Vacation package to Vietnam
decided to continue north staying in the central highlands to the town of
Buon Ma Thout (BMT) and travel in the day time. Le Phuong had never gone our
route before because she never wanted to go through such a poor area. She
called the bus station and reserved seats on the Mai Linh bus. It is the
same company as the reliable and honest taxi company with the same name. She
said it was safer than the others and hotel pick-up would be free. The
medium size bus was old and we had seats near the back. The spacing of the
seats was tight and we werecramped. Two strikes!
The scenery out the window was great from there. We wound up and down
mountains and valleys along a narrow two lane road for hours. Butterflies
flittered everywhere. They were the size of a Monarchs but with white wings
and reminded me of snowflakes.
Our first stop was brief and quickly followed by another. We had a flat! We
had pulled up at a repair shack on the road. It did not take long before we
were on our way again. We lost about an hour though and still the driver
wanted to take a leisurely lunch break. The cafeteria style food was not
exciting but we didn't mind relaxing in the cool mountain air.
A half hour before BMT, the white billowy clouds in the blue sky were
replaced by heavy rain clouds. We rolled into the BMT bus station during a
cloud burst. The parking lot became flooded in minutes with three inches of
water. I thought we should all wait in the bus until the worst was over but
our bus assistant was hot to get the luggage off. He began pulling luggage
out of the stowage and lined it up under the very short overhang of a
building. It was getting drenched. I ran out to rescue ours and brought it
inside the now crowded open sided restaurant.
While we waited for the downpour to subside, I ventured out across the
shallow lake which, minutes earlier, was a parking lot. I got to the set of
offices selling tickets. We wanted to get our tickets to Kontum in two days.
The Mai Linh bus wouldn't stop in Kontum and I was directed to another bus
company’s window across the aisle. I asked for two tickets for the 24th and
they promptly delivered two tickets. But they were for today, the 21st! They
thought I wanted tickets for the bus leaving in 10 minutes. With some
struggle and help from others around who knew a little English, the ticket
lady finally understood but gave me a big "Noooooo!" Two English words that
all Vietnamese seem to know are "Hello", delivered in a flat unaccented
American English when they answer their cell phones, and “no”. The “Hello”
always fools me into thinking they might not be Vietnamese at all but then I
look over and the dialog continues in rapid tonal Vietnamese. The “no” I
find odd too. They seldom say 'no’ as in “no we don’t have bananas” but
rather a emphatic sounding “NOOOOOOOOOO!”, like I just asked them if they
minded if I light their hair on fire. It is not that typical but it happens
often enough to seem funny. I concluded they can’t sell tickets that far in
advance and left.
The rain got lighter and we took a taxi to a strip of hotels recommended in
our guide book. Along the way we drove past 'Metro’, a slightly smaller
version of Costco, ‘Coop-Mart’ and KFC. Wow! This is a big city by Vietnam
I kept an eye on our bags while Michelle ran into a nice sounding hotel
option and was quoted 380000 VDong ($18). She still gets confused with those
big numbers and initially thought it was way beyond our budget! She were not
going to pay 380000 anything! We settled in an ‘okay’ room across the street
for nicer sounding 200000 VND ($10). Then we discovered our air con didn't
work and they had put a 5 gallon bucket in the shower because the shower
didn't work right either. We complained. They didn’t try to fix the problems
and instead reduced the price of the room to 150000 dong ($7.20). The room
clean and the weather not super hot out so we decided to stay one night and
move in the morning.
We walked in search of a restaurant recommended on Travel Fish. The
instructions were cryptic but, with a little determination, we found it.
They had gorgeous looking rotisserie chicken rotating on the barbeque out
front. We were like dogs salivating in front of a butcher shop. They would
not sell us the chicken. They referred us inside the simple restaurant where
the food was not appetizing. We went back out and appealed for the
appetizing chicken again. No dice. We walked away with our tails between our
Lucky we discovered Nem Nướng, Vietnamese grilled meat skewers served with
piles of vegetables, rice paper, and a dipping sauce, at a simple eatery two
door from our hotel You hand roll your choice of ingredients, dip, and eat.
Nem nướng is now one of our favorite Vietnamese dishes and, with all those
veggies, its gotta be good for you too. Like a good taco stand, or like a
good gyro stand, it is the sauce that makes it. I had a local beer. Bill for
the two of us; 70 or 80000 VND ($3.40/$3:90). We ate at the equally tasty
Nem Nướng next door the next night!
Buon Ma Thuot
Thanh Cong Hotel (350000 Dong / $16.80 including breakfast)
Self-Guide Moto Tour Around BMT, 100km
After moving to the hotel across the road, we rented a motorcycle. We
planned two stops and it would turn out that we would not actually make it
to either place!
35km north to Ya Liao is a 13th century Cham Tower
13km from BMT is Buon Tur a minority Village of Rhade,
And if we have time, circle south west and drive by Drai Sap Waterfall
BMT is modernizing but still has a small city feel, traffic is busy but not
crazy or dangerous. After gassing up, we drove northwest toward Yak Don
National Park which was our well known landmark that is supposed to be 5km
before Ya Liao. We quickly were in farm country stopping whenever we passed
things unusual or interesting.
Durians, Cashews, Curtains on the Outside
There are fewer concrete and many more wooden houses in this area of
Vietnam. Most have a large paved front yard to dry whatever crops are in
season. We noticed some kidney shape brown piles being raked and spread to
dry. Are these beans or shells? Last thing we expected were cashews. We
learned a lot about cashew during our Central America cycle trip. Cashews
are native to the Americas.
First we found the cashews drying, then a bit further down the road, cashew
trees. Not in a huge plantation but a small cluster of trees here and there.
Then there were the guys with massive loads of durian.The motorcycle driver
even carried one of those big boys between his legs. Then we passed a few
large concrete houses with curtains on the windows – on the outside of the
house! Minority ladies were walking to or from the fields with basket and
hand tool! It would be great to be able to talk with them. As it was, we
could only smile, nod and waive.
Yok Don National Park
The road widened and we got to a big town with a bunch of new large concrete
buildings. This town is incongruously placed in the middle of nowhere it
seemed. It was a bit like a ghost town with few people or happenings.
We zipped over to the entrance of Yok Don National Park, Vietnam’s largest
protected area. A caretaker went by but other than that, the place was
deserted. The mixed forest inside the Park looks identical to the mixed
forest outside the Park. We found the office. The young man there didn’t
know English but was able to communicate that the English speaker would
return eventually. We told him we’d stop back later.
We figured the Cham tower was near so started asking for Ya Liao town. Very
few knew it and invariably, we’d be told to keep going up the road. After
going over a small forested pass and by a small scenic reservoir we found a
town that was on our map. We were way north of our destination! We had
missed a turn and had to double back.
We got back to where we thought we went wrong and stumbled upon a young gal
who spoke very good English! She didn’t recognize the town name but was sure
the Cham tower was just 1.5km back toward Ban Don where the road splits.
“You don’t need to turn, it is right there”, she said. We got there but
still unable to find the tower. We didn’t know what kind of tower to expect,
big or small. Now why are we looking so hard for this tower?, we asked
Stumbling On Serepok River
We took a dirt side road into the hills. Little settlement where here and
there and eventually we’d get to a dead end and find another dirt road to
explore. We arrived at a larger groupings of homes, many on stilts, then a
quaint village where shops lined both sides of the road. Then it got more
congested and we saw tourists on elephants. We had stumbled into Ban Don
Tourist area. The one place we were trying to avoid. But now we were there
and we took a look around. We paid a dollar to cross the bamboo suspension
bridges to a small scenic island. The series of bridges were sturdy but
still swayed a lot as we crossed.
It was getting late in the afternoon and cloud cover came. We figured the
afternoon rains were on the way. Now as we made our way back toward BMT,
villagers were coming out of the wood work. There not fools. They had stayed
out of the midday sun.
Now it was overcast and not as hot, they were out and about taking care of
chores or visiting each other on the large raised verandas of their long
houses. Kids came out to play.
We could see BMT in the distance had gotten hit by the rain. The edge of the
storm caught us and gave us a light drizzle for 10 minutes. We parked and
waited for it to pass.
It was a long day already and we decided to call it a day without see the
tower or getting to either of our destinations. We stopped over at the bus
station and bought our tickets for KonTum the next morning.
My Reviews Of The Places I Stayed
Thanh Cong Hotel Buon Ma Thuot
“Clean Solid Choice with Included Breakfast”
-Desk Staff: knows only a little bit English and are willing to try to
----helped with ideas for our self guided tour
----they can arrange motorcycle rental
----called bus station for us and verified departure times for us
----taxi cabs wait out front
----recommended a great little restaurant around the corner
-Food: served during breakfast hours only
-Elevator: provides easy access to rooms
-Large rooms, clean floors and linens
-Air Con:sufficient but not great
-Shower: worked well / Fan non-functional
-Good Value: More expensive than the skinny mini's along the same road but,
considering it included breakfast, it wasa good value.
Our standard room (350k VND) was large and windowless. Ours was vented to
the entry hall and wasn't stuffy at all.We checked a room with a window
(same price) but it twas sealed and did not open. Fine for light but no view
either. Yep!, we'd stay there again!
Thanh Binh Hotel Buon Ma Thuot
“Low Price is the Only Reason to Stay ”
-Desk Staff: knows only a little bit English and tried only a little to
help. No heroics here
----They have a tour desk but couldn't help at all
----they directed us to a nearby hotel for cheap motorcycle rental THANKS
-Food: no----no breakfast either but drink shop across the road and Nem
Nuong (roll your own spring rolls) 10 feet away. Delicious.
-Large rooms, clean floors and linens
-Air Con: non-functional
-Fridge: not in our room
-Shower: worked poorly- 5 gallon bucket was there for a reason - 7 foot
bathroom walls open room at top
-Good Value: Cheap so stay if you are on a very tight budget.
Our standard room (200k VND) was clean, large with window (broken pane. We
discovered the Air Con did not work. Staff offered 50k Dong reduction in
lieu of attempting repairs. Bathroom turned out to be sub-par. Shower was
just a trickle and we assume that is why they had a bucket there. Call it a
Others staying there were happy because of the low price. But we are not on
that low of budget so moved the next morning.