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.
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.
- Easyriders, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offer tours of the Central Highlands (Vietnam) starting from Da Nang, Dalat or Nha Trang. You can hire a bike for USD4-5 per day if you prefer to drive yourself.
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|
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.
- Bahnar Orphanage (Behind the Wooden Church). Visitors and donations welcome.
- Catholic Seminary, 56 Tran Hung Dao. Houses a small minority museum, but the colonial-style building itself is well worth a visit.
- 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).
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 Tourist, 2 Phan Dinh Phung (Ground floor, Dakbla Hotel), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
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 Restaurant, 168 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.
- Nghia, 12 Le Loi. Solid vegetarian option with rice, pho, and bun dishes. 20,000 dong.
All over town you'll find beautiful garden cafes to while away the hours.
- Cafe Eva, 5 Phan Chu Trinh (Eastern end), ☎ 0603862944, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 among Vietnamese locals. The owner, Mr. An can also share in-depth knowledge of the Montagnards' culture and arrange day tours of Bahnar villages or explorations of indigenous culture, with local homestays.
- Dakbla Hotel Restaurant. Nice terrace from which you get excellent views of the sun setting over the Dakbla River.
- Sunrise Café, 102 Nguyen Hué. Quiet two-storey café with good coffee and honest and nice staff.
- Hoang Thinh Hotel, Nguyen Hue (Corner of Le Hong Phong), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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 Hotel, 1A Hoang Van Thu St, ☎ . 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 Hotel, 09 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 Vuong, 16b 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 Cottage, Kon Ko Tu Village (7 km from Kon Tum, near the community house and the bonfire.). Two cottages, about ten persons maximum in each.
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.