My Son, VietNam
Close to the quiant little hamlet of Hoi An rests the ancient ruins of My Son. This was once the intellectual and spiritual center of the Champa people, and pre-dates the wats at Angkor in Cambodia. For many years after they were abandoned by the Champa, they lay hidden in the verdant foothills until uncovered by the French some five centuries later. Let's just say that the tropical climate of Central VietNam isn't well suited to preserving ancient ruins -but that's nothing compared to the damage wrought by war. This area was heavily bombed during the war, and only about 20 structures were spared -most with extensive damage. One group of structures, however, seemed to be in relatively good condition, and this is where we spent most of our time.
We were fortunate to arrive to the ruins in time for a traditional dance performace by the Champa (or also known as the Cham) people. When the Champa abandoned this site they moved to southern Vietnam where they remain an ethnic minority. Sadly, the only real Champa in the performance was the old man playing the flute. Still, I think the Vietnamese have done a good thing by preserving, learning, and teaching about the Cham civilization.
Although we went by bus, we rounded out the tour in the hills by taking a lazy boat ride back to Hoi An. I enjoyed the different perspective offered by the river. We floated past paddies and crops that came right to the river's edge, peasants toiling in the hot sun, and buffalo grazing the banks. The river is just as bustling as the countryside with fishermen, transport boats, and workers harvesting sand from the river's bed. I can imagine that working in the rural areas is a hard life, but I think the people here have a real connection to the earth. Farmers in general must, but standing in the rice paddies with muck up to one's knees day in and day out makes for a strong bond. Its a connection we often lack in our cities and towns and pace of life back home.