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  Geography

Village of blankets

A Bana women sits in front of a pile of pine logs, a wedding present from a bride to a groom, in Dong Loc Village in Kontum province.

Village of blankets

The so-called “village of blankets” in the Truong Son mountain range in the Central Highlands province of Kontum is like a second Dalat but less overrun by tourists.

In fact, people of the rather isolated village have preserved many of their age-old traditions, making it even more interesting for visitors to come here. 

Sitting in a communal house in the cold weather and holding a glass of wine made from cassava, one will soon appreciate the trip.

Blankets are everywhere

Once the bus leaves Quang Nam Province, visitors, still a little frightened and dizzy from the ride on the road that winds up the steep Lo Xo Pass, can see the village.

During the six-month drought season, the hot Laos wind burns the region near the Laotian border day and night, causing a nightmare for those who live in central Vietnam.

But the hot winds never reach the village nestled on top of a mountain. The temperature in the region is never hotter than 20 degrees Celsius.

Thus, not to escape the heat but to flee the cold, village women and children often wrap hemp cloths as a coat around their bodies when they go out, walking on the paths that join the houses of the village.

Colourful patterns are woven on each cloth. When the night falls, the cloths become blankets to serve as covers at night.

The real name of the “village of blankets” actually is Dong Loc. It belongs to Daklei District. The villagers are mostly Vietnamese Laotian who congregated there in 1984 in search of a place to live.

Wine made from cassava roots

The village’s traditions are very interesting and well preserved. The villages in the mountainous region of Truong Son seem to be isolated from the modern world and so still keep their old traditions, a treasure for Kontum’s tourism.

In the wedding, for example, rather than the groom offering a present to the bride, the bride often gives a lot of pine logs to the groom, piled in front of his house.

Visitors who get to attend a wedding ceremony in the village usually have many exciting anecdotes to tell – that is, if they remember. Wedding guests usually drink much wine and sing around a sparkling fire.

For the wedding festivities, the villagers offer wine made from cassava, which is planted in the region. They collect and dry the roots under the sunlight and then seal them in a vessel together with a special kind of leaf.

Some two weeks later, the dried root concoction will turn out the delicious wine that the villagers usually offer to the visitors to their houses.

Every time when visitors come, they will be urged to have some glasses of wine, and it is so difficult to refuse that hardly anyone ever leaves a villager’s house totally sober.

To make sure, visitors are tipsy at the very least, those who want to leave have to drink five glasses of wine!

The hospitality of the ladder steps

The houses of the village’s Bana people are covered by bricks and surrounded with walls made from mud. In front of the door, there is usually a ladder made from ca chit wood, a valuable wood from trees growing in the region.

Bana people say that by looking at the imprints on the steps of the ladder, they can guess whether people like the house owner. The more visitors someone receives, the more worn out the steps are!

 So people wait for visitors to climb up the ladder to join the house owner for some wine in the cold weather of the mountainous region of Truong Son.

Saigon Times - (24/04/2006)


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