Tours in the Central Highlands are using more unusual transport to give visitors a special view of the area Leaving Ho Chi Minh City, our tour group traveled on National Route 14, passing through former battlefields to reach the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands), an area rich in mystery and natural beauty that has become popular with foreign and local travelers. Under clear skies, we rode on comfortable buses until we reached the streets of Buon Ma Thuot City and spotted groups of ethnic minorities, carrying farm products to sell at the market. After a brief rest in town, we visited Don Village, famed for its domesticated elephants, to see a traditional suspension bridge crossing the magnificent Srepok River. My friends enlisted the services of the elephants to take them to Yok Don National Park, which is full of tall trees and rare animals and birds. While they rode with the elephants, I decided to canoe on the romantic Lake Dakmil. "Many local and foreign tourists visit Don village just to see the elephant races. They’re organized in the village every year during the third lunar month," my cousin Thanh Le, a native of Dac Lac, said. At the end of the village is a100-year-old wooden stilt house, built in Lao style with a high, steep roof. The house is owned by an old woman whose grandfather moved from Laos to Vietnam to hunt elephants decades ago. At the house, the woman told us stories about weapons used for hunting elephants, which were hung on the walls of the house. The tour also took us to Lake Lak, about 50km from Buon Ma Thuot, which covers 700ha and is the largest body of water in the Central Highlands. "If you stand on top of Lac Thien Pass between Da Lat and Buon Ma Thuot, you can see all of Lake Lak," Le said. The area is a pastoral paradise with green mountains, rice fields, forests and the occasional white stork flying over the fields. Locals will invite overnight guests to drink ruou can (rice wine) and eat com lam (rice cooked in bamboo tubes), both regional specialties. Like other visitors to the Central Highlands, we spent time exploring the beautiful waterfalls including Dray Nur and Trinh Nu. Travelers wandering about 24km southwest of Buon Ma Thuot will find the amazing Dray Sap Waterfalls. Located in a remote and densely forested part of the Srepok River, the waterfall is formed at the conjunction of two large rivers, the Krong Ana (Song Cai or Female River) and the Krong Kno (Song Duc or Male River). Dray Sap means Mist Waterfall in the Ede ethnic language. It takes its name from the heavy mist that often gathers around the 10m high waterfall. The area around the waterfall is covered with many big rocks, an ideal place for outdoor reveling. Rivers and waterfalls in the Central Highlands have fuelled many charming legends of Vietnam. Legend has it that the beautiful maiden H’Mi and her lover were attacked by a monster as they sat side-by-side on a mountain rock. The monster dug into the soil, creating a waterspout that swept H’Mi into the cloud. The site then became known as the Dray Sap Waterfalls. The girl’s lover turned it into a giant tree that clung to the rock waiting for her, the giant tree is still there. The Central Highlands’ biggest waterfalls, Dray Nur, is near Dray Sap and roars constantly. The 30m high waterfall was also created by the Krong Ana and Krong Kno rivers. We were impressed by the swift flow of the fall and the imposing natural landscapes at the site. Traveling upstream of the Krong Ana river, visitors will pass Ede tribes and villages with most dwelling places built on stilts. There, tourists can see the local people’s daily activities, including farm work and the weaving of tho cam (brocade) fabrics. We did not have enough time to visit Mang Den, a new tourism site in the Central Highlands’ Kontum Province, but we vowed to return next year to visit the place, 2,000m above sea level. The site has the same climate as the well-known resort town of Da Lat in Lam Dong Province and it boasts many beautiful falls, streams and a 4,000ha century-old pine forest.
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