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 2

In case you missed it, view Part 1 of this adventure here.

Here we have a second ancient Cham temple ruin. The government found this one and excavated it about 2 years ago. It also likely dates from the 8th or 9th century. As usual, the government looted when they wanted from it, then left it fallow for the cows and farmers to run all over it. Surely it won't last long now.

This corn field is growing on what was tropical rainforest a few years ago. Slash and burn agriculture is taking villagers further into the jungle each season and destroying this precious habitat.

Obstacle 4: the road has gone from path to riverbed now. Soon I'll have to abandon the motorbike.

I enter a bamboo rainforest. The villagers tell me that in this area a man was just discovered, having been missing for a few days, eviscerated with his brain removed. I shudder a little. I hope I haven't entered the scene of the next Predator movie! Stories abound in the countryside of evil men who kill travelers and children, and sell their organs--to be used in magical rice wine brews by the wealthy and powerful.

A giant jungle millipede. These guys are everywhere and feed on dead and rottering plan matter. They are relatively harmless, though highly poisonous if a predator tried to eat them.

Giant spiders... these lovely ladies, with legs like chopsticks, have a very large range. I've seen them in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. if I'm not mistaken, I think they are bird-eaters.

Giant river crabs... I'm told they are edible but they taste like mud. They actually have very cute personalities. There were about 10 of these males (the females are relatively tiny and lack the giant  claw) in my swimming hole. I slept in the waterfall for about an hour. I woke up with this fellow poking me in the leg. I think he was trying to see what I was.

My swimming hole, taken from a little waterfall above. There were at least three kinds of fish in the pool--who were very inquisitive and loved to help me eat the bread that I brought for my picnic lunch.

This stretch of jungle was one of the most wild that I've encountered in Vietnam, actually. There were wild birds everywhere squawking, singing and fluttering about. Unfortunately most of the time that's not true--the jungles of Vietnam are usually completely silent because all of the birds and other animals have been hunted and removed from the forest wholesale. Its a worrying situation and villagers and authorities alike don't seem to care.

As I left the forest to return home, a villager stopped me and asked if I was there looking at the river for the government. I asked him why he thought that. He said that 5 years ago, the government announced that it planned to build a dam and flood the gorge, creating a reservoir, and destroying this unique jungle habitat--just as they have many of the valleys and gorges throughout the Central Highlands. One by one all of these spots are being lost--and so are the wild plants, animals, archaeological and cultural treasures of the people who live here.

Want more adventure and great photos? Read the whole adventure thread here.

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...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Danang Hospital Recommends Goats

Below is a very rough translation of a rather outlandish article on the Danang Hospital website. A few sections were rather hard to understand, largely due to how poorly they were originally written, and so have been omitted. I think you'll get the general idea. So before you head to a Vietnamese hospital for any serious treatments, remember this, which you can try yourself at home first... hahaha.

Goats: Nutritious folk medicine & treatments
Goats are omnivorous animals, and as such parts of their digestive and reproductive organs are very strong. Each morning out of a barn, a male goat can have sex with many goats.  Females can live long and give birth many times; each litter can have many babies. So popular is the concept of goat dishes improving one’s health, and particularly sexual function. 

1.     Goat Meat.
According Mr. Hai Thuong Lan's  Medicine Series, goat meat is sweet, hot, and non-toxic. Goat meat puts the body in a positive direction, makes one warm and improves mental function. If you eat 30 - 40g/day of dishes made ​​from goat meat, it will make you stronger, eliminate back pain, cleanse the blood, and reduce excessive sweating. Goat meat is often quite good prepared with the ginger and garlic. Mr. Hai Thuong Lan advises eating goat meat with onion, garlic and shallots. Vegetables and warm pepper complete the prescription. Particularly, garlic and shallots with goat work to strengthen the kidneys; eating goat meat can also treated renal impairment, fatigue, and knee pain. The general effect is to nourish the blood with oxygen. 

2.     Goat Blood Wine.
Have the goat stand straight, shave the neck fur and disinfected the area with alcohol, Poke a knife into the neck artery (avoid poking into the esophagus). When the blood sprays like a faucet, remove the head, put some alcohol into a jar, and then fill it with all the blood. Drink it right away. Be sure the goat is not sick and is full grown. For an even better effect, add to the wine cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel. Another good remedy is to mix honey and blood wine. Blood wine is good for cleansing one’s blood. 

3.     Goat testicles.
Choose big males but avoid old goats. Eating goat testicles is good for the kidneys and curing impotence. People often use alcohol with testicles – Goat testicles make an interesting wine: take the testicles, the kidneys, the penis, cutting into thin pieces, marinated in garlic, mix in an earthen pot then simmer on a plate. The heat of the wine will mature the testicles. 

For goat testicle hot pot: stew lotus roots in a pot of water, add lotus seeds, and bulbs. When the water is boiling, add goat testicles, kidney, and bone marrow. Do not cook the meat too much, which will reduce the effect. Goat testicle hot pot is a very exciting drug and very strong. 

4.     Goat Kidney.
Cooking goat kidney is similar to cooking other kinds of kidney (such as pig). However, goat is usually baked or steamed with onions. The dishes are suitable for the treatment of depression, hearing loss, and sweating. 

5.     Many stomach.
Goat stomach is very salty like that of other omnivorous animals. However, gastric goat stew or porridge can treat poor digestion and nausea after meals. Note, those with stomach and duodenal ulcers should not use this item. 

6.     [Ommitted]
7.     Goat can be substituted with snake meat, minced, cooked in a pressure cooker and bones   crushed. Mix with heart and cleansing organs, finely shredded and dried. All can be pureed, mixed, and is good for the skin, Drink 5 - 10g/day.