Friday, February 18, 2011
Thursday and Friday, Feb 17-18th, Kontum and Pleiku
We drove south into the Central Highlands on Thursday, stayed overnight in a hotel in Kontum which was almost vacant, and headed to Pleiku on Friday. The days were the longest driving yet, and were valuable mostly in that they helped us better understand the provinces which hold some important minorities. Seeking autonomous authority, the Bahair, Sedang, and the J'rai constitute about half of the regions one million inhabitants. Some of them were known as the Montagnards (mountain people) by Americans during the war, and they opposed the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese efforts during our war.
Today, they grow coffee, tea, manioca, and rubber for large agricultural plantation companies. They live in a beautiful high valley in western central Vietnam, and they's really rather be left alone. Our tour company arranged for us to visit a few stops to allow us to view their customs, and support one of their orphanages. All along the tour, we collected the hotel room items provided for us, and donated them to the orphanage. Several of us also made donations.
In today's photos, you'll see that we took a walk to look inside a J'rai house, to a nearby cemetery, and to their water source. Distinct from the Budhists and Catholics which most Vietnamese celebrate, the locals bury their dead outside of the homes in cemeteries. The jars in the structures pictured held the ashes of everyone in th village who died, and they are kept for seven years. Then they have a special ceremony (a huge one) caled the "Abandonment of the Dead" in which they release their souls and empty the ashes.
The weather is getting hotter, the mosquitos are getting more feisty, and the food is getting more uniform and restricted. It consists primarily of congregate meals of small portions of beef, pork, and chicken served with steamed rice and soup. Cold beer is prized, and sometimes we share a bottle of wine.
Tonight, we're in a large hotel in Pleiku. I flew into the local airbase twice when I was here in 1969-70, and the runway is still used for domestic flights. I remember staying overnight near the officer's club, and hanging with a group of aircraft mechanics at a local bar. Needless to say, I wasn't exposed to much local culture.
To see the photos from the lst two days, click on: Thursday And Friday, Feb17-18th, Kontum And Pleiku