PANO – It is said that it should be a mistake for a visitor if visiting Pleiku without tasting ethnic minorities' specialties and alcohol in small jars while listening and dancing to the music and the sound of the gongs.

In Pleiku, there are houses on stilts that host cultural activities to entertain visitors. Visitors are advised to call owners of the houses prior to their visits so that suitable dishes, alcohol and a gong band can be prepared for the guests. Normally, for a group of eight, the menu includes sticky rice cooked in bamboo culinders, grilled chicken, round violet aubergine, cassava leaves, wild vegetables, and two small jars of alcohol. A gong band in traditional costumes adds spices to the party.

Artisan Ksor Hnao

It takes about 10 minutes to travel by taxi from the center of Pleiku city to the house on stilts of Artisan Ksor Hnao in Kep village. The first impression that strikes visitors comes from different wooden statues in the house, which look as if they were telling the story of life of the local ethnic people. Around the house are daily-life stuff such as jars, bows and arrows, the T’rung (traditional bamboo xylophone) and other musical instruments. Hnao, the artisan of those wooden statues, has won a number of prizes including a gold prize in Gia Lai province’s contest. He said, “Just like the gongs, wooden statues represent a traditional cultural feature of the ethnic groups in the Central Highlands. Highland people learn about and live with the statues from their birth to their death.” Therefore, Hnao always introduces his statues to visitors coming to his house.

The big culture party starts as the hosts and guests both sit. Owners of the houses drink first and then invite the guests to drink in return. In the mind of highland minority ethnic people, drinking alcohol from small jars shows sympathy, equality and straightforwardness, just like the characteristics of the people of the Central Highlands. Local cuisine is also special with dishes such as “é” leaf-scented grilled chicken, sticky rice, round violet aubergine, and more, bringing diners a mixed taste of something familiar and strange in the wildness of mountains and forests in the Central Highlands.

Just when the alcohol takes effect, warming the hearts of both the hosts and the guests, the gong band starts to play. The harmonious melodies of the T’rung accompanied by the gongs sound like the water in streams running through rocks on mountains and leaves fluttering in jungles of the Central Highlands. The trill of melodies naturally arouses the hosts and the guests alike. They stand up in a circle and dance to the music. No one can resist!

Visiting Pleiku and swimming in the gong cultural space in a simple house on stilts bring warm feelings, the feelings of hospitality that local people always reserve for visitors. Without doubt, visitors coming to the land once will wish to revisit it at least once more, for longer and deeper breath of the highland culture.

Translated by Huu Duong