Dak Lak Vietnam, Central Highland
Lak Lake: 160 km from Dalat city
The largest natural body of water in the center highlands, Lak Lake (Ho Lak) is surrouanded by bucolic rural scenery. There are several minority villages scattered around the lake, qow of which often receive visitors. You can get paddled out into the blue, reed-covered expanse for around US$15 an hour.
On the south shores near the town of Lien Son lies Jun village, a fairly traditionalM’nong settlement filled with rattan and wooden stilt houses. The second village of M’lieng is on the southwestern shore and can be reached by elephant, boat or new dirt road; enquire at the DakLak Tourist.
Buon Ma Thuot
The Ede name translates as “Thuot’s father’s village”, but Buon Ma Thuat has outgrown its rustic origins without acquiring any real charm. An affluent, modern, but rather characterless city, it is inundated by trafic from three highways.
Its two saving graces are its museum and its coffee: the region grows some of the best in Vietnam, plenty of which is sold and drunk in town. Buon Me Thuat plays host to annual Coffe Festival in March that sees gallons of the black nectar drunk and elephant races held in nearby Don village.
Most travellers stop in Buon Me Thuot en route to the attractions lacated around it: Yok Don National Park. A couple of triking waterfalls and heaps of mironity villages. The province is home to 44 ethnic groups, the dominant groups being the Ede, Jarai, M’nong and Lao.
Sights & Activities
Ethnographic Museum (8am-4pm)
This exellent museum takes you through the history of the DakLak province, from stone tools and bronze burial drums to the American War and its aftermath, written from the Noorth Vietnamese perpective. Chortle at the natural history section with the wacky taxidermy and the demonic-looking deer! Mavel at the minority culture exhibits, with oustanding photography, displays of traditional clothing, musical instruments, and ritual objects such as the buffalo sacrifice pole, and learn about the seven-year tomb abandoning ceremony.
This monument commemorates the events of 10 March 1975 when VC and North Vietnamese troops liberated the city. It’s an interesting piece of socialist realist sculpture, consistingg of a column supporting a central group of figures holding a flag, with a modernist arch formiing a rainbow over a concrete replica tank.
Eating & Drinking
For a coffee or a beer, Nguyen Cong Tru st. has scores of asmospheric places.
King Mark Pizza
Ren by Sicilian Marco, whose staff bake their wares in a proper pizza oven, this is your best bet for Western food in town if you’re feeling a bit homesick. There’s a short and sweet pizza menu and some goof fresh fruit juices to accomkpany it.
Thanh Tam: 22 Ly Thuong Kiet st.
There’s only one dish here: delicious, roll-your-own nem nuong (rice-paper rolls, with salad and herbs, fried pork sausage and raw garlic, served with either peanut sauce or fish sauce and chilli)
Cafe Hoa Da Quy: 173 Nguyen Cong Tru
Casual, open-sided, three-storey cafe with rattan seating and a rooftop bar. Goodn spot for a ca phe sua da (iced coffee) and an inexpensive collection of cocktails.
Getting there & Around:
The bus station is about 4km from the centre. Buon Me Thuat is often called DakLak ( The provincce it is located in)
Car and motobike:
Well maintained though fairly steepp Hwy 26 links the coast with Buon Me Thuat, interestiing Hwy 1A at Ninh Hoa (157km), 34km north of Nha Trang, Hwy 14 to Pleiku (199km) is in good shape, while Hwy 27 to Dalat in scenic but potholed.
Around Buon Ma thuot
Yok Don National Park
The largest of Vietnam’s nature reserves, has been gradually expanded and today encompasses 115000 hectares of mainly dry decisuous forest. The prak runs all thay way up the the border with Cambodia, with the beautiful Srepok River flowing through it.
Unfortunately, deforestation is a big problem, particularly in the region closest to the entrance, and poaching is an ongoing issue.
Yok Don is home to 89 mammal species including wild elephants, tiigers, leopards and rare red wolves. However, these exotica are very rare ( and virtually never encountered by visitors). More common wildlife includes muntjac deer, monkeys and nakes. Numerous bird pecies live in the park, including storks and two types of hornbills.
Within the park’s boundaries are four minority villages, predorminantly M’nong but also with Ede and Lao people. Three villages are accessible (one by boat from the park office) while the fourth is deep inside the park and out of bounds.
The delicate balance between ecological conservation and the preservation of lacal cultures is a challenge, considering the poverty of the region’s peolple anf their traditional means of survival, such as hunting.
To explore the national park, it’s best to engage a guide at the park office.
Aimed quarely at foreign visitors who express concern regarding elephant welfare, this tour leaves at 6am and allows visitors to pachydrerns by assisting the mahouts with their daily care, including bathing them in the river. Fifteen-minutes bareback ride is included: book the tour the night before.
Visitors should be aware that animal welfare groups advocate at carrying loads is detrimental to the elephant’s health.
There are various hiking trails inside the national park forest and guided treks can be arranged, ranging from 2 hours to three days. Expect to pay around 400.000d for a day watching to 3,000,000 for three days’ worth of forest adventure, including food and tents.
Treks in the jungle can be arranged with an emphasis on birdwatching. Guide prices rang from 400.000d for a day’s watching to 3,000,000d for three-day trek with camping.
Emmerse yourself in Ede life in Buon Don village by singing up for a four-hour cooking course with a local family before 9am.. You’ll assist the familly with lunch or dinner preparation and share the meal with them afterwards.
Source: Lonely Plannet