Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday

After a week working long days as a volunteer, Sunshine finally took last Sunday off, allowing us to do some Nha Trang tourism together. We hopped into a cab and repeated the words "Chăm Pa" until we were taken the kilometer or so north to the Po Nagar Towers complex.1 This was my first opportunity to see an ancient site in Vietnam. The Po Nagar complex is located just across what must have initially been the town's northern demarcation: a river delta filled with blue wooden fishing boats. By now, Nha Trang has grown around the temple; currently the site provides a shady and peaceful spot overlooking the standard Vietnamese bustle on all sides. Po Nagar is a three-tiered Chăm Pa complex covering a small hill. Four towers remain: stone brick structures with terraced pyramid roofs2 at the top of stairs too small and steep for use. Trees provide some tropical shade. Epiphytes grow in the zigzags of ornate brickwork. At the bottom of the hill, only brick columns remain of another structure, an entryway to the complex. The whole area dates to the second century, but remaining structures were rebuilt primarily after the tenth. Some pristine touches might have been added as late as last week. Although this site was originally more extensive, I hesitate to use the word "ruins" in conjunction with Po Nagar. Locals still worship here, keeling in the cramped spaces with incense. Signs asked us to please remove our shoes before entering. I met my first Vietnamese monk up that hill, a beatific bald man in gold robes who calmly wished me a good day. He was just clearly peaceful, as if he'd stepped from some ideal--an ideal of calm over Vietnam: there under his arm was his matching gold motorcycle helmet. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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