A local rides his bike through a corn field on the top of Chu Dang Ya Mountain that is the mouth of a dormant volcano in Pleiku Town, the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai / PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
There are no official figures about the number of inactive volcanoes in Pleiku, and locals put it at between 10 and 15.
Amidst this uncertainty, it can be said for certain that at least three of them are worth visiting, and together, they make for a new, very different experience of a popular tourism destination.
Located more than 1,000 meters above the sea level, Ham Rong, locally known as Chu H'Drong, is the highest mountain in the Central Highlands town, as also its most famous volcano.
From afar, the volcano gives off different impressions from different angles. It can look like a pyramid with its top cut off, or the lower part of a giant vase with the upper part buried underground.
Admiring it from a distance is one thing, but the real thrill is in making your way to the top of the volcano to feel the clouds right above your head and to enjoy an awesome, panoramic view of Pleiku.
Pine forests along the way present many good camping spots.
Following Ham Rong on the popularity index is T'Nung Lake, better known as Bien Ho (sea lake). The 250-hectare lake that is some six kilometers from Chu H'Drong is the mouth of a volcano that operated millions of years ago.
Sailing on the lake's calm waters in dugout canoes and looking around at forests, mountains, wild birds and villages belonging to various ethnic minority communities like the Ba Na, Ede and Gia Rai is an experience that you will remember for a long, long time.
Located more than 500 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, Pleiku Town can be reached by either bus or plane.
By bus: VND200,000-300,000 one way. Trip takes around eight hours.
By plane: VND700,000 one-way.
In Pleiku, motorbikes can be rented for VND150,000-200,000 a day.
And you can make your Bien Ho visit even more memorable by catching many kinds of fish and spending the night by the lake with a camp fire, and a meal of fish accompanied by rượu cần (rice wine in jars drunk with long bamboo straws).
Some 20 kilometers from the lake is the Chu Dang Ya Mountain, which looks like a giant overturned bowl from a distance.
Once you reach its top, you will find a big hollow with fields of corns, potatoes, pumpkins and many vegetables. There is also a vast field of white reeds, and tall centuries old trees leftover from a former primeval forest. Volcanic rocks are scattered here and there.
However, to enjoy these treats, you have to brave a slippery, tricky road with several sudden turns.
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