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Kon Tum

KON TUM

Tel: 060 + Pop 89,900, Elevation 525m

This sleepy mountain town is the capital of Kon Tum province, the northernmost region of the central highlands. It’s a region inhabited primarily by mongtagnards, including the Bahnar, Jarai, Rengao and Sedang Communities. Relatively little English is spoken in Kon Tum and the relative lack of foreign tourists also means that overcharging is equally uncommon.

So far, Kon Tum remains largely unspoiled and the authorities remain bleassedly invisible. Some may argue that Dalat offers more things to see and do, but Dalat is very touristy and if you’re trying to avoid the veaten track, this is one place to do it.

Kon Tum is on the original HCM trail.

There are plenty of minority willages in the area, though the hill tribes in the central highlands are nowhere near as colourful as those in the north of Vietnam. One interesting aspect of village life that you will not see in the north are the communal rong houses; tall and impressive thatched roof buildings on stilts. If your timing is right, you may be able to catch a local festival with goong playing and rice –wine frinking from ceramic jars.

Like elsewhere in the highlands, kon Tum saw its share of combat during the war. A major battle between South Vietnamese forces and the North Vietnamese took place in and around Kon Tum in the spring of 1972 – the area was dewastated by hundreds of American B-52 raids.

Information

Money: There is no place to cash travellers cheques inKon Tum. The nearest place to accomplish this is in Pleiku. US dollars can be exchanged for dong at the National Bank and Investment & Development Bank

Travel agencies: The provincials tourism authority, Kon Tum tourist ( Tel: 861626, fax 863336, 2D Phan Dinh Phung) has its main booking office at the Dakble Hotel. Staff here can help answer queries. and arrange trakking touris. overnight stays in villages and boating trips on Yaly Lake and the Dakbla river. One of their star guides. Mr Huyen, speaks the local Bahnar language.

Vietnamairline: Tel 862282, 129 Ba Trieu) can handle air-travel booking.

Montagnard Villages

There are quite a few Montagnard villages around Kon Tum. In genaral, the local tribes welcome tourists, but only if you are not too intrusive with regard to their ligestyle

Some of the small village are on the periphery of Kon Tum and you can even walk to them from the centre. There are two bahnar villages, simply called Lang Bana in Vietnamese; One is on the east side of town, the other ont he west side.

Onthe east side of Kon Tum is Kon Tum village (lang Kon Tum(, This is , in fact the original Kon Tum before it grew up to become a small Vietnamese city

At the time of writing, the Kon Tum police were allowing tourists to visit minority villages without a permit. Let us hope that this enlightened attitude continues.

Rong House

Kon Tum’s Rong houses is the scene important local events such as meeting weedings, festivals, prayer sessions and so in. If you happen to arrive on the day of an auspicious occasion and stumble upon one of these activities in progress, it could in deed be interesting.

Rong House are type of a thatched-roof community house built on tall stilts. the original idea of building these on stilts. The original idea of building these on stilts was for protection from elephants, tigers and other overly assertive animals.

There’s an attractive old wooden church next to the Rong House.

Seminary & Hill Tribe Museum.

Kon Tum is home to a lovely old Catholic seminary that looks as if it was beamed here from a provincial French village. The residents are generally welcoming of visitors and the hill tribe museum on the secon floor is worth stopping to see.

Near the gate to the seminary is a curious little cave church

Orphanages

 A short walk from the town centre, these delightful sister orphanages are well-worth spending a few hours at. Staff at both the Vinh Son 1 and Vinh Son 2 orphanages are welcoming of visitors who come to share some time with the adorable and multiethnic resident children

If you plan to visit, please make a donation to the orphanage; they are ery much in need of support, Canned food, clothing or toys for the kids would be appropriate, and monetary contributions are of course appreciated.

Vinh Son 1 as just behind the wooden church on Nguyen Hue str. from here, you can continue east to visit nearby minority villages. Vinh Son 2, south of there and beyond a small bahnar village, is less visited and more populous so is usually in need of more help.

Nguc Kon Tum

This former prison compound, near the western egde of Kon Tum. is today a quiet park on the banks of the darbla River. The prisoners incarverated here were VC and all were freed in 1975 when the war ended. This was one of the more famous prisons run by the South Vietnamese : VC who survived their internment here were made into heroes after liberation.

Dak To & Charlie Hill

This obscure outpost, 42km noth of Kon Tum, was a major battlefield During the American War. In 1972, it was the scene of intense fighting and one of the last big battles before American troops pulled out.

Dak to has become popular with visiting groups of US vetarans, so you probably won’t find much of interest if you’re not a war buff. More intriguingly, those few VC vetarans with sufficient free time and money also like to come here to stir their memories.

About 5km south of Dak to is Charlie Hill. The hill was a fortified South Vietnamese stronghold before the VC tried to overrun it. The South Vietnamese officer in charge, Colonel Ngoc Minh, Decided that he would neither surrender nor retreat and the battle became a fierce fight to the death. Unusually for a guerrilla war, this was a prolonged battle. The VC laid siege to the hill for 1 ½ months before they managed to kill Calonel Minh and 150 South Vietnamese troops, who had made their last stand here

Although largely forgotten in the West the battle is well known, even now, in Vietnam. The reason for this is largely because the fight was commemmorated by a popular song. “ Nguoi O Lai Charlie”

Not surprisingly, the hill was heavily mined during the war and is still considered unsafe to climb.

There’s a rong House in Dak to that is worth seeking out.

Place to Stay

Our biggest gripe with Kon Tum is the low standard and high price of the local accommodation. All three of Kon Tum’s hotels are owned and managed by kon tum tourism,

Dakbla Hotel ( tel: 863333, fax 863336; email ktourist@dng.vnn.vn; 2 D Phan Dinh Phung; air-con rooms US$30-35) is near the river, and most travellers prefer to stay here. Rates include breakfast. Dakbla Hotel 2: ( 863335, fax 863336, email Ktourist@dng.vnn.vn, 163 Nguyen Hue str, fan rooms US$15, a budget hotel across the road. has large but very basic fan rooms.

Quang Trung Hotel ( tel: 862249, fax 862122; email ktourist@dng.vnn.vn, 168 Ba Trieu str. rooms with fan/air-con US$25-30) is another oldie. For hardcore backpackers there are a few $5 fan rooms that are like prison cells.

Place to Eat

Dakbla’s ( Tel: 862584, 168 Nguyen Hue str) has good food and reasonable prices, so it tends to draw the most travellers. They prepare Vietnamese standards, as well as exotic fare such as wild boar and frog. The owner displays his impressive collection of hill tribe artefacts on the walls/ Yes, some are for sale.

Restaurant 78 Le Loi ( 78 Le Loi) is crowded with locals eating hotpot (lau) and drinking beer. Across the road there is good vegetairian food at quan Chay 33 Le Loi

Quan Vuong 58 is an indoor-outdoor goat meat specialty restaurant. Goat (de) can be ordered over a dozen ways among them: steamed (de hap), grilled (de nuong) Sauteed ( de xao lan) curried ( de cari) and the over-popular hotpot ( lau de)

Entertainment

Eva Cafe ( Tel: 862944, 1 Phan Chu Trinh) is a good place for a caffee or cold beer in the evening. This unique –looking, three story building resembles a local hill tribe house. Vietnamese poetry and stained glass adorns the wooden walls. Outside there is a pleasant courtyard garden.

Getting There & Away

Bus: There’s a convenient bus service from Kon Tum to HCMC via the scenic National Hwy14 ( 12hours). Buses connect Kon Tum to Danang. Pleiku and Buon Ma Thuot. Kon Tum’s bus station is inconveniently located about 13km north of the town centre. Although many long distance buses still pass through town, so you can buses still pass through town, so you can hop off then. One traveller, however , had this to say.

Car & Motorbike: The fastest approach to Kon Tum from the coast is on National Hw19 between Qui Nhon and Pleiku. National Hwy14 between Kon Tum and Buon Ma Thuot is also in good nick. The road that connects Quang Ngai with Kon Tum is particularly scenic.

Looking at a map, it might seem feasible to drive between Kon Tum and Danang National hwy14 Although this is a beautiful frive, the road is still in poor condition and only motorbikes or 4WDs can get through. If you ‘ve got the right form of transport. This challgenging ride on the Ko Chi Minh Trail is surely a great option. It is logical to break the trip, however, in Phuoc Son.

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