North of Kon Tum, Route 14 follows the old Ho Chi Minh Trail which snakes north through Kon Tum, Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue provinces, all the while running parallel to the Lao/Vietnamese frontier -- sometimes little more than a kilometre away behind a rise to the west. This remote, little-visited region can be a highlight of an excursion through Vietnam, and while many of those who do experience it do so with the Easy Riders, it's even better if you've got your own wheels.
Commencing from Kon Tum, Route 14 runs through Dak To, Ngoc Hoi, Dak Glei and Phuoc Son from where you can take a right turn on 14E and cruise downhill through Hiep Duc till you reach Highway 1 at the town of Thanh Binh midway between Tam Ky and Hoi An. From Phuoc Son you can also continue north, through Nam Giang, Prao and A Luoi before finally reaching Route 9 and the DMZ just to the east of Khe Sanh.
This section covers the Kon Tum to Hiep Duc route via Phuoc Son. We'll add the more northern stretch as soon as we ride it!
Dak To is sometimes visited on a day-trip from Kon Tum, but even the tour organisers admit it's not really worth the effort. There's a war memorial, with two salvaged tanks -- one Russian, one Chinese -- which were used by the Viet Cong towards the end of the American war. Just outside town are the remains of an American-built airstrip along with some bombed-out foxholes. These are worth taking a look if you are passing through.
As Dak To lies just 40km north of Kon Tum and 20 km south of Ngoc Hoi (Plei Kan) you don't really need to spend a night here -- unless you want to.
Ngoc Hoi (Plei Kan)
Ngoc Hoi is on a spot along the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Route 14) where it does a hairpin turn just 14 km from the Lao border of Bo Y. You'll most likely find yourself bedding down in Ngoc Hoi if you've decided to take a walk on the wild side and use the Bo Y border to cross between Attapeu in Laos and Kon Tum in Vietnam. It's also a possible rest stop when touring the Central Highlands independently. While Ngoc Hoi is surrounded by rolling, green countryside, the town itself is unremarkable. Locals refer to this place as Ngoc Hoi, but it's Plei Kan on the maps and some road signs.
This tiny town 50km north of Ngoc Hoi, is located just at the southern end of the mountain pass along Route 14, 50 km south of from Phuoc Son. It serves as a small centre of commerce for the surrounding tribal villages, and staying here makes sense if you're not quiet ready to leave the hills behind and continue your journey, or if you want to take on the mountains in the morning.
This is a staple stop-over point for Easy Rider tours travelling between Da Nang and Kon Tum -- most don't linger here for more than the night.
Phuoc Son is a pretty unassuming little mountain town -- internet is available at the post office and at a few internet cafes, but the Agribank here has no services for foreigners -- they don't even handle currency exchange and referred us back to our hotel for the service. Accommodation is basic -- nothing fancy, but there is some variety and a few places are quite cheap.
This small, district capital is technically called Tan An, but everyone seems to call it by the name of the district it's in. Hiep Duc is the centre of some government administrative activity and not much else -- the only reason to visit is to pass through if you opt to take Route 14E east from the junction with Route 14A (the Ho Chi Minh Highway), 5 km outside Phuoc Son, or you're travelling the other way from Thanh Binh along coastal Route 1A.
Everything of note in Ngoc Hoi is along Hung Vuong, the street name for Route 14 as it passes through town. Coming from Dak Glei 50km to the north, the road does a sharp, hairpin turn at the intersection with the road to the Laos border, and another road that leads to Sa Loong 15km away. It doubles back, heading thorough the heart of town, before continuing on south to Dak To and Kon Tum.
The main post office is near the intersection -- the internet cafe is across the street. Accommodation and the bus station can be found 500 metres further 'south' along Hung Vuong. Your closest money options are in Kon Tum.
Main Post Office: Hung Vuong, Ngoc Hoi. T: (060) 832 122. F: (060) 832 106. Hours: 06:30 to 21:00. Long Distance Phone services available.
Internet Cong Nghe Xanh: 18 Hung Vuong, Ngoc Hoi. T: (060) 832 280. E-mail: email@example.com
Dak Glei has no banking options, but there is a post office and at least one decent internet cafe.
Phuoc Son is laid out in a grid on the south side of Route 14, in back of the Phuoc Son and Xuan Mai hotels, surrounding a central market place. The post office is across a side street from the Phuoc Son Hotel, on the same side of the highway. The streets are unmarked. Addresses refer to what 'khoi' they are on, but we couldn't make any rhyme or reason out of the system. Places on the same street refer to their 'khoi' by different numbers.
If you're looking for something to do in the evening, there's a good spot for billiards and pool, Cau Loac Bo Billards. It's on the road between the Phuoc Son Hotel and the post office, about 800 metres down on the left, 4,000 VND per game.
Cau Lac Bo Billiards: Phuoc Son. T: (0510) 881 343. Hours: 07:00 to 22:00
Phuoc Son Post Office: Khoi 4, Phuoc Son. T: (0510) 881 800, F: (0510) 881 330. Hours: 06:30 to 21:30. Long-distance phone service available. Internet, 2,500 VND per hour.
The road between Hiep Duc an Route 1A is unexceptional, so at this point your trip is either just beginning or just ending and you might wind up here for a night. Internet is available, but no banking. The post office is located along the road through town -- long distance phone service is available:
Hiep Duc Post Office: Thon 1, Hiep Duc. T: (0510) 883 210. F: (0510) 883 204. Hours: 06:30 to 21:00 daily.
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Text and/or map last updated on 25th September, 2015.
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