Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Son

No, that is not “my son” as in one of my offspring; that’s “My Son” as in a Cham religious center active between the 4th and 13th centuries. There were originally about 70 temples there, but the fact that the Viet Cong based themselves there in the 1960s led to repeated bombings by the US in the American War (as they call it here). Only about 20 of the temples are still in reasonable condition. I really wanted to visit My Son after reading about it in the guidebooks. I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to arrange it, though, since it’s sort of off the beaten path. I was ecstatic when the husband said the university wanted to arrange a day trip to My Son and Hoi An and was I interested? You bet! But before we get to My Son in the blog post, we have to get there in real life which was almost as much of an adventure as the rest of the trip.

Most of the vehicles on the road in Vietnam are commercial trucks, commercial cars and buses, and motorbikes. The government discourages private ownership of automobiles by levying a 200 percent tax on the purchase of one (a fact learned from the absolutely amazing guide on the DMZ tour I’ll be writing about next). There are also very few stop lights and no stop signs. If you’re approaching another vehicle of any sort, including a bicycle, you honk, alerting that person that you are coming up behind them and want to pass. If they’re on a motorbike or bicycle, they’re supposed to move over to the side and let you around. Our driver on Sunday’s trip was of the pass-everyone school of driving. He did not seem to be worried about any speed cameras (which is why, according to yesterday’s guide, the bus driver on that trip was driving comparatively slowly), so the trip was a high-speed honk-fest. Oh, and did I mention that the only seatbelts in this van were for the driver and front-seat passenger, and they weren’t wearing them? There were a couple of what appeared to be no-passing zones, but that doesn’t mean that our driver didn’t pass there. Finally, the driver stopped several times, apparently to ask directions, just adding to the fun. Since I’m writing this two days after the trip, we obviously made it there and back safely, but it was a bit of an adventure and a noisy one at that.

This was our first time outside Hue with the exception of the drive in from the airport, and it was interesting to see the countryside. I must admit that I was surprised that, like leaving many towns in the US, it took a long time to get out into the countryside proper. Life continued on both sides of the road for quite a while after leaving Hue proper. And when I say that life continued on both sides of the road, you should know that “sides of the road” means something different here versus back home. I kid you not when I say that some of the following scenes were shot while we were going at full speed. A truck stop is a truck stop, it appears, in pretty much any culture. The concept of “street sweeper” can change a bit. I kid you not—this woman was sweeping the road with a broom. And we mustn't forget the water buffalo. The terrain got more mountainous as we went south, inland, to the west of Da Nang. We also passed a number of race paddies, complete with scarecrows. Besides rice, we saw tobacco being grown and hung out to dry.

And eventually, we made it to My Son. You might call where My Son is located a forest, but the denseness of the undergrowth and the tropical nature of a lot of it really made me think of it more as a jungle. I shall view any Vietnam War (as we call it) film I see now in a new light. The trail at My Son leads to several different complexes. The first is in the best condition. I wish I could tell you which building or temple is which, but my guidebooks label things differently than the postcards I bought do, so it would be hit or miss in terms of matching names and places. The following photos are all from the first complex. The following shots are from the second complex, the one in which older son performed Am Hak. The following shots are from the third complex. This is where you can see some of the restoration work going on. And just to prove we were all there, here’s the first of the possible Christmas card shots for next year. My Son was definitely a highlight of the trip so far, and I would have been happy to spend the entire day there rather than continue on to Hoi An, but continue on we did. In the evening, we drove back to Hue through Da Nang which looked for all the world like any large neoned city with beaches lined with resorts. It made both the husband and me quite satisfied with the family decision to take a caving trip in two weeks rather than a trip to the Da Nang beaches.

Just a postscript since I still need to develop a post on our amazing DMZ and war sites tour yesterday. The husband planned on every contingency and brought my old Dell laptop here along with his brand new Dell netbook. The brand new Dell netbook stopped working after two days here. No, power isn’t an issue; the machine boots up and then says that the operating system (Ubuntu Linux) can’t be found. Today, my old Dell laptop is threatening to die. Together, older son and I have all the software that the husband needs for preparing class materials, so this means that if the old Dell does die, then I may not be able to post to the blog quite as often or make my posts as long as some have been. This may or may not be good news; it all depends on how much folks are enjoying these. I’ll keep you posted


VA said...

Fascinating --- restoration of ancient temples reminds me of same at Machu Picchu - wonder they are inspired by tourism or patriotism? Whichever, being there gives one an eerie feeling too!

Nancy said...

I, for one, hope your computer problems heal themselves and you keep posting as I am enjoying them very much. I read them just before bed when all is quiet and I can enjoy and absorb both the writing and the pictures.

Nann said...

Well, I'm one of the folk who is (are) definitely enjoying these posts. Keep 'em coming!

Debi said...

Hope the computer(s) continue hanging in there...I'm loving your posts!