Kontum

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Kontum is the capital of Kontum Province in Vietnam's Central Highlands.

Understand[edit]

Kontum is a relaxed little town with few sights. What nevertheless puts it on the map of interesting places in Vietnam are the surrounding minority villages, including settlements of the Sedang, Bahnar, Jarai, Gieh Trieng and Rengao ethnic groups. Each village has a rong, a huge and impressive communal house where the villagers gather for special occasions. Strangely enough, French Catholics missionaries were quite successful in this remote part of the country, converting some of the minorities and leaving churches behind.

Get in[edit]

Kontum is on Hwy 14, the inland road parallel to ever-congested Hwy 1. In an effort to transfer traffic from that route to here, the road has been upgraded, so the place is now easily reached. Northbound to Da Nang it runs along the northern part of the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail, winding through some of the roughest mountainous jungle terrain in the country.

By motorbike[edit]

By bus[edit]

Kontum's bus station is on the north side of town, just off the highway.

Buses arrive here from every coastal city between Da Nang and Nha Trang, while the neighbouring towns of Pleiku and Dac To are en route from Dalat/Buon Ma Thuot to Da Nang and thus see some through traffic.

The local buses are dangerous as they race each other down the mountains in order to collect the passengers (and their fares) first, and can overfill the minivan to as much as double its capacity. The "high quality" bus from Da Nang to Kon Tum is more comfortable, and does not overfill seats, however still provides a dangerous trip due to high speeds and little concern for other vehicles.

Pleiku Qui Nhon Buon Ma Thuot Nha Trang
Distance (km) 49 198 246 436

Buses from Plei Ku arrive in Kon Tum to a parking lot in Nguyen Hue st between Le Hong Phon St and 1A Hoang Van Thu St.

Get around[edit]

See[edit]

  • Bahnar Orphanage (Behind the Wooden Church). Visitors and donations welcome.
  • Catholic Seminary56 Tran Hung Dao. Houses a small minority museum, but the colonial-style building itself is well worth a visit.
Montagnard Church
  • Montagnard Church (Wooden Church) (East of Tan Huong Church). Built in 1913 and restored in the 1990s. It is remarkable for its blending of local artistic tradition and Christian symbols: Bahnar villages, elephants, a scale model of a rong.
  • Tan Huong Church (West end of Tran Phu).

Do[edit]

Kontum's major draw are the villages of the indigenous hill-tribes (called montagnards by the French). It is recommended you go with a guide, since he or she will be able to communicate in the minority language and keep you from inadvertently breaking taboos.

  • Kon Tum Tourist2 Phan Dinh Phung (Ground floor, Dakbla Hotel),  +84 60 861626, e-mail: . 07:00-11:00 & 13:00-16:00. If you are on a tight itinerary, it might be good to fix things beforehand, since they are often crowded with tour groups. Though some of the Bahnar villages actually form a part of Kontum's eastern and western edge, the ones farther away are more interesting. Highlights would be the different kinds of rong, the cemeteries of the Jarai, and joining a rice-wine party with the locals.

Buy[edit]

Eat[edit]

There is the usual selection of hole-in-the-wall restaurants or street side stalls, mainly on Tran Phu, around the market and on the road running parallel to the river.

On the northern parallel to Tran Phu (Phan Chu Trinh?), just a few houses from the corner with Phan Dinh Phung, there is a small vegetarian restaurant (an chay). They serve excellent faux-meat with dishes described as tuna, chicken, crab, and the like.

  • Dakbla Restaurant168 D Nguyen Hue. Separate from the hotel of the same name, Dakbla is nicely themed with decorations from the surrounding minority peoples. Wide variety of food including local and Western staples, excellent wild boar. Popular with tourists. English spoken. 25,000-150,000 dong.
  • Nghia12 Le Loi. Solid vegetarian option with rice, pho, and bun dishes. 20,000 dong.

Drink[edit]

All over town you'll find beautiful garden cafes to while away the hours.

  • Cafe Eva1 Phan Chu Trinh. Home to a local artist and a lot of his oeuvre is on display in the garden and the three-storey house resembling a stilt house. The place is a favourite with Vietnamese couples.
  • Dakbla Hotel Restaurant. Nice terrace from which you get excellent views of the sun setting over the Dakbla River.
  • Sunrise Café102 Nguyen Hué. Quiet two storey café with good coffee and honest and nice staff.

Sleep[edit]

  • Hoang Thinh HotelNguyen Hue (Corner of Le Hong Phong),  +84 60 3958958, e-mail: . Simple hotel in the south of the city along the same road as the wooden church (Nguyen Hue). Huge discounts for Vietnamese. Exterior rooms are very noisy. Windowless rooms reasonably quiet. 200,000+ dong.
  • Hoang Van Hotel1A Hoang Van Thu St +84 60 3917555. Broken English-speaking staff. Free Wi-Fi. Minibar prices only just above the street price. Restaurant downstairs. Bath tub. Air conditioning. Quiet location on a quiet street close to the Dak Bla River just after crossing the southern bridge. Hot water not always hot in some rooms. 220,000+ dong.
  • Hong My Hotel09 Ngo Quyen (Very close to the wooden church). Fairly nice hotel with standard rooms with TV. Maybe the best value in Kon Tum. 120,000+ dong.
  • Hotel Thinh Vuong16b Nguyen Trai (A few blocks walk from the market). Clean mini hotel. All rooms have hot water, air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, mini-bar and a TV. The deluxe rooms also have a balcony and PC. Off road parking for motorbikes. Breakfast for 35,000 dong. 170,000-250,000 dong.
  • Poussiere de Vie CottageKon Ko Tu Village (7 km from Kon Tum, near the community house and the bonfire.). Two cottages, about ten persons maximum in each.

Stay healthy[edit]

The Central Highlands are a high-risk region for malaria. Wear long trousers and shirt sleeves after dusk.

Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

To Laos via Bo Y border crossing.

From Kontum you can get to Attapeu or Pakse in Laos with a bus that leaves from Pleiku. Details about schedules and right bus stop can be had from Kon Tum Tourist.

More adventurous travellers can get a local bus to Ngoc Hoi and a moto ride to the border (about 20 km from Ngoc Hoi). On the Lao side you might have to hitch a ride to Attapeu (120 km) as at least as of Oct 2007 there wasn't any public transport here. However, be warned that traffic on road going from Bo Y border crossing to Attapeu is sparce and there aren't any villages until only 40-30 km before Attapeu.

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