Kontum, a small and peaceful highland town by the Dakbla River, is a vergin land with pristine nature and intact hill-tribe culture. Surrounded by lakes, rivers and mountains, Kontum is home to distinctive hill tribes such as the Bahnar, the J’rai and the Sedang. As the first settlement discovered by French missionaries in the central highlands in 1848, the town still retains vestiges of ancient cathedral architecture.

Places of interest

The wooden church was built in 1913 by a French priest named Guise Decrouille. The church was constructed from hundreds of cubic metres of high-quality hardwoods such as rose-wood and ca chit, a valuable wood once in abundance right across the central highlands but quite rare these days.

Built from 1935 to 1938 on an area of 5 hectares, the Kontum Monastery is also constructed of wood. The architecture is a mix between a Bahnar stilt-house and a European-style cathedral. The building is 100m long and has 3 floors. It is a seminary for priests and bishops. Inside the monastery, there is an exhibition of Bahnar culture, one of Vietnam’s ethnic minority peoples. Visitors can see a number of small wooden statues (20cm high) demonstrating the daily activities of the Bahnar people such as farming, drinking wine, a gong show or a “grave removing” ceremony.

Villages of the Bahnar people are located near rivers and surrounded by forests and mountains. However, only a few of these such as Konkotu village, still keep their full traditional character. This village lies on the Dakbla river, 8 kilometres from Kontum. The village is home to about 300 people from 60 families. They earn their livelihoods by farming and making brocade. Visitors can stay overnight in the communal house and enjoy a gong show and dances from the Bahnar villagers.