The aerial view of the Central Highlands. Located at a strategic location, the region has witnessed many historical moments. Photo vietnamnet.vn
Located at an important strategic location, the Central Highlands of Việt Nam, home to 20 ethnic minorities, has witnessed many historical moments, including playing a key role in two prolonged resistance wars.
The land and its abundant natural resources were much economically exploited by colonists before the anti-French war over 70 years ago. It was also a place of exile for many Vietnamese patriots and revolutionaries, which partly explains the density of historical sites in the region.
Today, such history is not only part of the nation’s patriotic pride, but also a strong draw for tourists the world over.
However, the tourism potential of the Central Highlands, dubbed "Việt Nam’s coffee capital”, has not been effectively exploited and the contribution to the regional economy is low compared to other regions.
Though most historical sites have been put under protection and are well-looked after, some face a less fortunate fate, suffering from severe degradation and damage due to improper attention and management from local authorities.
President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc once said, “The Central Highlands is still like a sleeping beauty who has not been able to adapt herself to the changes of the nation and times.”
Abundant historical sites
Each locality in the Central Highlands is home to numerous renowned historical sites.
Đắk Lắk Province has 38 classified relics, including 19 historical ones, two of which have been granted special national status, seven with national status, and 10 with provincial status.
Among those, three are under direct management of the province: Buôn Ma Thuột Exile House, Bảo Đại Palace and Lạc Giao Communal House, while the others are managed by their localities.
Meanwhile, Kon Tum Province has 26 ranked sites, including the historical site of the Ðăk Tô - Tân Cảnh Victory (1967), Kon Tum Prison and Ðăk Glei Prison. The national historic relic of Kon Tum Prison shows the brutality of the war and the patriotism of Vietnamese revolutionary soldiers in the fight for independence.
Children visit the Kon Tum Prison Relic. Photo courtesy of the culture ministry
In the south of the Central Highlands, Lâm Đồng Province has 37 classified relics, including three revolutionary historical sites – Đà Lạt Children's Prison, Zone VI Party Committee Base, and Núi Voi Resistance Base.
Set up in early 1971 by the Sài Gòn regime, Đà Lạt Children's Prison was initially named Đà Lạt Children's Education Centre and used to secretly detain up to 600 young revolutionaries in the south. Many prisoners were jailed at the age of just 12.
Đà Lạt Children's Prison is an increasingly attractive tourist destination in Lâm Đồng. Photo baolamdong.vn
Đắk Nông Province has 12 historical relics and scenic spots at provincial and national level, the most famous of which are associated with the anti-French movement of the M’Nông ethnic community led by leader N'Trang Lơng (1870-1935).
Another historical highlight of the region is Kbang District in Gia Lai Province, which is home to the Vườn Mít (Jackfruit Garden) and Cô Hầu Field, which are associated with the Tây Sơn Peasant Uprising (1771-1789).
The Stơr Resistance Village in Kbang District, hometown of national hero Đinh Núp (1914-1999), has become a symbol of the undefeatable Central Highlands during the anti-French movement. The village is also home to the first guerrilla team of the East Trường Sơn region, which gathered over 40 members led by Đinh Núp, and defeated numerous enemy raids.
In recent years, Stơr Village has proved as a successful model of community-based tourism after being restored by Gia Lai Provincial authorities. Visitors to the village can learn about local history, enjoy scenery, experience cultural activities and taste local cuisine. The village model is also being considered for other renowned historical sites in the region like Resistance Base Zone VI, Resistance Base B4 - Inter-provincial IV and the Ðăk Tô - Tân Cảnh Victory site.
Other features of historical sites in the Central Highlands are the relics of colonial prisons, such as Đà Lạt Children's Prison, Kon Tum Prison and Buôn Ma Thuột Exile House (actually a concentration camp), which have increasingly attracted history enthusiasts. Kon Tum Prison alone is estimated to receive nearly 10,000 visitors every year.
A scene is set up inside Buôn Ma Thuột Exile House. Photo courtesy of the culture ministry
Over the years, the Lâm Đồng authorities have allocated over VNĐ173 billion (US$7.6 million) in addition to the financial support of local businesses and organisations, to restore and upgrade national and special national historical sites in the region.
According to Deputy Director of Lâm Đồng Museum Ðoàn Bích Ngọ, the protection, improvements and use of each relic are diverse and therefore demanding of their own plans.
“To revolutionary historic sites, specifically, it is equally necessary to rebuild the scenes of the past, like the trenches, ramparts or the living space of soldiers in war zones to increase their attractiveness,” she said.
In Kon Tum, eight relics have been invested in restoration, among which Kon Tum Prison has received the total investment of VNĐ120 billion (US$5.3 million) for restoration in 2021-2025, and Stơr Resistance Village has received VNĐ15 billion, nearly half of which will be spent on the construction of the memorial house of hero Đinh Núp.
As for Đắk Lắk , the Deputy Director of Đắk Lắk Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyễn Thụy Phương Hiếu, said that the locality would prioritise investment in six projects to preserve historical relics and landscapes in 2020-2025.
However, the total budget for the investment is expected to be nearly VNĐ110 billion, while the financial resources of the province are currently limited, according to Hiếu.
“In addition, many relics have not been granted land use right and some others have had their land encroached on, but the authorities and relevant agencies have not yet dealt with the problems thoroughly,” he said.
Another province that faces difficulties in restoring local historical heritage is Đắk Nông. The Hồ Chí Minh Trail, which was recognised as a special national historical relic in 2019 and runs through many districts of the province, has not received investment for upgrading.
Meanwhile, almost all other relics in the province have faced the same problem of degradation due to improper management. Some relics have even been abandoned by the local authorities due to incomplete restoration or lack of a final settlement.
According to former director of Đắk Lắk Provincial Museum Lương Thanh Sơn, it takes great effort and the responsibility of localities to effectively uphold the values of revolutionary heritage sites, making them specific for tourists while contributing to socio-economic development.
“Another measure to promote regional historical tourism, besides the issue of renovation and embellishment, is collecting artefacts, related historical stories and activities for display at the sites to enhance their attractiveness,” he said.
“Forming teams of professional and dedicated staff with the enthusiasm to preserve the relics and strengthening the introduction of the relics on various channels are also issues that need prioritizing.”
With the right investment, care and management, the historical heritage of the nation’s Central Highlands region will be restored to its former glory and remain a strong part of national pride and identity. VNS