As part of our stay in Vietnam we had the pleasure of staying in the central highlands around Kon Tum for a few days. We really enjoyed getting a bit “off the banana pancake trail” and experiencing life outside the big tourist spots. What we found especially noteworthy around Kon Tum were the local minority village community houses and the Christian churches.
Minority village “Rong” community houses
A few different ethnic minorities live near Kon Tum and we were lucky that the daughter of our homestay, Thuy, showed us a village of the Bahnar people (see below). The one thing that immediately caught our eye in these villages is the central building – the “Rong” community house. These houses are 16m – 26m high and serve as community buildings. Special occasions such as New Year and other celebrations take place inside and we even heard that they used one for a temporary class room because the school got too small.
Interestingly enough, these houses often were the first building in a village and all other houses would be built around them. They are built in a way that they catch as little wind as possible (with the thin side facing the wind). Nowadays the government subsidizes rong houses that are built in the traditional style with thatched roofs and bamboo to preserve craftsmanship. (However, we also saw a few more modern ones with green tin roofs).
About 10% of Vietnam’s population is Christian and quite a few of them can be found in the Central Highlands. We were amazed by the number of churches we saw. Similar to Austria – every village has its own church here! They were converted first by the French and then by the Americans.
Even though we did not hear about this during our stay, it seems that some of the Christians in this region are being prosecuted because the pray in independent churches.
Tour around Kon Tum
Before leaving we had the chance to rent a motorbike and explore the area a bit further. What a blast! We saw more churches and more Rong community houses. On top of that we also saw rubber trees, coffee plantations, pepper and cassava trees. The landscape aroud Kon Tum is hilly and you get beautiful views on a reservoir. Sadly though one can still see the horrific effects of agent orange present in the landscape. Huge strips of land that had been jungle before the Vietnam War are now without any trees…
Homestay in Kon Tum (practical tip for accommodation)
Due to excellent reviews we booked two nights at the Kon Tum Phuot Homestay. The homestay did not disappoint. We had an amazing time and one of our highlights was definitely the guided tour with the family’s daughter Thuy (see above). Just ten months ago the family turned their property into a homestay and now they have 20 guest beds. Next to the small houses with the beds there is a beautiful vegetable garden and the whole place feels like an island of hospitality.
Apart from the guided tour the other highlight was definitely the joint dinner with the family. Luckily they had friends from Ho Chi Minh City stay over at the same time so we got to join a full family & friends dinner with everybody. We all sat on the ground, enjoyed a variety of super tasty food and were even invited to some home-made rice wine! 🙂
We can only recommend this place to anybody who is in the region. You´ll feel right at home there!