Pleiku


Pleiku is the capital of the Gia Lai Province and is linked by road to Buon Me Thuot (197km), Quy Nhon (166km) and Kontum (49km). Inhabited mainly by the Bahnar and Jarai ethnic groups, Pleiku today is usually served as a pass to the quieter town of Kontum.

The tourism authority and the local hospitality industry have been trying hard to sell Pleiku to travellers as a destination, even quoting a popular song that sings that city’s praises: “You are so beautiful Pleiku, breaking my heart into pieces…” One look at the chaotic, nondescript town will make such poetry seem like wishful thinking, but the city is centred around a deep ravine where an artificial lake has been created, and from that spot it’s possible to imagine that the city was in fact pretty, before it was flattened by war, then blanketed with modern buildings.

Pleiku

Pleiku City

Leaving the city to the east and west, signs of the modern world quickly vanish, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a somewhat more picturesque countryside

Mountainous and in the wet season very, very wet, Gia Lai province sits in the centre of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The provincial capital, Pleiku, sits at the junction of Routes 19 and 14, making it the crossroads for any exploration of the Highlands. Pleiku town marks the junction of Routes 19 and 14 leading to Kontum to the north, Buon Ma Thuot to the south and Qui Nhon on the Vietnamese coast. Most travellers who find themselves here tend to be on the way to somewhere else as the town itself is fairly charmless and while the surrounds are just as mountainous as the provinces to the north and south the infrastructure to explore them is both undeveloped and expensive.

Pleiku is larger than Kon Tum, but receives far fewer tourists — and for good reason. The major thoroughfares are crowded with noisy traffic throughout the day, and the streets are lined with stores that specialise in selling goods in bulk, as a part of its function as a market centre for the surrounding region. The location figured prominently in the war with America — this is pretty much where the war started and where it ended — but rebuilding after the destruction of the town has left no trace of the war, or what the city was like before. The tourism authority and the local hospitality industry have been trying hard to sell Pleiku to travellers as a destination, even quoting a popular song that sings that city’s praises: “You are so beautiful Pleiku, breaking my heart into pieces…”

What to do?

In Pleiku, there are various types of tours including day trekking to hilltribe villages, elephant riding, city tours and veteran tours. Though Buon Ma Thuot is recommended a better base for these trips, the unusual burial custom of Jarai villages is an outstanding feature.

Located 36km from Pleiku, Plei Phun village is a good example to explore the Jarai’s culture. Here, tombs take the form of mini-houses surrounded by carved wooden effigies, often humorous and sometimes graphic depictions of stages of procreation.

Pleiku

Jarai villages

7km north of Pleiku, Sea Lake is the flooded crater of an ancient volcano. With scenic area, this beautiful lake may also be a pleasant excursion from Pleiku.

When to go?

The best time to visit the Highlands is between November and January, when the landscape is lush, the rain is minimal and the weather is temperate.

Travel Tips:

Visits at minority villages are a MUST but it is always required a local guide, local transportation and permits to these spots. Please do not offer money directly to minority people – instead donate to a local charity or offer a small gift such as pens and toys. And remember to ask for permission before taking photographs in minority areas.

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Pleiku