Kon Tum's relaxed ambience, friendly locals, river setting and relatively traffic-free streets make it a great stop for travellers intent on exploring the surrounding hill-tribe villages, of which there are 700 or so dotting the area – mostly Bahnar, but also Sedang and Jarai. This is a far better base than Pleiku for delving into indigenous culture, and there are a few intriguing sights in Kon Tum itself.
The region saw its share of combat during the American War. A major battle between the South and North Vietnamese took place in and around Kon Tum in the spring of 1972, when the area was devastated by American B-52 raids.
More recently, in the 2004 protests against government policies in the highlands, hill tribes in Kon Tum province clashed with police and soldiers. On the surface things have cooled off, but relations between the hill tribes and the authorities remain fraught.