Pleiku and Kon Tum and rice wine with the Jarai!

Today was a Central Highlands gem of a day.

It started a little rocky when our tour guide didn’t show up. (Very unlike the guides we have had so far).  So…in typical Virgo fashion- AND THE FACT THAT THIS WAS THE TOUR REFLECTING THE REASON WE FLEW ACROSS THE DANG PACIFIC- I started a slight panic attack. I called and the tour had thought I didn’t confirm but I had confirmed- you know the drill with these situations- and Daddy is thinking its bad karma for him fighting over here – good gracious – but the guide arranged to fix it and we had someone at our hotel in about 30 minutes.  It was all friendly but I had tears in my eyes, no doubt. And I didn’t want to add to Daddy’s stress of today if he was stressing – Good Lord it was quick but tense for a minute. Once our new guide arrived we were on our way.

We started in Pleiku at “Camp Holloway” location- veterans who served here will know this name immediately. It looked like this in the late 1960s And some images of Pleiku from 1968…        

The reason Daddy is so disorientated here is because this is an image of Pleiku today:

Camp Holloway is now a military office that is smack in the middle of a bustling city with zero resemblance to the US military base in the late 1960’s. It’s not recommended to take photos of military buildings while visiting so you’ll see no photos but trust us- no resemblance at all.

We drove out to the volcanic crater lake that was near the “25th hill”- Daddy’s 25th infantry base.  It’s now filled with well water and supplies the drinking water for Pleiku.  Again- unrecognizable. “25th hill” is now an off-limits Vietnam Military Base so we couldn’t get near but it’s still acting as a proper base so that is something.

Our guide is Jurai – part of an indigenous group here in Vietnam.

The Jarai live primarily in the Gia Lai and Kon Tum Provinces, with some others in Đắk Lắk Province and a few thousand in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia. Following the Vietnam War, many Jarai who had been allied with the United States were resettled with their families in the United States, particularly in the state of North Carolina. What a small world is this?? North Carolina?!! Well, Daddy’s current home state seems to be even more diverse than I even realized.

We walked through the Jarai village with our guide Kyrll and were able to meet some villagers preparing for a death ceremony. They invited us to drink a special rice wine they make and sit with them for a moment. These men were fantastic- smiling and taking a little break from preparing for the ceremony that will take place in one month from now.

This is a typical community house for the Jarai- check out that roof!

When invited to partake in the rice wine and some cooked chicken- it would be considered extremely rude to decline (and we wanted to try it so it all worked out great) and you must drink below a little stick before you’re considered “done”.  The stick is balanced on the top of the base and has a vertical portion to measure consumption…About a cup by the time you’re finished.  Very low alcohol content and tastes like a sweet Sake.  It’s made from the community sticky rice and fermented for a month.  And it’s poured from that jug right next to the vase that looks exactly like a gasoline jug ??

Just add to the awesome things we have ingested here ?!! And no scorpions or cobras in the drink so we are getting smarter!!

The village and general area grows mainly coffee, Peppercorn, sugar cane and rubber trees for those tires on your cars ?- and the fragrance from the blooming coffee plant is like an orange blossom- fragrantly floating through the countryside …

Cofffeeeeeeeeeeeee plant!!! yum

Jurai village that we visited:

Rubber trees:

We drove then to Kon Tum- about 40km from Pleiku on the very nicely paved Ho Chi Minh trail.  A lively and welcoming town where we had lunch of locally grown rice and vegetables, pork and soup.  We saw the old 1800’s wooden church built by the catholic missionaries in Kon Tum. The missionaries didn’t reach Pleiku as the Jarai stopped them from furthering their cause into their village. There is a Catholic orfanage on site with about 200 kids.

 We then rode to a tea plantation that has been in operation since 1928- it began under French rule and continues today. Ain’t nothing keeping these strong people down!!

I asked Daddy if he is disappointed that everything had changed so much.  He said he is mostly glad- that meant not only did the war not destroy the ingenuity or resolve of this area and its people- they rebuilt and grew and it’s now totally different, modern and holds no blame nor hatred toward men like Daddy who were sent here to support their country. I think that might all be a great thing but Daddy will have to allow this to sink in completely and decide on his own.  I’m now considering he and I getting a foot massage down on the hotel’s 3rd floor where you can also sing karaoke and/or enjoy a coffee.  We love you and miss you all and I’m one super duper proud daughter.  Much Love- Jarry ❤?????

3 thoughts on “Pleiku and Kon Tum and rice wine with the Jarai!”

  1. Hello!

    OMG, what a day you two had!!! The people you met, the sites you saw, the beauty of the area. I don’t suppose you met anyone who remembers Camp Holloway…it must be odd, but not surprising, that the terrain is so different.

    How typical that the little Virgo took charge during the crisis of the tour guide! You made lemonade from lemons, as you usually do! Good for you, saved the day for Jarry!

    Can’t wait for the next exciting episode! Thanks for the blog!!!

    Be safe! Hugs and love to you both.

    xx oo Bronda, Mel and Tedddy

  2. Awesome adventure. I shared the site with John Becker. He is the reporter from WBIR who interviewed Daddo and just returned from Vietnam. Safe travels.

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