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Elephant hamlet in Central Highlands stands the test of time

Located in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, Don hamlet is famous throughout Southeast Asia as a place for taming and raising elephants. It is a beautiful area with stilt houses and people of many different ethnicities living together, including the M’nong, Ede, Giarai, Kh’mer and Lao.

Established a century ago, the hamlet has retained many of its traditional cultural characteristics and mysterious legends typical of the Central Highlands. Surrounded by 1,000-year-old forests and located near the Serepok River, it is well-known as an attractive destination for all types of travellers.

Don hamlet is a 50-km scenic motorbike ride from Buon Ma Thuot City in the Central Highlands. On the way, you’ll probably find yourself mesmerised by the romanticism of the coffee fields and small stilt houses on the hills.

Travellers often stop to take photos and chat to the locals. But even the locals are not immune to the beauty of the place. Once you can see elephants wandering on the road, you know you’ve arrived at the Don hamlet.

The adjacent Serepok River, which was formed by the joining together of the Krongna River and the Krongo River, is described as the most superb child of these two rivers. The Serepok River passes many beautiful waterfalls and rapids and splits into seven branches when it reaches Don hamlet.

There is an island in the middle of each branch, which becomes a home for people of many ethnicities including the Ede, M’nong and Xedang. People call them island villages. In one of the local languages, village means hamlet, and Don means island. That’s why this area is called Ban Don, or Don hamlet.

Not very far from the Don hamlet, visitors can lose themselves in Khop forest, which is known for its diverse range of local flora. On their return to Don hamlet, visitors can stay overnight in local bamboo houses, attend typical Central Highlands festivals and rituals, eat and drink wine and enjoy traditional dances and songs.

However, riding elephants and learning about how to capture these animals are the most interesting things to do for visitors. Very few travellers miss the opportunity to ride an elephant along the Serepok River to Khop forest, or take a wooden boat trip on the river. If you visit Don hamlet between November and April, you will also have a chance to see the elephant racing.

With such specialities, Don hamlet is an unmissable destination for every trans-Vietnam tour.

Michel Dolbear from Paris, a French man of Vietnamese origin, who has just visited Don hamlet for the first time, said: "I have an older bother, who owns a coffee field in Buon Ma Thuot. In our family, we often talk about it and today I came here with some friends to discover the land. The scenery here is exactly what we imagined. It is the first time we’ve ever seen with our own eyes the special cultural characteristics of the Central Highlands."

Michel Dolbear regretted that he could not stay in Don hamlet longer to discover its diverse culture. But regardless of how long you stay, the story of this land’s past and the beauty of the present will remain timeless.

VOV - (22/09/2005)

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