BUON MA THUOT
One of the largest towns in the Central Highlands, Buon Ma Thuot offers easy access to the area's many natural attractions, including Yok Don National Park and its rare wildlife, idyllic Lak Lake, several spectacular waterfalls, as well as numerous Ede and M'nong hill tribe villages.
Like most places in the Central Highlands, Buon Ma Thuot saw some heavy fighting during the Vietnam war, but these days, it's all about the coffee. With ideal soil and climate conditions, coffee from Buon Ma Thuot is considered by many to be the best in the country.
Places to See
While the town of Buon Ma Thuot itself offers little in terms of sights, it is a good base for excursions to the many outdoor attractions in the surrounding area.
Numerous rare animals, including elephants, leopards, and tigers, as well as other endangered species, and birds roam the forests of Vietnam's biggest nature preserve. It is also home to various ethnic hill tribes, chiefly the matrilineal Ede and M'nong, who are famous for capturing and domesticating wild elephants.
Located on the edge of Yok Don National Park, this hill tribe village is a pleasant place to see traditional tribal architecture, and to learn more about the customs involved in the capture and domestication of wild elephants.
These stunning waterfalls can easily be visited on day trips. If you are planning on only visiting one of them, make sure to see Dray Sap as it is located in a magnificent rainforest.
Set among bright green rice fields and forested hills, Lak Lake is a beautiful and idyllic place to sample the slow paced rural life style. Don't miss a visit to June village, a small Ede hill tribe community on the shores of the lake, and its distinctive thatched roof longhouses built on stilts.
Head to Ban Don Village and hire a guide to take you into the national park across the Serepok River on the back of an elephant. The elephants are extremely gentle and careful and they love wading through the cool waters of the river. Although extremely skilled in capturing wild elephants, the local M'nong hunters do not harm, kill, or injure the animals. They are strictly used for domestic purposes.
Learn more about the local hill tribes' history, culture, and customs.
Food and Shopping
Don't leave town without having sampled the best coffee in Vietnam! Take your coffee like the locals do - extra strong, extra sweet and smooth with lots of condensed milk, and over ice. Visit one of the many coffee shops or small restaurants in town, and ask for ca phe sua da. You can buy locally grown coffee all over town, either ground or as whole beans. Prices are much cheaper than elsewhere in the country, especially Saigon and Hanoi.
For recommended hotels in Buon Ma Thuot, click here: Buon Ma Thuot Hotels.
Tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons. Rainy season lasts from May to October, and dry season lasts from November to April. Average annual temperature is 24C/75F.
Notes From the Field
“The town of Buon Ma Thuot is nothing special, but the surrounding area is spectacularly beautiful, and very atmospheric. Instead of going directly to Buon Ma Thuot from Dalat, we spent one night in a small "hotel" on the edge of Lak Lake (just south of BMT) before moving on to Buon Ma Thuot.
We didn't realize there was more than one hotel on Lak Lake, and stopped at the first one off the road. Our room was filled with plenty of little critters to keep us company, and when we realized the next morning that there was a much nicer hotel further down the street, we made a mental note to remind others to skip the first one on the road!
Tip: While Buon Ma Thuot and the surrounding area have hotels that will perfectly suit nearly any traveler in Vietnam, some areas further afield can be a bit "rough". Since we like to venture off the beaten track, we bring a small, very light two-person tent everywhere we go. So if we're surprised by bugs or dirty sheets and there are no good alternatives, we pitch our tent on the bed. Some nights this has been a "life saver"!
Lak Lake is definitely worth the trip not only for the scenery around the lake itself, but also for the drive to and from, passing through very scenic minority villages. However, if you're inclined to stay in BMT for two or three nights (where there is a larger selection of places to eat and sleep) and make a day trip to Lak Lake, that would easily be doable. Very close to Lak Lake we visited Jun Village, a very pretty village inhabited by the Ede minority...living in longhouses similar to those found in Borneo.
We had a fantastic third day around Buon Ma Thuot, visiting Ban Don village and Yok Don National Park. The M'nong people of the village were very welcoming, the scenery was incredible, and the food in a little restaurant was great. The village is home to more than 50 domesticated elephants, and also the legendary Ama Kong...a famous wild elephant catcher. We'd highly recommend visiting Ban Don village and Yok Don National Park.”
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