By going to the landlocked province of Kon Tum, located in the Central Highlands near the borders of Laos and Cambodia, you will discover another face of Vietnam, more authentic and in direct contact with the ancestral traditions of the ethnic minorities that populate the region. A province marked by the imprint of history, full of beautiful surprises and unexpected encounters.
The Kon Tum region was once a true land of Catholic missionaries. The evangelization of this region began more than 170 years ago with the presence of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It is in 1848, in the midst of the persecution of Catholicism in Vietnam, that we must go back to these origins. Bishop Etienne Cuénot, then Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Cochinchina - he was later martyred and canonized - was at the origin of the first attempts to proclaim the Gospel in this region. Built in 1913 and dedicated to St. Cuénot, the wooden church of Kon Tum retains a certain cachet despite the concrete reconstruction of the base walls. You will appreciate its pointed roof like the ones of the communal houses, its interior rich in precious wood decorations, its majestic bell tower over 20 meters high, its wooden floor raised one meter to allow ventilation and its superb multicolored stained glass windows depicting passages from the Bible. Today, the diocese of Kon Tum is home to more than 200,000 Catholics, two-thirds of whom belong to ethnic minorities.
Immersion in the Bahnar culture at Kon Klo village
This village located in a very pretty corner of the countryside of Kon Tum is a real summary of the cultural richness of the ethnic groups of the Central Highlands and more particularly of the Bahnar ethnic group. This magnificent village is known for the quality of its traditional brocade weaving craft, an ancestral know-how that mothers pass on to their daughters from generation to generation. As you stroll around the village, you can appreciate the many nhà sàn, the typical Bahnar houses on stilts, whose brown colour of the wood contrasts with the green of the surrounding trees and vegetable gardens. Pay attention to their wooden pillars, which are usually meticulously decorated. The highlight of the village tour is the communal house, called nhà rông, which has a very traditional style. This superb structure was built entirely from wood, bamboo and plants. It is dominated by a huge roof decorated with refined decorative motifs. A craft that impresses visitors and is the pride of the Bahnar. At the exit of the village, you can see the beautiful suspension bridge that connects the two banks of the Dak Bla River. The sunsets at the end of the day are beautiful and romantic.
Kon Tum, territory of several ethnic minorities
The Bahnar ethnic group is the most represented and cohabit in total harmony with other ethnic groups such as the Edê, Sedang, Giarai or Romam. These ethnic minorities still live in their traditional villages, speak their own language, proudly perpetuate their customs and have their own music and architecture. These ancient peoples live mainly from agriculture and livestock, growing mainly cassava, sugar cane, bananas and rice.
At the end of the 19th century, a French adventurer, Marie David de Meyrena, succeeded in unifying certain Sedang tribes into a confederation and proclaimed himself king of the Sedang under the name of Marie I. Numerous French explorers and ethnologists were then passionate about these peoples, such as Georges Condominas who spent two years in Sar Luk, from 1946, with the Mnong Gar, a semi-nomadic people of the Highlands. He wrote an excellent book "Nous avons mangé la forêt" (We have eaten the forest).
Coffee and tea from Kon Tum
A temperate climate and fertile soils have enabled Kon Tum to develop a thriving coffee and tea industry. Coffee production is less important than that of Buon Me Thuot and is concentrated on small family plantations that are a pleasure to visit. The tea hills form languorous landscapes and produce a delicate and very floral tea that is appreciated by connoisseurs. Tea and coffee from Kon Tum will undoubtedly be excellent souvenirs or gifts to bring back to your loved ones!
Kon Tum during the Vietnam war
During the Vietnam War, Kontum province was repeatedly subjected to fierce battles such as the battle of Dak To which took place from 3 to 22 November 1967, and the "Kontum War" which took place between May and June 1972 during the Easter offensive during which the Vietnamese People's Army conquered the city of Kontum, the province's eponymous capital.
Best season: Kon Tum province can be visited every season of the year. Beware of heavy rains between July and September.