Remote Kon Tum province is the northernmost region of Vietnam's Central Highlands. Quite mountainous, it attracts relatively few travellers when compared to the far more touristed province of Lam Dong (home to Da Lat) further south. The provincial capital, Kon Tum town, sits on the bank of the Dakbla River and can be used as a base for forays into the surrounding countryside.
Kon Tum is a small town with the surrounding area dotted with montagnard villages. The surrounding area was the site of considerable fighting during the conflict with the Americans, and even now, decaying weapons and shells abound.
Kon Tum is known for its montagnard villages -- some of them are right on the edge of town, even within walking distance of your hotel. They received the lions share of tourists, and are well-accustomed to the routine of presenting dance and music performances in traditional dress, along with wine drinking and healthy helping of local hospitality.
Such tours are cheap and worthwhile, as far as they go, especially if you're pressed for time, on a limited budget, or travelling in a large group. But further afield, there are over five hundred mountain villages in the surrounding area, representing eight different ethnic minority groups. Some of these places require a two- or three-day trek to reach, and have hosted more western anthropologists over the years than western tourists -- and precious few of the former at that.
If you're weary of the tourist centres and looking to embark on a journey into the relatively unexplored, outer reaches of Vietnam, Kon Tum provides an excellent staging area.
One draw back to Kon Tum is that the hills immediately surrounding the city are scarred by ugly, brown patches of deforestation, marring the views. It's true that Kon Tum saw a lot of action during the war with America, but the lack of vegetation has been caused more by slash-and-burn agriculture than anything else. Still, its a friendly, energetic town with a couple of good places to stay and eat, and a few sites worth taking in as you walk around town.
Text and/or map last updated on 30th October, 2013.
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