Situated on the former Ho Chi Minh Trail, the small provincial capital of Kon Tum has managed to stay off the beaten path for now. The beautiful rolling hills of Kon Tum were the scene of intense fighting during the Vietnam War, including the infamous siege of Charlie Hill by the Viet Cong. Nowadays, they are used for planting rubber trees, pepper, and coffee, while the grasslands are ideal for raising cattle.
The majority of this sparsely populated area is made up of various hill tribes, including Jarai, Bahnar, Sedang, and Rengao. It's a wonderful place to get a glimpse of their traditional life style, with a visit to a hill tribe village as an unforgettable highlight of any trip to the area.
Places to See
Despite its small size and relatively isolated location, Kon Tum has a number of attractive and interesting sights to offer, especially if you are keen to get off the main tourist path.
There are several Bahnar villages within walking distance on the outskirts of Kon Tum, which are perfect if you are not planning on staying for more than a day. Respect their life style and privacy, and you will be given a most friendly welcome.
Rong houses are large communal houses with a thatched roof that are built on stilts. They are used by the local tribes as a gathering place for important events, such as festivals and weddings. They are also used as general meeting places for the tribal community. Kon Tum's rong house is only a short distance from the city center, and a particularly large and beautiful example.
While not a "sight" in the traditional sense, Kon Tum's two orphanages are very much worth a visit, as both the staff and children are lovely and very welcoming. The children love the attention and are always eager to play. The orphanages survive on donations, so any contribution (monetary or material) is greatly appreciated.
Quite an unexpected sight, Kon Tum is home to a small Catholic seminary and a beautiful wooden church. Both were built by the French during colonial times, and are well worth a visit.
This can involve as little as a pleasant afternoon stroll, or can be turned into an adventurous overnight trek to multiple villages.
They love to play and try out their English on visitors.
For recommended hotels in Kon Tum, click here: Kon Tum 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 24 C (75 F).
Notes From the Field
“Like all of the Central Highlands, the area surrounding Kon Tum is spectacular. The scenery is beautiful, the people are extraordinarily friendly, and the food is very good. When we arrived in Kon Tum we first stopped at a Bahnar hill tribe village east of the city. Although the village was very poor it was clean and beautiful, with a fantastic communal "rong house" in the center, and overlooking an idyllic river down below.
For dinner in Kon Tum we ate at a delicious vegetarian restaurant called Quan Com Chay, NGHiA 2. At first glance the place didn't look like a winner, but we were very glad we went. The food was made from tofu, fruit, and vegetables, but made to look like meat dishes. It was different from anything we'd had before, but extremely good! If you make it to Kon Tum be sure to give this place a try. After dinner we spent some time having fruit shakes and drinks at Eva Cafe, which is also highly recommendable.
Unlike some of the other towns in the Central Highlands, there is a good bit to see in the town of Kon Tum itself. The main rong house is very interesting, as is the Catholic seminary and wooden church. And one of our most memorable experiences in Kon Tum was visiting the main orphanage. The kids were excited to see us, and we had a great time playing with them and leaning about their lives.”
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