We Have Eaten the Forest of the Stone Spirit Gôo is a book published in 1957 by French cultural anthropologist Georges Condominas at the Mercure de France. It is based on his thesis on the Sar Luk field of the Mnong Gar, who are located on the Darlac plateau (nowadays known as Dak Lak Province) in central Vietnam. The title refers to the year 1949 when the field known as Sar Luk was cleared. The phrase that gives the book its name refers to a cyclical perception of time among the Mnong Gar people, who “are not obsessed like us by the all-powerful presence of numbers.” Georges Condominas chose the form of the logbook to present the daily lives of the members of this tribe in impressive detail, showing reality as a fluid entity without splitting it up into separate sections.

Considered a masterpiece on release, this moving and engaging chronicle remains closely tied to the daily event while staying scientific in scope. It established the genre of ethnographic literature, which was absolutely new to its time, to the point where noted French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss described the work as the “Proust of ethnology.” Condominas’ seminal texts Exotique est Quotidien - Sar Luk, Vietnam central, published in 1965, and L’Espace Social: A propos de l’Asie du Sud-Est (1980), remain part of the canon of modern anthropology.

The southern part of Dak Lak Province in the mystical region of Vietnam’s central highlands can be explored during a stay at an enchanting lodge by the edge of Lak lake, after a trip in Dak Nong Province at Ta Dung lake amidst a protected nature reserve covered with jungles in land of Cau Maa’



The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the battle of Song Mao, which took place from August to November 1968 in an area of northern Binh Thuan Province mostly populated by Chams and Raglaïs. The battle was fought on the coastal plains along the Song Mao River and on Nui Che Ket, a rugged semi-arid range also known as the Cham Mountain Treasure. The area has long been known for its herd of elephants, rhinoceros, sun bears, tiger and panthers, and today much of it is part of the Song Mao Nature Reserve in Bac Binh district.

The Song Mao battle was a series of actions between the Viet Cong 200 C Battalion and the ARVN 44th Regiment. The Viet Cong managed to inflict extensive damage on South Vietnamese installations around Song Mao (Firebase Song Mao) and Hoa Da.

The ARVN 44th Regiment set up various installations near Viet Cong bases to trap and starve them. In order to deal with the 44th Regiment and its U.S. advisers, the Viet Cong High Command ordered the commander of Military Zone 6 to hit the regular South Vietnamese forces at the rear. The Battalion 200 C was deployed, consisting of 500 fighters mainly from Quang Ninh Province in North Vietnam. After completing training, the battalion made its way south through the Ho Chi Minh trail and Southern Laos, finally arriving in the upper La Nga River, where they established bases inside the Long Phong forest. After reconnaissance, Battalion 200 C decided to target Hoa Dao base, which was defended by three layers of fences, minefields and blockhouses.

A first attack took place on August 23, when one hundred sappers launched a surprise attack on Hoa Dao, destroyed the fortification and killed or imprisoned the South Vietnamese soldiers. Following the surprise defeat of their forces at Hoa Da, the 44th Infantry Regiment planned a large-scale strike-back operation. They were unaware that the Viet Cong Battalion 200 C was preparing another attack, this time at Song Mao, a base defended by more than 1,000 soldiers. The Viet Cong sent infiltrators to map out the base’s details, then for four nights they covertly neutralized land mines and cut through barbed-wire fences.

On the night of November 24th, the Viet Cong took position around the base. A hundred sappers were divided into three groups, each with a specific target. At 12.30 AM the first sapper group targeted the command and communications center, a second group damaged artillery, and the third group struck the key logistical sites, vehicles, the engineering company and ammunitions. With the base partially destroyed, Battalion 200 C withdrew into the shelter of Nui Che Ket Mountain. The tactics it used during these engagements ended up becoming a model for all Viet Cong special forces during the Vietnam War.

Today, the Song Mao battle area can be visited, notably the local airport – a long, dusty, nearly untouched run northeast of Phan Ly Cham town. Song Mao’s location in the northern part of Panduranga, the last Champa kingdom, is convenient to other nearby cultural sites, such as the local Cham museum, Cham and Raglaï villages, the white dunes, and the Song Mao Nature Reserve



The word “cardamom” originates from the Middle English derivative of the early Greek words kardamomon and amomom, which became kardamomom, and later in old French cardamom and Latin cardamomum.

Cardamom is a spice from the zingiberoside family, a forest rhizome plant whose pods and seeds are among the most expensive in the world. Well known in India since ancient times, the first reference to cardamom is from the Vedic period, with the Sanskrit appellation Ela (एला). It was exported to the West through Assyria and Babylonia, where it grew in King Merodach-Baladan’s hanging gardens. From Babylon it reached the Mediterranean basin, where Greeks, Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans made great use of the spice, especially as a medicine. After the Crusades, cardamom eventually made its way to Europe, facilitated by the trading posts established by Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama along the Malabar Coast in 1498 that introduced spices such as pepper, canella and ginger to Europe’s capitals. During the 18th century, the India Company exported cardamom from the Ghat mountain range in India to the Persian Gulf, and Asia. In Indochina, the spice flourished in the southwestern Cambodian mountains – which became known as the Cardamom Mountains – and in the limestone ranges of northeast Vietnam (Ha Giang, Lao Cai and Lai Chau).

Over time cardamom became the queen of spices and a staple of Asiatic cuisine, even appearing in legendary tales such as the Thousand and One Nights.

In olden times, cardamom was used as a solid perfume mixed with wax to make toothpaste. It is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for digestive troubles, colic, diarrhea, malaria and as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. There are over 250 varieties of cardamom, with Bengal the best known (Amomum aromaticum). Flourishing in shady mountain undergrowth, cardamom shrubs are two meters high with long green leaves, and precious pods growing at its base.

Since 2011, Secret Indochina has engaged in an immersive project around the mythical spice, with the Tree Fairy Mountain White Hmong (Phu Ta Ca, Ha Giang Province). The White Hmong, also known as the Cardamom Hmongs, switched their traditional opium poppy culture for cardamom. From the mountainous village of Seo Lung, travelers will be able to discover cardamom inside the 2,276-meter-high Tree Fairy forest range, also known as Phu Ta Ca. The Tree Fairy range is covered with a primal carboniferous mountain forest, where moss, lichens and arborescent ferns grow in the shadow of ancient twisted trees. The undergrowth is humid, dank, and often covered by fog – the perfect environment for cardamom and the great good fortune of the Hmong.

While journeying with the Hmong into the forest, the traveler can participate in the daily tasks of growing cardamom, depending on the season. These include maintaining the plants, the harvest (from August to October of the Lunar calendar), and drying operations inside forest ovens. This immersion adventure may be included in a North East Vietnam program between Ha Giang and Cao Bang Provinces








The Balé Phnom Penh is a unique, elegant and very high-end collection of 18 large, private, sumptuous suites, showcasing the best of modern Asian architecture and design and gourmet cuisine. The resort has a modern, minimalistic look befitting Cambodia’s ascendant capital, but its peaceful location on the banks of the majestic Mekong River ensures that you feel a world away from its bustle. This exquisite resort is run with skill and dedication by its own Cambodian staff “family,” and blends with and supports the local environment and people. The whole concept offers a memorable experience in truly holistic luxury.

While pampering yourself at this idyllic property, spend your days luxuriating in the intimate spa, trying your hand at Khmer cooking, or lounging by the pool while taking in breathtaking views across the dazzling waters. From The Balé, take the opportunity to explore the aquatic world of the shimmering landscape of Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest natural lake

Secret Indochina
Secret Indochina was established in 2011, following the encounter of two professionals, Tran Quang Hieu and Nicolas Vidal, passionate about authentic travel. Secret Indochina, DMC branch of Amica JSC, strives to lead travellers to outstanding sites, magical places, and little-known ethnic communities


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