We left Hoi An on the 21/1/07 by a hired taxi. It was a really nice way to come down the Ho Chi Mihn trail (highway).
Our driver, Trung, spoke fairly good English and told us things along the way about each town we passed. We stopped in one beautiful spot in the country side where their was a waterfall and fog rolling over the mountains. We also stopped in a very small village to see up close our first Rong House. The Rong House is used by the Banhar people. They use it for celebrations like weddings, funerals and Council meetings.
There is only ever one in a village. About half way through our drive the sky suddenly cleared and, in the space of a few minutes, we where out of the rainy season of North Central Vietnam and into the dry season of the Central Highlands. The drive took just over 6 hours from Hoi An. It was a lot quicker then the other option which was a mini van that takes over 10 hours!
When we arrived in Kon Tum we went out for dinner at the recommended place in the Lonely planet. Since the latest book was released there are double the amount of hotels and restaurants.
Our driver recommended a place to stay called the Family Hotel. The rooms are clean and cheap. The Easy riders of Delat stays here so it has to be good. We stayed 3 nights in KonTum. The First day we went to the local market in town. We quickly realized that this place does not get a lot of tourist as the locals still stare in amazement at you. After the market, we headed to the Vihn Son Orphanage to go and take toys and play with the children. We got a chance to meet the Sisters who run the Orphanage and most of the children who were very friendly. The highlight had to be playing with the 2-3 year olds who loved our toys and put a show on for us with some of the songs they learned from the caretakers in appreciation.
The second day we hired a motorbike to go out to the villages on the out skirts of the main town. Some of these villages don't have many tourist go there so be prepared for different reactions. Everyone was extremely friendly though and yelled "Allo" and waved.
All in all, Kon Tum was a very enjoyable place to visit and a good way to get off the beaten tourist trail. On a historical note, we learned that the Kon Tum Province with the towns of Dak To, Kon Tum, and Plaku played an important role in the Vietnam War. Apparently, this remote area of the Central Highlands was of strategic importance to both the US and South Vietnamese forces. There was some fierce fighting in the area, particularly at "Charlie Hill" just outside Dak To. Many of the Mountain Tops in the Country side between the towns are still barren as a result of the Agent Orange that was used on the region. As far as we could tell however, and hard as it is to believe, the Vietnamese we met in the area seem to have put the war behind them.
We are now off to Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand!
Love Marc & Emma