Ban Don Village
A Potemkin's village
What we say:
Nestled in a crook of the Serepok River, just across the water from the Yok Don National Park, the 'Ede' village of Ban Don is on display for visitors. We found it to be a bit of a Potemkin's village, set up to please tourists and distract them from real minority villages in the area where they might get a peek at the ongoing tensions between the local tribes and Vietnamese government.
It's a pleasant enough spot -- there's a traditional longhouse full of souvenirs to buy, and the tribespeople that work there spend the day putting on musical shows using traditional instruments for group after group of tourists. It's all contrived and a bit awkward for our taste.
This is the place to head for elephant rides, which include fording across the Serepok River, which is pretty cool. Rides are 300,000 VND per hour if you show up without booking through a tour agency. The elephants can hold two to three people, depending on their girth (the passengers, not the elephants). There's a restaurant on site that serves some of the local wild game (legally? We're not sure). Stilt house homestays are also available for US$5 per night in basic but attractive little huts that come with squat toilets and mattresses on the floor with mosquito nets. You can also arrange to cross over to Yok Don from here for a trek through the park.
More detailsHow to get there: To get here on your own, follow the directions to Yok Don -- the turn-off is well-marked, 3.8km before the entrance to the park. It's another 1.7km to the village itself (the sign says 800 metres, but that's wishful thinking).
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