The most northerly
of the three towns on the Highland plateaux, the provincial
capital of Kon Tum is located on the banks of the Dakbla
River about 900km from Ho Chi Minh City and around 200km
from Qui Nhon. It’s a pleasant, unassuming sort of place.
There are well over 600 ethnic minority villages and hamlets
in the province, mostly Ba Na, Xo Dang, Gie Trieng and Gia
Rai. A sizeable proportion of the population has converted
The French used
Kon Tum as their administrative centre for the Central Highlands
and built a large prison to subdue the local population. They
deployed the prisoners as forced labour to build Highway 19
– needless to say, many died.
One of the best-known
international guidebooks has much to say about Kon Tum’s historic
prison, concluding that the “local tourism authorities have
not quite grasped the economic potential of this would-be
war museum.” Had the authors checked, they’d have known that
the prison was demolished after the war and completely rebuilt
between 1998 and 2000 by the tourism department to capitalise
upon an unwitting tourist market. Oops!
If you travel
with Haivenu, you get accurate information. As we’re not interested
in ‘fake’ attractions, we give the prison a miss.
the town has two French-built churches that definitely shouldn’t
be missed. The small, whitewashed Tan Huong Church was built
around the 1850s. It stands on stilts, although it’s not immediately
obvious. Inside, it’s a gem. Most of the stained glass is
original, and there’s a splendid vaulted ceiling. The roof
has been replaces, but the original ‘fishscale’ tiles can
be seen on the tower.
‘Wooden Church’ was built in 1913, and has been carefully
restored. The stained-glass window includes both Christian
and local imagery.
Palace isn’t open to the public, but it’s worth a look from
While in Kon
Tum, we encourage our guests to visit the town’s Ba Na orphanage.
It’s a poorly funded charitable foundation, but the children
are well cared for despite the somewhat Spartan surroundings.
You’ll get a very warm welcome, and they’ll get a decent donation
on your behalf, a transaction that sends everyone away happy.
The main attraction
of the area around Kon Tum is dozens of easily accessible
ethnic minority villages. Visitors can stroll through ethnic
communities, meet the people and experience their daily life.
You’re very unlikely to run into beggars or other nuisances:
even the children don’t cluster around or pester strangers.
People are very friendly, and happy to welcome guests into
their houses. Homestays are available.
DakBla River in an inflatable dingy, a riverside picnic, swimming,
dinner in the Rong house of a Ba Na village followed by wine
and conversation with the locals typifies the experiences
offered by this little-known area and its easygoing, good-natured
If you want to
get further away, there are plenty of good trekking routes
taking you through attractive countryside and across precarious
bridges to reach more remote villages. Accommodation will
most likely be in the local ‘rong’ house. You need to be flexible
and adaptable, though – the local authorities have differing
ideas about what’s allowed and what isn’t, which is why you
need one of our expert guides to smooth the way!