After the night drive from Ho Chi Minh City, I found the Great Thousand Highlands. More than 500 km from Ho Chi Minh City, Gia Lai is a large province of the Central Highlands. Returning to Gia Lai is about the fragrant basalt red dirt roads, to the sunshine, the wind, to the "eyes of Pleiku" – the Ho sea has gone into poetry, to the majesty and wilderness of mountains and forests and picturesque rubber roads. Gia Lai is a large rubber growing area of the country, the whole province currently has about 88,000 hectares of rubber.
The climatic characteristics of the Central Highlands in general and Gia Lai in particular are two distinct seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. While the rainy season lasts from May 5 to October, the transition to November is when Gia Lai enters the dry season, low humidity and temperature. In the late winter and early spring days, when the forest is changing clothes, the leaves begin to pour down endlessly throughout a vast expanse of sky.
I found Chu Pah, a district of Gia Lai 30km from the center of Pleiku. As houses sparse and paths through the rubber forest began to appear before our eyes. I was amazed because the forests here were bigger than I had imagined in my mind.
Along both sides of the road are rows of rubber trees planted straight, the trunk is affirmative, bare but extremely stable and full of pride like the rustic and hard-working character of the people here. On the rubber stem there are cuts that are marks left after farmers harvest latex.
The rows of rubber trees go on and on without end. I went on and on, but I didn't see a single roof. I suddenly thought, or am I lost? The streets were so deserted that just hearing a rustle under the leaves could startle me. Occasionally a few motorbikes drove by. The desolation in the first few minutes made me bewildered, even wanted to burst into tears. As he took the wheel, his heart was pounding, his eyes daring to see if there was anyone behind. Momentarily, I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath to suppress my fear.
After a few minutes of rest, the wind rushed into my jacket, looking at the red and yellow leaves printed in the sky, I was hypnotized. I stood back, first feeling strange and small in front of nature, and then bewildered by the impressive, vivid and charming painting of the basalt red earth plateau.
The woodlands change leaves unevenly. There were patches of forest, fallen rubber leaves lined up under the tree like carpets stretching across the ground. There are segments of leaves that have just turned yellow and red. In the midst of the blue sky, white clouds flying, the yellow and red colors of the leaves dotting the road immediately caught my eye, eyes always longing for the beauty of nature. Is it possible that in many situations, getting lost is also the best way to find beauty? Looking at the rubber rows standing upright, I wonder how much effort people have put into having "works" of such scale.
Suddenly, I felt like I belonged to the atmosphere where I was stopping – no noise, crowded with visitors coming to check-in. The space was large enough for me to drop into the clouds and wind, breathe slowly to feel the scent of the forest, still enough to listen to the breath of thousands.
Perhaps nature and human hands have inadvertently created a harmonious picture by stacking rubber forests on top of fiery red basalt soil, and then favorably weaving into that picture sparkling sunshine and crisp dry grass banks.
In the neighboring districts of Pleiku city (the capital of Gia Lai) such as Chu Pah, Chu Se, Chu Prang..., there will be many such rubber roads. I believe that if you come here, you will be amazed and "stolen heart" by the wildness, dream, mystery and charm of the forests.
Writer: Le Phuong