d. air-con rates include breakfast.

Place to Stay – Mid –Range

Dam San Hotel ( 212 -214, Nguyen Cong Tru str. Tel: 851234, fax 852309 email: damsantour@dng.vnn.vn; rooms with air-con US$30/35) is the best mid-range value in town. This quiet, attractive hotel features clean rooms with wooden floors and satellite TV, plus a good restaurant. Rooms at the back of the building overlook the swimming pool, tenniscours and neighbouring coffee plantations.

White Horse Hotel ( Tel: 853963, fax 852121, 50-54 Hai Ba Trung; rooms US$30-40) is a decent private hotel with air-con rooms and satellite TV. Best of all are the bonsai and birds at the tip floor garden Cafe.

Thang Loi Hotel ( Tel: 857615, fax 857622; No 3 Phan Chu Trinh, rooms US$ 40-50) is one of the big government-run tourist hotels in town. Thang Loi means “victory”, so it’s not surprising that the hotel faces the local Victory Monument. You can find most mordern amenities here, including satellite TV.

Tay Nguyen Hotel ( Tel: 851009, fax 852250; 110 Ly Thuong Kiet; Single/double US$25/30 is another decent place with satllite TV and room fridges. There is a large Restaurant on the ground floor.

Cao Nguyen Hotel ( tel: 851913 Fax 851812; daklaktour@dng.vnn.vn; 65 Phan Chu Trinh, double/triple US$ 45) is operated by Dak Lak Tourist. Its a few years old now, but still fairly luxurious and is known for its dance hall, karaoke and masege service. Rates include breakfast.

Place to Eat.

Quan Ngon ( Tel: 851909, 72-74 Ba Trieu) is BuonMa Thuot’s most remarkable eatery. This large indoor-outdoor place ofers seating in a pleasant courtyard garden, or in a wooden stilt house. It has an extensive menu with a wide range of Vietnamese dishes, and to add to the flavour is an as tonishing display of home – made rice wine. Large wine bottles lining the walls inside the restaurant contain everything from snakes, geckos, and birds to large reptiles. There is even a small wild cat in a fish tank filled with rice wine.

If Quan Ngon doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, bon Trieu Restaurant ( 33 Hai Ba Trung) is known for its delicous beef dishes.

Ngoc Lan Restaurnat ( 24 Hai Ba Trung ) Is also popular with locals and worthy of depositing your dong.

In Ban Don contact Banmeco Travel Agency or Ban Don tourist ( Tel: 798119) about overnighting inminority stilt houses ( US$5 per person). Another option is the Bugalows US$ 12) out on nearby Aino Island, reached via a rickety series of bamboo suspension brigdes.

Lak Lake

Emperor Bao Dai built a small palace at Lak Lake (Ho Lak), but it is now a ruin. Nevertheless, the lake views are fantastic and the climb up the adjacent hills is well worth while. Thenearby M’nong village is a unique experience.

Lak Lake is 50km south of Buon Ma Thuot, along a sealed and relatively flat road. The hillier strech of road from the lake to Dalt, 154km on rte 27, is breathtaking in spots, with some nice forest patches and jungle. There’s a good deal of evidence of slashing and burning, and clear cutting. The road is only partially paved, and outside of the dry season you will most likely need a 4WD or motorbike to pass this way. There is little in the way of facilities enroute. Krong No has a couple of Com Pho Restaurant; it’s a small town 41km from Lake Lake inthe direction of Dalat.

Place to Stay

In a peaceful lake setting in concrete longhouse with shared/private toilet US$ 10/15, beds in rattan longhouse US$10) was built a under the shade of jack fruite trees. There’s a under the shad of jack fruite tree. There’s a floating restaurant nearby that does decent food

A more authentic accommodationat alternative is the stilt houses (Tel: 886268, Fax 886343, US$ 5 per person) in the pleasant lakeside village of the Ede minority group jun village is surrounded by plush green rice paddies and the Ede-style stilt longhouses are indeed at mospheric. There is a small restaurant here and some souvenir shops selling hill-tribe handicrafts. Two-hour elephant rides can be arranged in Jun for around US$30.

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