Viet Nam

Buon Ma Thuot

Buon Ma Thuot

Hidden deep in the Central Highlands, about 360 km from Saigon, Buon Ma Thuot is a much less touristy destination compared to Da Lat and attracts far fewer tourists. However, Buon Ma Thuot is definitely worth exploring. This is where you'll find an Elephant Conservation Center (also where you can experience elephant rides in Vietnam).

This region is home to several ethnic minorities, including the Ede and Gia Rai people. Buon Ma Thuot also boasts some magnificent waterfalls. It is known as the site of the last major battle between the North Vietnamese Army and South Vietnamese troops in March 1975. As evidence of that battle, the first North Vietnamese Army tank to enter the city is perched in the town center as a monument to Buon Ma Thuot's "liberation." There has been discussion about relocating the tank to a museum, and indeed, some travel publications claim this has already been done, but the tank still retains its turret pointing skyward, looking quite formidable as if ready to fire a 120mm shell.

Buon Ma Thuot is an excellent base for trekking to ethnic villages. The longhouses of the Ede and M'nong groups are particularly impressive - consider spending a night or two here. A popular stop is at the Ede village of Buon Troh, about 13 km from town. Thirty-five kilometers to the north, in the village of Ya Ly, you can find a 13th-century Cham tower.

In town, visit the Dak Lak Museum on Me Mai Street, which exhibits artifacts, ancient weapons, clothing, and other relics of the Muong and Ede ethnic groups. The local ethnic minority villages are also great places for elephant rides. Elephants can also be found in the wild at nearby Yok Don National Park, which at 58,200 hectares is Vietnam's largest national park. Don village serves as the gateway to the park and has become a tourist attraction (at least for this region). Local M'nong and Lao trainers, descended from generations of families who have trained elephants for logging and more recently, tourism, offer elephant rides for a few hours or a few days. Expect to pay around $15 per hour or $60 per day. Four-day jungle expeditions can cost up to $500.

Around Buon Ma Thuot, there are many waterfalls worth visiting such as Dray Sap, Dray Nur, Dray Ling, and Dray Lor. The most beautiful waterfall among them is Dray Sap, often seen in Vietnamese calendars. Located about 12 km from the center of Buon Ma Thuot, the waterfall is not very tall but expansive and majestic. Although many people enjoy swimming at the base of the waterfall, it's important to note that the rocks in this area are sharp and pose hidden dangers. It's best for visitors not to swim here. Another unfortunate issue is the littering, but Dak Lak authorities are working on cleaning up the area. Visitors can reach Dray Sap waterfall by hired car or minivan, followed by a relatively steep 500-meter hike.

Compared to Da Lat, which is 200 km to the north, Buon Ma Thuot is at a lower elevation, resulting in warmer temperatures year-round. It also avoids being overly commercialized like Da Lat (though it lacks Da Lat's romantic beauty). Coffee is the main cash crop here, but severe deforestation has left the mountains barren, especially during the winter months. Much of the local wildlife has disappeared due to habitat loss or hunting. The ideal time to visit Buon Ma Thuot is during the dry season, from November to May. Although the scenery may not be as lush as during the rainy season, traveling during the dry season is much more convenient.

Top Places To Visit Buon Ma Thuot

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