Tag Archives: Vietnam Central Highlands

Among the Montagnards and elephants of Vietnam’s Central Highlands

The ancient man in the long house high in the mountains above Dalat claimed he was 102 years old. He greeted me with both hands cupped and invited me into his house, shooing away chickens and stepping over indolent dogs. We then settled down to  drink the strong, sour rice wine, sucking through bamboo straws from an old gourd.

His home stood about 10 feet off the ground and was some 70 feet long, made of solid timber. The inside was dark with the only light shining through open shutters. The walls hung with an assortment of gourds, crossbows, flintlock guns and pictures of garish Vietnamese and Japanese landscapes ripped out of magazines.

Outside bare breasted women pounded rice or played with toddlers who stared wide eyed as I ambled into the village. The men toiled bent-backed in the fields nearby, while others hunted game illegally in the forest. It was a silent, peaceful scene. I felt relaxed here after hours of travelling  across the broken highland roads up from Nha Trang on the coast. First by a minibus so packed that passengers had to hang out of the doors, gripping on the side rails, and later by Minsk motorbike.

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