It took about a hour’s drive from Buon Ma Thuot to Don Village. Red dirt road leaded us to Don Village. Along the paths, we encountered big elephants used for riding. Charming and peaceful village removed us from day – to – day worries. The car moved slowly so that we viewed gingatic and pristine Central Highlands.
A visit to Don Village without a meeting with the “The King of Elephant Hunting” named Ama Kong is unfortunate so we took a trip to his house. Ama Kong, whose birth name is Y Prong Eban, has long been famous not only for his feats of hunting but also as a musical wonder. Ama Kong is able to play several traditional muscial instruments. His personal life is also very special since he had four wives (of which he took his fourth wife in marriage at his eighty years of age).
His 127 years – old house was a traditional Laos – Thailand temple lookalike. The roof timbers were made of 7.5 cubic meters of high elascity wood. So the roof shrinks in rainny days while opening up under sunlight. His house used to have three rooms. But after the big storm in 1954, the old tamarind tree collapsed into the house so now only two rooms remained.
In addition, the house was purchased by his former maternal grandfather – Mr. Khun Ju Nop. At that time it was as expensive as twelve male elephants with large pairs of tusks. His grandfather made offerings including 22 large male buffaloes, dozens of pigs and hundreds of wine jars to worship the ancestors. When his grandfather died, because there is no male to maintain the continuity of a family line, the house was transferred to Ama Kong.
Coming into his house, we went out from a surprise to another. Descendants of Ama Kong and the local government were doing their best to preserve the status quo of the house and the tools he used for elephant hunting. The house was carefully and reasonably arranged with furnishings and exhibits. We were excited about a rope about from 90 m to 120 m in length, made of buffalo leather (better known as the main instrument used by an elephant hunter, helping to lock an elephant’s leg during a hunt). It took seven male buffalos’ skin to make such rope. After plaiting cord, the rope was tied to a tree and exposed to the air in three months, day and night. Therefore, the rope was firm and durable. If letting it ouside despite weather conditions, the rope will withstand over 100 years without rotting. A thorny noose was used to throw on an elephant’s neck during the taming process. Still the horn used to give the signal for victory after his hunt, the pot used to count the elephants caught by him, parasol, mattress, broadsword and so forth were living testaments to the skill and dedication of the legendary hunter.
Unfortunately, Ama Kong had died in early November, 2012. Visitors to Don Village will no longer enjoy his stories about his elephant hunts while drinking big jars of wine or seeing a glint of happiness in his eyes when he was talking about his love stories and particularly his peals of laughter.
We leaved Don Village when the sun slowly fells down behind the mountains. Suddenly a friend sang “Still loving each other, please coming to Buon Ma Thuot …”. As for us, there was still much to regret! Just wish the vacation longer! What remained in our mind after such trip is valuable and not easy to get. Thank you EVIVA for organising my most favorite trip in Indochina ever.
by Anne Elizabeth Reed