Charm of Vietnam’s central highlands

Vietnam’s Central Highlands are home to pristine mountain scenery and a wealth of ethnic minority cultures. While ways of life are changing in Vietnam’s Central highlands, people still observe their traditional rituals and festivals

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Vietnam’s Central Highlands include the regions of Kon Turn, Kon Plong, Ron Ha Nung, Playku, Mdrak, Dak Lak, Mo Nong, Lam and Di Linh. Here, visitors will find red soil, wild forests and immense plantations of coffee, rubber, pepper and mulberry. Lying some 500 meters above sea level with the Truong Son Mountains to the east, the climate is cool year round. The rains last from May to October and the dry season is from November to April.

The Charm of the Dirndl

Many ethnic minorities including the Jrai, Bahnar, Ede, and M’nong live in the Central Highlands. Lunar March is considered the best time to visit, with soft sunlight and cool breezes at night. In the Bahnar calendar, Lunar March is the season for festivals. A local song states: “March is coming. Bees fly from one flower to another to collect honey. Elephants bathe. I clear the trees for cultivation and you go to hunt…”

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As well as enjoying majestic scenery, visitors who come to the Central Highlands in Lunar March can enjoy delightful festivals like the Coffee Festival and the Gongs festival. Some of my happiest moments came about in the
Central Highlands, in a place known as ‘Bo Y’ (Ngoc Hoi, Kon Tum), where Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet.

The local people start to work very early in the morning. Adults climb to the terraced fields while children go to school or play with their friends. While modernity is influencing peoples way of life, they still farm using traditional equipment and techniques. The local ethnic minorities follow the agricultural calendar of the Bahnar. The year is divided into ten months, with “Ning-Nong” being the time for festivals and “Hot- Ning” the time for cultivation.

People begin to clear land for cultivation at the start of the year. When it is time to transplant rice seedlings they perform a ritual ceremony called “Jomul” when it is time to clear the grass they hold the “Somah ba” ritual ceremony to praise the rice crops. In the summertime, families hold the “Ming mir” ceremony to praise the crops. When the crops are ripening they erect scarecrows and sit in watch-towers to protect their crops. After the crops are harvested they perform the “Somah to hao ba” ritual when the rice is stored in barns. The cultivation season ends with the “Teng amang” or “Chruh’ rituals. When the harvests have all been brought in, it is finally time to relax and enjoy the “Ning-Nong” festival season.

The Polang trees flower during the festive season. Villagers busily prepare for the festival. Glasses of wine warm the blood on cold nights. The sounds of gongs echo through the high mountains and torches flickers in the black night.