Kon Tum

Kon Tum

A Highlands highlight

Remote Kon Tum province is the northernmost region of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Despite good road access from the coast — (it can easily be reached within a day from Da Nang and Hoi An), it attracts few travellers, especially compared to the popular city of Da Lat. Travellers who do come usually breeze through for a night on Easy Rider-type motorcycle tours.

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This area is wonderfully unaffected by mass tourism and if you spend a little time here, you’ll be rewarded by stunning ethnic diversity, warm hospitality in remote Montagnard villages, beautiful rural scenery and a journey through Vietnam’s war-torn past. Kon Tum city sits on the bank of the Dakbla River, a great base for forays into the surrounding countryside and villages. Those arriving from a larger city will be shocked at the city’s quiet streets and easy-going pace. A motorbike ride outside of town, a coffee in the garden of Evacafe or a peaceful riverside beer will have you wondering, “Is this really Vietnam?” Blanketed by such tranquility, it’s hard to believe that Kon Tum was the site of an intense and bloody battle during the Vietnam War.

A classic Rong House. : Cindy Fan.
A classic Rong House. Photo: Cindy Fan

By May 14, 1972, Kon Tum city was surrounded by the North Vietnamese Army. A month earlier the NVA had launched the Easter Offensive, throwing everything they had at key strategic areas including Kon Tum. In the days leading up to the Battle of Kon Tum, a flood of refugees flowed non-stop down Highway 14 into the city, mainly to escape American bombing, while Chinook helicopters carrying up to 70 people at a time made continuous flights evacuating as many as possible to Pleiku. The city swelled with 30,000 refugees, mostly Montagnards. The mood and evacuation was desperate; they knew what ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,300 words.)

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