Buon Ma Thuot
Buon Ma Thuot
The city is located right at the heart of the central highland of Vietnam, 1300 km from Ha Noi, 500 km from Da Nang, and 350 km from Ho Chi Minh City.
Lying on a fairly flat highland, at an average height of 536m (1608 ft) above the sea, Buon Ma Thuot has a vital role in Vietnam's national security and defense system. Buon Ma Thuot is the capital of Dak Lak Province and also the biggest city in Central Highlands (Tay Nguyen).
Initially introduced by the French in 1915, coffee is now the province’s leading commodity and you can’t walk down the street without being tempted by a cup. In 2009, Dak Lak produced 380,373 tons of coffee, mostly robusta. The city even has a coffee festival that takes place every March.
Though the city has little for visitors to see, Buon Ma Thuot is the base for exploring all 13,125 square kilometres of Dak Lak, which sits on a large plateau surrounded by mountains and valleys formed from volcanic activity 25-30 million years ago. The Krong Ana and Krong Kno rivers flow through, joining to become the Srepok River (locally known as Dak Krong), a major tributary of the Mekong River. The river gives life to Dray Nur and Dray Sap waterfalls, meanders through Yok Don, Vietnam’s biggest protected area, before flowing into northeastern Cambodia. National parks like Yok Don are necessary: Fifty per cent of the province is covered in forest, but natural resources and wildlife are rapidly disappearing due to excessive exploitation of timber and human degradation. Doing a trek or other park activity shows the locals, in a small way, that there is an alternative sustainable economy from tourism.
Who are the locals?
There are three indigenous people: the Ede (298,534), Mnong (40,344) and Jarai (16,129). Each group has its own characteristics but they all have a matriarchal structure, with large families traditionally living within one longhouse. Their cultural identity is expressed through their language, architecture, funeral rites, gong music, pottery and dependence on nature. A visit to the Ethnographic Museum gives an essential primer to these tribes, and Lak Lake is a good place to see it first hand. Not only is the lake beautiful, a homestay in one of the Mnong villages that dot the shore provides a window into their world.