Last updated on July 20th, 2016 at 10:18 am
Find out how to plan the most enjoyable trip to Buon Ma Thuot Vietnam with our hand-picked collection of best Buon Ma Thuot tours and Buon Ma Thuot Dak Lak travel guide including off the beaten path Buon Ma Thuot elephant trek, budget, cheap Buon Ma Thuot trekking, hiking, Buon Ma Thuot waterfall, Buon Ma Thuot attractions, Buon Ma Thuot at the lake lake, Buon Ma Thuot Pleiku.
Buon Ma Thuot Map
Tucked deep into the Central Highlands, about 360 km from Saigon, Buon Ma Thuot is much farther off the beaten track than Dalat and sees far fewer tourists. However,But Buon Ma Thuot is certainly worth the trip. The area is an elephant training center and offers visitors that ability to go elephant trekking in Vietnam.
The region is home to a number of ethnic minorities, including the Rhade and Jarai groups. The area also boasts some impressive waterfalls. Buon Ma Thuot has the distinction of being the site of the last major battle between the North Vietnamese Army and South Vietnamese troops during March 1975. As a testament to that battle, the first North Vietnamese Army tank to enter the city is perched in the center of town as a monument to Buon Ma Thuot’s “liberation.”
Buon Ma Thout makes a great base for trekking to ethnic villages. The longhouses of the Rhade and M’nong groups are particularly impressive – try to spend a night or two if time permits. A popular stop is at the Rhade village of Buon Tuo, about 13 km from town. Thirty-five kilometers to the north, in the village of Ya Liao, can be found a 13th-century Cham tower. In town, visit the hilltribe museum on Me Mai Street, which houses artifacts, ancient weapons, clothing and other relics of the Montagnard and Rhade ethnic groups.
The local minority villages are also great for elephant rides. Elephants can also be found in the wild at nearby Yok Don National Park, at 58,200 hectares, Vietnam’s largest. Don village is the gateway to the park. Elephant rides are available for a few hours or a few days from local mahouts. However, tours are quite expensive.
Surrounding waterfalls worth a visit include Drai Sap, Draylon, Drayling and Draynor Waterfalls. The best are found at Drai Sap, and often appear on Vietnam postcards and calendars. About 12 km from Buon Ma Thuot, the falls aren’t particularly tall but are expansive and dramatic. It’s tempting to swim in the river pools formed at the base of these falls – and many folks do take the plunge – but the surrounding and submerged rocks are jagged and treacherous. It’s easy to get yourself quite cut up.
Coffee is the major cash crop here, however, this mountainous region is heavily deforested, the hillsides bald and brown during the winter months. Much of the region’s wildlife has been driven away by deforestation or through the misfortune of getting stuffed by wannabe taxidermists. The best time to visit Buon Ma Thuot is during the dry season, between November and May. Though the scenery isn’t as lush as it is during the rainy season, it’s a lot easier to get around!
Buon Ma Thuot Attractions
Gong cultural space
The cultural space of Gong culture covers 5 provinces in Central Highlands Vietnam, including Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong. This art is created and performed by ethnic groups who live along the Truong Son Range: E De, Ba Na, Ma, Lac and others. Each ethnic group plays Gong in their own way to generate different pieces of music used for different festive occasions and rituals as a way to communicate with Gods. Over the years, gongs have become a special cultural feature of Central Highlands Vietnam. In 2005, the Space of Gong Culture was officially recognized as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The gongs are made of brass alloy or a mixture of brass and gold, silver, bronze. Their diameter is from 20cm to 60cm or from 90cm to 120cm. A set of gongs consists of 2 to 12 or 13 units and even to 18 or 20 units in some places.
In most of ethnic groups, namely Gia Rai, Ede Kpah, Ba Na, Xo Dang, Brau, Co Ho, etc., only males are allowed to play gongs. However, in others such as Ma and M’Nong groups, both males and females can play gongs. Few ethnic groups (for example, E De Bih), gongs are performed by women only.
As for the majority of ethnic groups in Central Highlands, gongs are musical instruments of sacred power. It is believed that every gong is the settlement of a god who gets more powerful as the gong is older. “God of gong” is always considered as the tutelary deity for the community’s life. Therefore, gongs are associated to all rites in one’s life, such as the inauguration of new houses, funerals, buffalo sacrifice, crop praying rite, new harvest, ceremony to pray for people’s and cattle’s health, ceremony to see-off soldiers to the front, and the victory celebration.
The village of Ban Don (Buon Don) is located 45km north-west of Buon Ma Thuot, along the Serepok River. This village is known for the domestication of wild elephants. With a visit to Ban Don, you will learn more about the long tradition of elephant taming and legends of the Elephant King.
Situated near the Yok Don National Park, Don Village is a pleasant and scenic spot itself. You can see the longhouse (or “Nha Rong”), typical housing architecture of the Central Highland and watch a “Gong” music performance by tribal people. The space of Gong culture has been recognized by Unesco as a world intangible heritage. Most enjoyably is an elephant ride to explore the lush forests in aurrounding areas, including fording across the Serepok River. A novel and fantastic experience!
Dray Sap Waterfalls
Dray Sap is perhaps the most impressive waterfall in Central Highland Vietnam (in Ede ethnic language, “Dray” means “waterfall” and “Sap” means “smoke”). The falls get the name as its water falls from 10m height, creating an amazing veil of mist like a mirror of smoke. All year round, the area’s atmosphere is stirred by roaring sound of Dray Sap, which can be heard from afar.
Dray Sap is actually a system of three waterfalls; the others are Dray Nur and Gia Long. Dray Sap is situated in Dak Min – Krong No District, 30km from Buon Ma Thuot city. Dray Nur can be found just across the long wooden bridge, just 100m from Dray Sap. The Gia Long Falls is in the upper area, around 3km from the main one.
The water of three falls is supplied by two rivers, the Krong No, which means river of the husband in the M’Nong ethnic people language, and the Krong A, the river of the wife. There are usually legendary stories associated with famous landscapes in Vietnam and Dray Sap is no exception. It was woven into a tragic love story of a beautiful E De couple.
Just come and discover the legend your own. It is recommended that you wear sandals on the visit to Central Highland waterfalls.
Lak Lake or Lac Lake is a natural lake in Lak District, around 60km from Buon Ma Thuot, the capital of Dak Lak province in Central Highlands Vietnam. This is definitely a must see.
Overlooking the Lak Lake is the old summer villa of Emperor Bao Dai, which has been renovated into a hotel. Around this beautiful lake, you will find Jun Village, home to the Jun ethnic people. The villagers have a peculiar form of fishing where they attach metal rods to a car battery and run the rods through the water zapping and stunning the fish and then collecting them to keep in a tank at the village until they are needed.
A visit to Lak Lake should include a homestay overnight in a traditional longhouse (“Nha rong”) and a fantastic elephant ride or a dugout boat trip to cross the water of Lak Lake. A dugout is a boat made from a hollowed tree trunk, popularly used by ethnic people in Northwest and Central Highlands Vietnam., an interesting heritage of ancient civilization.
Hill tribal ethnic villages
The Central Highland is home to a large population of ethnic minorities such as the people of Malayo-Polynesian languages (Jarai and Ede) and the people of Mon-Khmer languages (Bahnar and K’hor). They have made up the majority of the region’s population for a long time. Today, it is the King people.
There are 4 main ethnic groups in Cetnral Highland: the Jorai, the Ede, the Raglai and Churu. Their presence is certainly very old after the arrival of the Mon-Khmer, but before the formation of Champa kingdoms. Nowaday, only Gia Lai province has some non-King ethnic villages, however.
The ethnic traditional family structure is based on the extended family and matrilineal system. Customs, traditions and community solidarity is very strong, although the classification between the rich and the poor is clear. The dry rice cultivation, with crop rotation, is predominant, but it does not exclude the wet rice cultivation. Their economy is based mainly on bartering.
There are several interesting ethnic villages for you to visit:
The village of Ban Don (Buon Don) is located 45km north-west of Buon Ma Thuot, along the Serepok River. This village is known for the tradition of taming wild elephants.
The Ede village is located 13 km from Buon Ma Thuot. This village cherishes many traditional customs of Ede ethnic people.
The Ako Dhong village is 2km north of Buon Ma Thuot City, home to a number of ethnic groups, including: Mnong & Ede. This is the richest village in the region.