Buon Ma Thuot isn’t necessarily top of everyone’s To-Do list in Vietnam. In a year of living here I hadn’t even heard of the city, until I was researching for ways to dispense of a week off from work. In doing so Buon Ma Thuot quickly emerged as both a useful base for a motorbike tour, and also as a cheaply reachable destination: VietJet do return flights there for around £60.
The city itself is very neat and tidy, and I warmed to it rather quickly after the clutter and chaos of Hanoi. Buon Ma Thuot benefits from big wide roads uncluttered with traffic; fresh, cool air owing itself to the city’s position amid the central highlands; and in the Coffee Tour resort where we stayed, a cheap yet cosy place to spend a few nights.
There’s a very chilled out, relaxing vibe to Buon Ma Thuot. People are friendly and welcoming, if utterly unused to seeing big white Westerners (I was asked to pose for photos on several occasions, which I of course did with graceful aplomb). There’s less of a frenzied, 1,000mph atmosphere. People remained stopped at red traffic lights even when there was clearly nothing coming in the opposite direction! It took a little while to adjust to this more easy-going temper, not to mentioning remembering large chunks of previously-abandoned Highway Code.
The town’s focal point is a large roundabout featuring a war monument typically lacking anything approaching subtlety or understatement: this one displays a large concrete tank as a reminder to everyone that there was a war once upon a time, in case they dare ever forget.
Concrete tanks notwithstanding, it is a pleasant town. However, diversionary activities are few and far between. This isn’t a booming tourist hub for good reason, and if you’re not planning on using Buon Ma Thuot as a base from which to explore further afield (as indeed were we), I can’t really see much of a reason to go there.
There is enough to keep you occupied for a day: shortly I’ll tell you about a trip to the elephants at Ban Don village, and another to the Dray Sap waterfalls. But these were more things we did because we were here, as opposed to being reasons in and of themselves to come to Buon Ma Thuot. A nice place though it is, you’ll really only use it as a means to get somewhere better.
A bit like Wayne Rooney and Everton, if you will.