Well off the tourist track, Pleiku (or Playcu) makes for little more than a pleasant stopover on Hwy 14. The threat of unrest among the local ethnic minorities means that much of the potential for village tourism has been stymied. You’ll need a permit to go anywhere off the highway, and Westerners with their own wheels may find themselves quickly separated from them if they attempt to go it alone. However, you’re unlikely to see any aggression on the streets of this sleepy market town.
In February 1965 the VC shelled a US compound in Pleiku, killing eight Americans. Although the USA already had more than 23, 000 military advisers in Vietnam, their role was supposed to be noncombative at the time. The attack on Pleiku was used as a justification by US President Johnson to begin a relentless bombing campaign against North Vietnam and the rapid build-up of US troops.
Getting there & away
Pleiku’s bus station is on the main highway, just over 2km east of town. However, you can usually flag down a minibus circling Ð Le Loi or Ð Hung Vuong without too much trouble. Regular buses head to Buon Ma Thuot (46, 000d, four hours), Kon Tum (30, 000d, one hour) and Quy Nhon (45, 000d, four hours).
There is also an international service linking Pleiku and Attapeu (US$10, 12 hours), departing Pleiku Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and Attapeu on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Car & motorbike
The nearest cities to Pleiku are Buon Ma Thuot (199km), Quy Nhon (186km) and Kon Tum (47km). There is a particularly barren stretch of land on the road from Buon Ma Thuot, the result of Agent Orange and overlogging. From Pleiku it’s 550km to HCMC and 424km to Nha Trang.
The local office of Vietnam Airlines (824 680; fax 825 096; 55 Ð Quang Trung; 7.30-11am & 1.30-4.30pm) can book tickets on the daily flights to and from HCMC (550, 000d) and Danang (400, 000d). The airport is very near the town and easily accessible by taxi or xe om.
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