This sunny and windy landscape features a variety of wonderful things for you to do, particularly in March, when the entire land is carpeted in the white color of coffee tree flowers.
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Text by: Son Nguyen
Joining in the festival of lights and the sound of gong
Gong is a particular cultural tradition of the ethnic groups in the Central Highlands. It is regarded as the spiritual voice and the soul of local people to express their joy or sorrow in their daily life. Gong is often performed on special occasion such as the Gong Festival (held annually in five provinces: Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong); elephant racing at Don Village (held annually in March at Don Village, Buon Ma Thuot); and the Spring Festival from January to March in ethnic villages of the Central Highlands.
The Coffee Festival in Buon Ma Thuot is held in Buon Ma Thuot City of Dak Lak. This is to honour the coffee tree, which brings prosperity and bountifulness to this region. During the festival, you can taste a wide selection of coffee manufactured in the Central Highlands.
Visiting Ako Dhong village
Ako Dhong, also known as Co Thon Village or Marin Village is a village of E De ethnic people at the end of Tran Nhat Duat Street, Buon Ma Thuot City. The village has a long history and many traditional values. At present, this is a fascinating travel destination of the city. Here you can explore the daily life of local people in this sunny, mountainous area.
Riding an elephant in Don village
Riding an elephant across YokDon National Park or sailing a dug-out canoe is a memorable experience. Wooden houses, ethnic people, herds of cows and goats and the Serepok River will be an unforgettable part of your journey to Dak Lak.
Conquering the T-intersection of Indochina
The Bo Y bordering gate, where “the cock-crow is heard by three countries” is a must-see destination when you visit this area. As the T-intersection of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, this is a very important landmark of the country.
Flower seasons of the Highlands
From early January, the entire Central Highlands changes to the color of rubber forests. After growing and producing the white sap, these economic trees of the region now rest and recover from the cutting process. In this season, the trees drop their leaves. Leaves become red and yellow before falling down to the ground.
Until March, fields of coffee trees are bright with white flowers. They bloom until the end of spring. After only a few days, the flowers turn to little fruits on branches. This season also attracts the most number of visitors to Buon Ma Thuot.
Enjoying a cup of coffee
Coffee from the Central Highlands is the most delicious. When sitting in the sun and wind of this red soil area, a cup of coffee made from the coffee beans grown here is awfully scrumptious. Some favorite cafes here include Po Lang, Pink Valley, Green Stone or Stone Bell.
“Rượu cần” – The flavor of the mountains
Once coming to the Central Highlands, you cannot miss tasting “rượu cần” – wine drunk out of a jar through pipes. More interestingly, you can learn about the methods of making wine and the way local people enjoy the wine. “Rượu cần” of the Central Highlands is an indispensable drink in festivals and special occasions.
To make a jar of good wine, local people must prepare a special ferment and other ingredients. To make the ferment, they use a kind of dry tree, ground to a powder, mixed with rice powder, then water is added and the mixture is stored until it is mouldy.
The way to drink this kind of wine definitely depends on the ceremonies. In a worshiping ceremony, they use only one pipe and people take turns to drink from the oldest person to the youngest one, from women to men. The former drinker must hand the pipe to the latter to express the succession of the family from generation to generation. In normal parties, they use many pipes.
While drinking, you should not break the jar or the pipe because it is considered bad luck. In particular, do not leave the pipe when there is no one else to drink. In the new year, people in the Central Highlands flock to many festivals. You can hear the sound of the gong around villages and enjoy “rượu cần”, the flavor of the mountains.
Mouthwatering leaf rolls
If you visit the mountainous area in the Northern Highlands (Kon Tum), you should try the mouthwatering leaf rolls of the Central Highlands. This dish is made of more than 40 kinds of leaves, some of which are found only in the Central Highlands.
The “forest” of leaves includes barringtonia acutangula, ginseng, apricot, green mustard, guava, fig, lolot, plantain, houttuynia, cinnamon and basil. Each kind has a different function for curing diseases. These leaves are used to roll food such as pork meat, fried shrimp or chopped pork skin mixed with fried rice powder.
The sauce is made of vinegar and egg with the addition of pepper, salt, ground green chilli and spring onion. The leaves combined with pork meat, shrimp and pork skin are a very scrumptious dish of this region.
This dish is often served with a sip of wine soaked with đinh lăng’s roots (Panax fruticosus). Then, you can try a bowl of fish porridge. According to local people, eating leaf rolls is very good for your health because most of the leaves can cure various problems such as cardiovascular and digestion diseases.
Conquering imposing waterfalls
There are a variety of magnificent waterfalls in the Central Highlands. Yaly Waterfall from Se San River is located in Ya Tang, Sa Thay, Kon Tum province. The waterfall features many large pools and oasises. For its breathtaking and ideal scenery, Yaly Waterfall is often the first destination for many tours in the Central Highlands.
Thuy Tien Waterfall is situated about 7km from Tam Giang town, Krong Nang, Dak Lak. The waterfall features many stairs and three platforms pouring out white bubbles. The first platform can be walked to easily. The second platform expands with many stone stairs creating shallow pools, which is the perfect place for visitors to paddle in the water while the third platform is very steep with deep pools in the jungle.
Dieu Thanh Waterfall is located in Dak Tit stream across Nhan Co and Quang Tan communes of Dak R’Lap, Dak Nong. Dieu Thanh is made up of a big waterfall flowing down from a height of about 30m and many small waterfalls. This waterfall creates an imposing sound in the ancient forest.
Ba Tang (Three Platforms) of Dak Glong, Dak Nong is about 8km from Gia Nghia main town of Buon Me Thuot. This is an exciting area in the south of Dak Lak. It is called Ba Tang Waterfall because it flows down three platforms before reaching the stream. The platforms run after each other at the height of 40m. The stream is rather wide with many ancient trees and camp grounds along its banks.
In addition, Dak Nong and Dak Lak share three mighty waterfalls, which are Dray Sap, Dray Nur and Gia Long waterfalls. Dray Sap (Dak Nong) is surrounded by a lush green forest. Here, you can listen to the love story of a beautiful girl, H’Mi, and contemplate the mountainous scenery within the sound of the waterfall. About 3km from Dray Sap stands Gia Long waterfall of Dak Nong. The path across the forest here is covered by lush green trees and creepers on valuable wood and is considered one of the most beautiful paths in the country. Gia Long Waterfall is peaceful in the ancient forest. The waterfall has a very large lake with clear water straight from mountain creeks.
Dambri Waterfall in Bao Loc, Lam Dong means “waiting” in the language of K’Ho. It is connected with the emotional story of a lady and her lover. This is the highest waterfall in Lam Dong with a height of more than 40m, creating two imposing falls. You can walk up 138 stairs or take an elevator or experience the thrill of speed with a slide of 1,650m to conquer the waterfall.
Best time to visit the Central Highlands Vietnam
In the Central Highlands, the rainy and dry seasons are separate. The rainy season lasts from May to October. During this season, it is rather difficult to travel along dirt roads; as a result it is not a suitable time for tourists.
During the dry season it is not very hot and the air is not too dry. This is the best time to visit the Central Highlands.
How to get to Central Highlands Vietnam
Buon Ma Thuot is about 350km from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). It will take you about 7-8 hours by car or one hour by airplane. From HCMC, you can travel to Buon Ma Thuot by both car and airplane. Vietnam Airlines offers flights from Hanoi and HCMC to Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku and Dalat (Lien Khuong airport).
- Thien Ma Hotel, 50 – 52 – 54 Hai Ba Trung Street. Tel: 050.3853963/3850397
- Dam San Hotel, 212 – 214 Nguyen Cong Tru Street. Tel: 050.3851234/3850123
- Thang Loi Hotel, 1 Phan Chu Trinh. Tel: 050.3857615
- Cao Nguyen Hotel, 65 Phan Chu Trinh. Tel: 050.3855960
- Nam Nguyen Hotel, 30 Tran Quang Khai. Tel: 050.3.955 255
Cuisine (in Buon Ma Thuot)
- Huong Vi Viet (Vietnamese food) Garden – 135 Nguyen Tri Phuong: Beautiful, airy space with delicious dishes at reasonable prices. You can choose from grilled meat dishes, steamed chicken with sauce, grilled fish with green pepper or grilled pork meat.
- Bon Trieu Garden Yard Restaurant – No Trang Gu Street: more expensive than Huong Vi Viet Restaurant. You can taste dishes cooked with green banana.
- Dak Me Restaurant – Ngo Quyen Street: appetizing dishes at reasonable prices.
- Tuan Dat restaurant – Tran Nhat Duat Street with delicious grilled pork ribs.
The Central Highlands features many ancient customs of the many ethnic groups. Festivals from December of the previous year to March of the following year’s lunar calendar attract a large number of visitors.
The Central Highlands features many steep roads. Therefore, tourists should bring low-heeled shoes to climb up the mountain. In addition, when climbing, you should bring two pairs of socks; one for absorbing sweat and the other for avoiding mosquitos. Visitors should also bring comfortable clothes.
See more about Central Highlands travel at here.