The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Adventures of Adam Bray & The Land of Nop: Pt 1

Last week after recovering from pneumonia I hopped on my motorbike and drove north to the land of Nop. As best as I can tell, the people of Nop, where are a clan of the K'ho tribe, only live in the mountain foothills of Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam. The K'ho tribe are Mon-Khmer, which basically means their language is related, long ago, to Khmer (Cambodian).

The purposes of this adventure were lighthearted--namely to check some ancient (more than 1000 years old) temples from the Champa Kingdom, and explore a gorge leading into the jungle and find a waterfall pool to swim.

My trusty steed for the adventure.

Obstacle #1, an old wooden suspension bridge. The Vietnam countryside is full of these, thankfully, because it makes road trips much more interesting. Clackity clackity clack all the way across...

A Nop woman with a heard of goats. Though they now live in what was once Cham territory, I don't believe Nop were actually wards of the old Champa Kingdom back in antiquity. Instead they were apparently friendly neighbors, who traded with the Cham were at least bilingual, speaking both K'ho and Cham.

Obstacle #2, sometimes pot holes in the road get out of control.

An ancient Cham temple that I discovered in Ham Tuan Bac district in 2009. If it's as old as other Cham temple ruins in Binh Thuan Province, it could date from the 8th or 9th Century. Cham were all Hindu at the time and worshipped Shiva and other hindu gods and goddesses. Sadly, the government recently found the temple too, and about 7-8 months ago it appears they conducted a very slopped excavation to loot any antiquities they could uncover, leaving the temple unprotected. If nothing is done to preserve it, it will collapse very soon and be lost forever.

On to the Nop villages where they are celebrating the rainy season and praying for a good harvest. This is done with joyous feating and offering to the spirits. This beautifully ornamented, woven object is a symbolic hut and offering to the house god of a Nop family.

Similar in form to the sacred trees made by highlands tribes, which they (but not the Nop) create for buffalo-stabbing festivals, this decorated pole is an offering to the spirits of the Nob ancestors. The fence is designed to keep animals out, rather than in.

The torch in the middle is lit with fire and then blood is poured into two small (and difficult to see) bamboo spouts near the ground. This blood offering is made to the earth gods of the Nop.

Continuing on we meet Obstacle #3, a bull guarding the path. Actually, he turned out to be a big sweetheart.

Stay tuned for part 2, which will be appearing above next. I visit another temple, charge through the jungle, run into some interesting critters, and encounter tales of gruesome murder...

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