Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
196Trip End Feb 28, 2013
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4/23 Buon Ma Thuot to Kontum 225km
Thinh Vuong Hotel
Our "bus" was a 16 passenger Ford Transit "van". Still we had reserved the seats behind the driver which turned out to be the more airy seats. Several seats remained open when we took off which was not a good sign. That meant we were going to be doing some "trolling" for customers until we're filled up.
We made a stop at the gas station. Station attendants always pump the gas in Vietnam. But our driver was impatient and squeezed a free handle and flipped the switch on the pump BEFORE putting the nozzle in the tank. The scatterbrain didn't have the presence of mind to release the handle in his hand and instead ran back to the pump to flip off the switch on the pump. About 2 liters of gasoline had streamed out and puddled on the concrete, a scary scenario with all the motorcycles pulling up, many with lit cigarettes, to fill up. I envisioned one spark setting the entire station ablaze.
Finally on the road we crawled along for 30 minutes before he had found 20 people and dubbed the van 'full’. Then it was as if the devil got into the driver, this maniacal multi-tasking, peddle-to-the-metal, chicken playing, type-a-guy. I put him right up there with the bus drivers we encountered in Guatemala. Dave usually stays pretty cool but this one had him saying "Uh-Oh!" Nuf said.
We drove through few scenic villages made up of mostly wooden houses and plantations of coffee, pepper, and further north, rubber. At one point the road was cleared by police and we were ushered to the side of the road to let a group of bicycle racers pass. It was an early stage of the ten day, Ho Chi Minh City Television Cup Bicycle Race.
When we crossed the river in Kontum and we spotted the statue of tribal people we asked to be let off. Immediately two xe om moto taxies pulled up and after the obligatory negotiations we hopped on the back and were dropped off at our lovely Thinh Vuong Hotel, a good place to catch our breath for a while. The owner is a sweet woman who upgraded our room when we said we would stay a week and she ordered a take-out lunch for us.
We explored a bit around town and to small village of Kon Tum Konam which is located about 300 meters down a track from the quaint wooden French church in Kontum. Villagers were working in the rice fields, drying corn on the streets and generally keeping busy.
Around midnight we watched an unrelenting lightning storm from the comfort of our bed. Lightning bolts streaking across the sky without pause.
04/27 Kontum – Good Day for a Bad Haircut
Blogging time. We went in search of tour co to arrange possible area tour but found doors of the tour company padlocked. Had cool drink overlooking the river valley and did some planning for days ahead. Decided to rent motorcycle on our own tomorrow and head to some of the many interesting minority villages in the surrounding area.
We stopped for a mediocre lunch. I guess we can't win them all.
Then it was time for another haircut for Dave. He wanted me to mime to the guy what we had in mind and keep an eye on him as he progressed. Most importantly, I mimed "leave about half an inch of length on the back"
When the guy started with scissor cut on top it appeared he knew what he was doing, I let my guard down and before I knew what had happened the electric clippers were out and proceeded to buzz a nasty whitewall over one of Dave’s the ears. "Uh-Oh!" Now I can hardly tell the artist to skip the other ear. By now I had visions of "revenge to the farang" or maybe the guy envisions all farangs inspire to look like Bart Simpson.
At this point I am laughing so hard that I am almost falling off my 6 inch stool. I couldn't have said anything if I wanted to. I watch Dave's eyes in the mirror begging me to do something. The back of his neck as smooth as a baby’s behind. Five minutes later and a 20000 dong ($1) fee, we walked across the street to our hotel where I was able to put some symmetry back and lessen the damages.....a little.
4/28 Kontum – Exploring East on a Rented Motorcycle
Thundershowers had rumbled much of the night. We are recognizing a repeating pattern. Sunsets, sunrises and storm clouds are brief and dramatic.
According to plan, we got an early start on the motorcycle ride. We headed east on highway 24 out of town. We had no specific destination and expected to explore little villages and enjoy the nature along the road.
A ‘Rong’ house is a large, imposing, beautifully decorated stilt house built in the middle of a village. It is where community activities take place, reception of guests, meetings, wedding ceremonies, or praying ceremonies. It is also the place for reception of guests. This kind of communal house can only be found in villages to the north of the Central Highlands, especially in Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces.
We went out 50 kilometers and back about 70. We tried to find an alternated route south of the river through the rice fields. Our map showed a route labeled ‘planned construction’. Steep dirt roads accessed garden plots and small orchards. Where ever we found a route toward Kontum and the river, it dissolved into sand and river mud. We’d double back and try to find another route further south. After an hour of this fun adventure, we gave up and made our way back the way we came. The motorcycle was covered with mud by the time we got home.
4/29 - 4/30 Kontum R&R
We were waiting for the 4 day holiday weekend to end before moving on to Danang where we planned to extend our Vietnam Visas on Tuesday, the first business day after the holiday. We had time for R&R in Kontum. We discovered a great vegetarian hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The set meal is rice and lots of savory protein cakes, veggie spring rolls, etc. and soup - $2.25 or two! We were repeat offenders at the local Nem Nướng restaurant too. These are the only two places we’d highly recommend. The other had too much dry chicken or oily spring rolls and limited veggies.
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