Overseas Adventure Vietnam – Very few travellers venture far into remote Central Vietnam. However, if you have a couple of days to spare on your Vietnam travel adventure we think a trip to the Buon Ma Thuot region is well worth your time, and could be a great stopover in a scenic overland trip between Hoi An and Nha Trang. How does a picnic by a waterfall sound? Perhaps followed by a quick swim in a refreshing pond or a hike through the jungle…
In the heart of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, well off the beaten tourist track, is the city of Buon Ma Thuot. It lies 350km north-east of Ho Chi Minh City and 194km north-west of Nha Trang. It is the largest city in the Central Highlands, with a population of around 250,000 people, and is a great spot if you’re looking to get away from the heavy tourism influence found in other major centres of Vietnam.
The best time to visit is during the dry season from November to April. The rainy season can also be appealing, as the rains can create such a dramatic lush green landscape, however travel on the undeveloped roads can be pretty unpredictable during these times.
Buon Ma Thuot is a great central hub if you enjoy trekking; in the region you will find a number of ethnic villages, including those of the Rhade, Jarai and M’nong groups, where centuries-old traditions are well kept. It is possible to organise home stays in some of the ethnic villages for intrepid travellers looking for a more authentic Vietnam travel experience, or day trips are also possible to the long-houses of the Rhade and M’nong groups, which have been recommended as some of the most impressive in the region. Also, worth a visit is the Hill Tribe museum located in the city, showcasing ancient weapons, clothing and the culture of the tribes.
The minority villages offer another unique experience, one that involves climbing aboard a gentle giant that will take you on an adventure into the jungle. The area around Buon Ma Thuot is a training centre for elephants and is pretty much the only place you’ll be able to ride elephants in Vietnam. The trainers come from families which have been working with elephants for generations. Traditionally the elephants were trained to transport logs, but more recently the elephants are trained to give many tourists their first memorable experience of travelling through the jungle on their back as they meander through the trees.
Not too far from Buon Ma Thuot are several picturesque waterfalls definitely worth visiting. The images of Drai Sap, Draylon, Drayling and Draynor Waterfalls can often be found on many postcards and calendars of Vietnam. These falls are approximately 12kms away from Buon Ma Thuot with Drai Sap being most recommended to visit.
Buon Ma Thuot is also popular as the caffeine capital of Vietnam. Vietnam is the world’s second biggest coffee producer after Brazil, and there are two companies in the Dak Lak province near Buon Ma Thuot which were established in the 1990’s: Trung Nguyen and Highlands Coffee. Between them they produce Arabica, Robusta, Chari and Catimor varieties, and other blends are achieved for flavour and balance by mixing beans from different plants. There are cafes on almost every corner of Buon Ma Thuot, with coffee being served at your table while it is still brewing. It will be presented in a “Phin”, which is a single cup with a filter and brewer combination that sits on top. The Vietnamese way is to use condensed milk instead of fresh milk, as the condensed version is so much easier to store in the humid climate.