Visits to Buon Don Village are memorable for an experience of a lifetime – riding on the back on an elephant.
The village is the only place in the country where it is legal to ride these great beasts in the beautiful Central Highlands. If you fancy braving it from Saigon you take National Road No. 14 for 500km to Binh Phuoc and Daklak Province. Located nearly 50 kilometers northwest of Buon Ma Thuot City, is Buon Don which is home to the M’Nong, J’rai, Ede, Lao and Thai ethnic minority groups and for the last two centuries has been the center of elephant hunting and taming in Vietnam.
Buon Don is a Laos name, meaning island village as it is near many islets in the swift flowing Serepok River.
Buon Don is the name for the three villages of Yang Lanh, Buon Don and Buon Tri in Krong Ana Commune, Buon Don District in Daklak. Annually, the elephant riding festival is held at the old airport area in the immense forest and it attracts thousands of tourists from over the country and beyond. The festival is impressive due to its number of fun performances such as racing, elephants playing football and wading down the river.
Walking along the stilt houses under the shade of giant trees, tourists will be amazed to see elephants tramping on the street with locals or tourists on their back. Sitting on the elephants’ back and ambling with careful steps, you will feel life in the slow lane and more peaceful. Tourists can ride elephants through the forests and rivers to explore splendid scenery after getting some valuable advice from mahouts who take care of these amazing animals.
If you have time and feel adventurous, you can hire an elephant to cross the Serepok River. Then walk across the 100-meter-long Buon Don Bamboo Bridge under the shade of banyan trees.
It is veiled by vines and roots but the swinging bridge is not for the feint-hearted.
To have more fun, tourists should buy some sugarcane or some other fruits to lure the elephants.