Po Klong Garai and the local market in Phan Rang…
Wow, I just looked, and it’s been two whole months since I actually posted a real post! My short story for my world religion class doesn’t count. It’s way past time for me to get a story out…so here goes. I’ll pick up where I last left off, just like I had been doing, like I was still there on my wild adventures around SE Asia.
So, thankfully the bus ride we were on was over, not that it was too terribly uncomfortable, but…ummm, yeah well it actually was for someone that’s 5′ 10″ and needs to go on a diet, but please don’t tell Ha that! I would travel in another one of those buses again in a heartbeat to go to somewhere like Phan Rang and see the cool places I saw there. Now, about those places…
Po Klong Garai
Even the name sounds cool, Po Klong Garai…like some ninja warrior is going to come out of one of the temples built there swinging a samurai sword, oh never mind, that’s Japan, this is Vietnam. Anyway, for those who have been to the temples in Siem Reap, and outside of Bangkok, this is small potatoes. But for me, well, I haven’t been to those places yet, and these three temples REALLY are cool, and have an equally cool story to go with them! I won’t tell the entire story, I’ll just give everyone the quick version, and hopefully anyone following me knows by now, that you just click on the blue hyperlinks for the rest of the story. Don’t forget, you can also click on any of my photos in any of my blog posts to see a full size version of those, too!
Now, back to the story…Po Klong Garai was born in 1151, and died in 1205. As the legend goes, he was a lowly cowherder, but it was his destiny to become king of the land because of his wisdom, and his good will toward his fellow people. He directed his focus on agriculture and had two crowning achievements that still exist today, the Nah Trinh Dam, and Cham canal. But, for me anyway, the story gets more interesting when reading the Wikipedia version of his life.
Sometime during Po Klong Garai’s reign, the Khmer people of Cambodia invaded his kingdom and with his wisdom, to keep from going to war with them, the king proposed a peaceful challenge, a tower building contest instead of coming to bloodshed. The Khmer accepted, and Po Klong Garai and his people won the contest. The Khmer returned home defeated, and the rest is history.
After his death, he was viewed as a God and protector to his people. The temple or tower that he and his followers built during the contest with the Khmer is supposedly the same tower that still exists in his name today.
That is just one of Wikipedia’s versions of the story, but it’s the one I like the best! Their website shares another possible origin to the site, but still acknowledges that King Po Klong Garai was influential in the building of these three towers or temples. No matter what the story, it is an amazing feat that the towers are still intact due to the fact that Phan Rang was a US military airbase during the Vietnam war, and many of these types of temples were destroyed during that war.
There is a very nice complex below the temples, housing a gift shop, small café, and a museum showing some of the clothing and memorabilia of that time. I would highly recommend a stop at this site if anyone is ever in the area. It is definitely worth the visit. I really enjoyed my time at the site and it is something that I will never forget. There are many inscriptions on the walls, and the site gives one a feel of the Champa Kingdom that ruled the central and southern regions of Vietnam for almost nine centuries. If one looks at the sculptures on the temples close enough, one will see the impact the Hindu religion had on the area too, with many of the Hindu gods featured all over the towers, and the largest tower entrance guarded by a dancing Lord Shiva, no less.
Next up on the agenda was a trip to the local fresh market in Phan Rang where we would shop for our lunch and dinner. Being so close to the ocean, there was an abundance of seafood, so I asked Ha and Hoa if we could pick up some of the fresh tuna for the day’s meals. It didn’t take too much convincing by me to get them to agree to that! Not only did the market have excellent seafood, but the fruits and vegetables were equally abundant and tasty.
At the time, I had no idea that Vietnam’s hot tropical climate could produce grapes, so I was more than surprised to see the three women in the photo to the left, sitting with bowls of grapes all around them. I was more than happy to taste a few when they handed them to me. They were so succulent and sweet, and I overlooked the fact that these grapes had seeds in them and that I had never been a big fan of seeded grapes before. I was really in store for a surprise the next day, but I will share that story in a future blog post.
Wandering around the market, everyone was so friendly, and eager to have me take photos of them. I loved their smiles and their kind hearts. One of my favorite things I had begun to love to do, and looked forward to every day was the daily chore of shopping in the markets to get the food that we would cook and eat. Okay, okay, I’m stretching the truth a little bit…the food THAT Ha and Hoa would pick out, that THEY would cook, and WE would eat! Now it was time for us to go back to her uncle’s house to do important things like take a nap, then run to the store for beer, and leave the cooking to Ha, Hoa, and her aunt! And, boy did they cook one helluva a great meal.
Here I am, almost one year later, looking at these photos, and the food on the table, wishing with all my heart that I could go back to that day. It was just another day, another amazing, adventurous day, spent walking among temples over six or seven hundred years old, eating the freshest of fresh tuna, the most succulent of grapes…and yep, that’s all it was, just another day that I will never, ever, ever forget.
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