Off to the highlands to see some elephants

Buon Ma Thuot Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 14 › view all entries

I really wanted to visit the highlands in Vietnam, to see something different from the coastal towns and because I'd been reading 2 different diaries of North Vietnamese doctors who worked in the highlands during the 'American War'. But I was a bit scared of taking the local bus for more than 4 hours. Luckily one of the other volunteers really wanted to have an elephant ride and so she arranged a private tour for us from Nha Trang to go to Dak Lak province which is at the southern end of the 'central highlands', actually I'm not sure it really counts, but it was close enough for me.  She was just going to go to Monkey island off Nha Trang but was told by different people that the elephant was sick, then we heard he was old, then the next person said he was dead.

Later we found out that there is an elephant alive and well on the island that picks people up with its trunk, so go figure, I'm just happy we got to go on our little trip.

Our guide showed us some very random things on the way which added to the atmosphere of the trip, as per usual with us we didn't know exactly where we were going, just heading somewhere into the hills to see some elephants. Our first stop was a brick factory, the town had tons of them, a big government one and some local enterprises, the clay here is apparently very good. We went to a local one and saw people wheeling around clay and bricks, lots of bricks lined up and a big firing oven. Actually very interesting. The workers (many of whom are women) get about $3 Australian dollars a day (I think it was a day), anyway not much to live on.

We travelled away from the coast and up into the hills (in Canberra we would consider them mountains, but here they are apparently hills). In several places the trees were all in straight lines and our guide said this was due to recent planting to counter the effects of Agent Orange. We stopped to chat with some road workers and some bemused cows.

We had lunch at Buon Ma Thuot and saw the fountain with the tank and explored the local market. We gawked at the quite frankly strange fluro coloured things Vietnamese people here throw in a glass and eat, but weren't brave enough to try them. I did have some sticky rice coconut wrapped in banana leaf things from the side of the road. Weeks later when I had my fancy meal at a expensive restaurant in Hoi An, dessert ended up being 5 of these things at 50 times the price, which (luckily I'd had some wine at the time) I found quite funny.

By the evening we had reached our 'resort' but we didn't really know where we were, we worked out that we were very nearly in Cambodia but that was about it.  Quite a few other tourists turned up on motorcycles or little tours so its probably quite a well known place. The little cabins had a nice view of the lake and there were two longhouses (where we had been going to sleep before the threat of rain convinced us to just stay in the cabins). We explored the remains of the floating restaurant which had burnt down. We watched the sun set on the lake.

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Buon Ma Thuot
photo by: alanmica