Photo: Dray Nur waterfall, Buon Ma Thuot.


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Once a rustic backwater town and site of a decisive battle of the Vietnam War, Buon Ma Thuot has emerged from its war-torn roots and grown into the bustling, sprawling and relatively charmless capital city of Dak Lak province. It prospers from the spoils of the surrounding countryside, the fertile soil producing rubber, clay, minerals and coffee – lots and lots of coffee.

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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.

Pack your selfie stick. Photo taken in or around Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Pack your selfie stick. Photo: Cindy Fan

Who are the locals? If there is one great narrative that would explain present day Dak Lak, it would be the story of immigration. Several waves of immigration have shaped the region and resulted in the province having more than 40 ethnic groups, with immigrants forming 79.5% of Dak Lak’s ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,100 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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