The rain in Nam falls mainly in the plains.

Pleiku – Kon Tum – Buon Me Thuot

Tiring of being gawked at like in Quy Nhon, we decide nevertheless to continue off the tourist trail and head inland into the Central Highlands of Vietnam. At least that’s what they’re called, as Kon Tom is all of 500m above sea level, but I guess in low lying Vietnam, that’s practically mountains. In keeping with the rest of the country, the “mountains” are home to the Montagnards, or hill people. Slightly different tribes than up North, but colourful and different nonetheless. Not that it’s very obvious at first glance, as these hill tribes seem to have assimilated into modern Vietnamese society much more than up North, and they now live in pretty standard Vietnamese houses. The only thing that jumps out is the community hall house, which has the highest roof of any thatched cottage I’ve ever seen, to show the world how important it is.

Apart from this, the region is not nearly as scenic as we expected, but it is a lot hotter than we were led to expect, and without the solace of a cooling sea breeze, its positively roasting here, which makes our mid-day bike ride around the countryside not the smartest idea to date. Never mind, this is as good a day as any to practice saying “one big bottle of mineral water” in Vietnamese. Which is a tonal language, so while I’ve got the words down pat, there’s no guessing about the intonation, so for all I know I’m telling the shopkeepers that their mother is a cow.

Can’t have got it all wrong though, as we make it through the day without being set upon by irate shopkeepers and without heatstroke, so chalk up another linguistic win. Besides the satisfaction in that, the whole region is a bit of a let down, so we decide to get the long bus ride back through innumerable coffee plantations (Buon Me Thuot is home to most of Vietnam’s coffee production, and delicious coffee it is, too) and back down to the coast. Since we’re off the tourist trail, the bus is close to a chicken bus, and expensive to boot. This must be the only place in asia where the tourist buses are cheaper than the local chicken buses. This small detour through the mountains has cost more than the whole tourist bus ticket all the way from Hue to Saigon.

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