Below are a selection of photos from my day-to-day adventures exploring the countryside of southern Vietnam. The ancient jewelry you see can't be found in any museums. The ancient temple ruins I find can't be found in any maps or history books. This is real adventure--the essence of discovery.
Song Luy River, Binh Thuan Province
Citadel walls of the forgotten ancient Champa capital city of Bal Canar (Ban Canan)
Ruins of an unknown ancient Cham temple (possibly 8th to 10th Century) in remote farmland.
An ancient silver Cham ring (private collection - not mine) A stylized tiger head motif is carved on either side of the gem. I'm no gemnologist but the stone looked like quartz. I've been to all of Vietnam's major museums and never seen an example of jewelry similar to this.
An undocumented ancient Cham temple ruin. Possibly 8th-10th Century.
Religious displays of Nop villagers (not a tribe you'll find in guidebooks).
An ancient silver Cham bowl, private collection.
Typical Binh Thuan rice farm. The farmhouse is made with mud and grass walls. The walls tend to accumulate ants, termites and scorpions.
An ancient amber necklace, probably Cham. Amber necklaces were common in Vietnam's ancient cultures going back thousands of years, though not common now. Private collection.
A country kitchen.
The road goes ever onward.
A Cham man goes home for lunch. Cham are one of the few ethnic groups in Vietnam to wear their ethnic costumes during normal daily activities.
Ancient Cham bracelets, private collection. I'm not sure if these are silver or bronze.
Lunch in a Cham home.
Top 2: I discover ancient Cham temple ruins on a wooded hillside, probably more than 1000 years old. This was the first of several ruined temples that I found in Binh Thuan, Vietnam. Bottom left: a windscorpion. Bottom right: a termite mound.
A golden tree snake. Considered harmless though mildly venomous and rear-fanged, the snake is known for gliding or 'flying' from trees across Southeast Asia.
Spoils of the adventure: handmade baskets from a Rai village. Rai, a relatively unknown ethnic group, have a similar spoken language to the Cham, and were likely part of the ancient kingdom of Champa.