July in Vietnam: Quy Where?

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Quy Nhon (pronounced “wee nyon”) is a slightly industrial and not particularly pretty fishing town midway between Hoi An and my next stop, Mui Ne. It had charmless concrete buildings lining the street and not a great deal in its favour. Yet I was willing to stumble into town at 2am, taking the only available bus in. After a botched attempt at going to a place I’d booked ahead at (the people were fast asleep and no amount of doorbell ringing, door banging nor phone calling would wake them up to let me in), I managed to find a place at a hostel and not get ripped off or abandoned to die on the streets. It’s true, people did seem to get more hospitable as I went further south.

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The only interesting thing along the way to my destination was the way they sold goldfish and fighting fish in tightly shut plastic bags that sparkled in the sun. Pretty, but poor fish!

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Now the reason for going to Quy Nhon was to see the Cham ruins and how the city just built itself round them. It was so oddly out of sync how the concrete and electric wires stopped just shy of the ruins, still much inhabited by colonising plants and creepers.

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Inside one of these Cham towers was a lingam, still looking so little weathered that I wasn’t sure if it was a reconstruction or an original ruin. It was still used in active worship by the locals.

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While the main towers are further in the outskirts of the town, there was a Cham museum in the area, with rather interesting exhibits on show.

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Although the main building was closed, there were enough artifacts scattered in the courtyard to be worth a happy picture-taking session, just like this dog guarding the entrance. I really liked its toothy grimace and its pretty two-tiered decorative collar.

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Then there were these naga-like carvings that looked like they used to be part of a wall. It looked almost like a modern interpretation of Hindu art.

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And the same for this lion-like creature. I enjoyed the little details like the little whorls of hair on its head.

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The town has a nice beach with a great view of the curving bay.

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Too bad it wasn’t in any condition to swim in, the strong fishy smell put me off any notion of getting into my swim gear.

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You see, this town had part of its livelihood in fishing and there were plenty of pretty nets further out that somehow helped to net the fish. These nets were of course responsible for the stench.

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The fishermen went to and from the nets using cute little circular boats. It was a wonder they managed to get anywhere.

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It was lovely to be in this town with few tourists and no touts at all. I blended in fairly well with the locals (as long as I didn’t open my mouth) and enjoyed being on my own for a few days.

June in Thailand: Si Satchanalai’s Chaliang Complex

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Tom and I first went to Si Satchanalai, an immense park filled with ruins. It was just under an hours’ bus ride away from Sukhothai proper and had far fewer tourists than in Sukhothai. The bus dropped us at the Chaliang side, quite a distance away from the main complex. At first we wondered if we’d got the right place as there was only a small row of tourist stands lining a dirt track. Taking faith in the handwritten signs, we hopped across a little suspension bridge…

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… and soon found ourselves facing the majestic Chaliang compound, complete with imposing tower.

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The ancients who occupied this city must have been incredibly short, because we had to bend almost double to pass under the entrance beam. That, or they deliberately built it low so that people had to bow every time they entered the area.

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A massive Buddha image sat at the foot of the tower. Weathered as it was with most of the gold leaf sheared off by the elements, it still retained much of its former grandeur.

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Its long curved fingers still rested elegantly on its knee after all these years.

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Thankfully, the structure was still sturdy enough for visitors to climb to the shrine within the tower. From afar, it looked like a fairly innocuous and easy climb up.

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You’ll have second thoughts when you reach the base of the stairs though. It’s surprisingly steep and practically impossible if not for the modern railings at the side. I wonder how the ancients managed.

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On the other side of the Chaliang complex were some beautifully carved towers. The sheer intricacy of the work was very impressive.

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Despite all the erosion, lots of detail still remained and I had to zoom in quite a bit with the camera to capture some of the fine craftsmanship.

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Elsewhere in the complex were Buddha images in different poses, here one rather graceful and dancer-like.

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Here two in deep meditation. I thought it rather interesting that the two Buddha faces were of different styles. I wonder if they were erected in different periods.

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And yet another one. This one rather oddly enclosed in thick walls.

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It was a lovely start to Si Satchanalai, complete with good weather, and we headed along the pathway to the main complex.

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