Unexplored Vietnam Central Highlands

While on the pursuit of renewing our Vietnam travel visa, we got the chance to explore some parts of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Although the Central Highlands got a limited number of tourist attractions, it is still worth visiting.

The roundabout in Buon Ma Thuot. Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/zorrovisa/155498330/

From Dak Lak, we took a local bus to Buon Ma Thuot for 14,000 dong (US $.80). The 2 hour ride was a bit uncomfortable because the bus was too packed and smelly.

Our packed bus going to Buon Ma Thuot. Photo courtesy of Ming (mt_kang at Flickr)

We suspect that was where we lost an mp3 player too. The crowd of people standing on the  aisle made it difficult for us to see our bags stored at the back of the bus.

Busy market in Buon Ma Thuot. Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/16796900@N00/520945833/

From the bus terminal, we took a motorbike for 10,000 dong (US $.57) each to Ly Truong Kiat Street where several guest houses and hotels were located. We stayed in Cong Ty Duoc, a double room with fan, cable television and shared bathroom for 90,000 dong (US $5.14). In Vietnam, it is not difficult to find a cheap guest house or hotel under the US $5 to $10 range. It is very important for us though to always check the bathroom first whether it is clean or not and this one didn’t disappoint. We usually don’t mind sharing bathrooms as we always keep it clean after using and hope other guests would do the same.

In the morning, we realized we weren’t so lucky for finding that cheap hotel. As early as 7 in the morning, we woke up to the sound of Vietnamese teens running around, shouting and singing along a music video blaring on television, one floor above us. Oh well, we can’t have it all.

Since we were unable to extend our Vietnam visa in Buon Ma Thuot as I have told in my earlier post, we then proceeded to Kon Tum to try our luck. We booked a non-air conditioned local bus for 80,000 dong (US $4.57). The 4 hour ride on a non-air conditioned bus was pleasant enough since the weather is less humid compared to Saigon and besides, the fresh air on my face keeps me from feeling dizzy when the road start to zigzag.

Sleepy town of Kon Tum. This is a common sight in some developing towns around Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Ming (mt_kang on Flickr)

There are a few hotels and guest houses in Kon Tum. The Lonely Planet guidebook recommended bigger hotels which were all beyond our US $10 maximum budget for accommodation so we walked around the town with our heavy backpacks and chanced upon Viet Tram for US $6 per night. Oftentimes, hotels and guest houses in Vietnam accept US dollars as it is unsafe and inconvenient for most travelers to carry millions of dongs around. The rooms were spacious but not so clean. Also, we had to use the shared bathroom one level up from where we were staying because the owners of the hotel left their half done laundry in the bathroom beside our room. We didn’t bother to ask the owners to move the laundry out since we were too tired from the bus ride and just wanted to take the quickest shower possible and sleep.

The next day, after we found out there’s no Immigration office in Kon Tum, we explored the small town and the surrounding village by foot. The wooden church, which also have an orphanage behind it, is beautiful and unique. We were at the churchyard during a school meal break so there were a bunch of kids literally hanging around a small tree like monkeys to gather some fruits. They were throwing some of the fruit for us to try but I gave mine to some of the kids surrounding us that time.

Wooden Church in Kon Tum

The weather was so warm that we had to stop by several drink vendors to have some nuoc mia or sugarcane juice, tomato juice and coconut juice to keep us cool and hydrated.

A few meters further, we reached a small native village with unusual house structures. Some were made of mud with a huge roof. I found out the locals are from the same M’nong ethnic group in Dak Lak but they don’t live in long houses.

A house in Kon Tum local village

As we were curiously walking around the small village, the local children were also curious of us.  They were probably bored of their usual day that they followed us around while we take photos.

A typical day in a rural village in Kon Tum

It was unfortunate that we just breezed through the Central Highlands of Vietnam. With the visa extension issue hovering above us like a dark cloud, we didn’t fully enjoy exploring the place as usual since we were in a hurry to get to another bigger town to have the visa issue fixed. It was still a great experience though to see a different side of Vietnam which most travelers rarely see.