Sunday Snapshots: Cham Towers, Vietnam

I'm very sure that Bay, our driver and guide when we were in Vietnam last Thanksgiving, thought we were curious people. We were not interested in the regular tourist spots and I made him pull over at all kinds of nondescript locations. Like these neglected Cham Towers, for example, that suddenly showed up on the side of the highway when we were on our way to Nha Trang from Phan Rang. He couldn't understand why I wanted to stop here when we were headed to the better-known and better-maintained Po Nagar Towers in Nha Trang. Well, that's just it! I wanted to stop because it was deserted.

At least, I thought it was deserted until I saw a young man walking through the grounds, overgrown with weeds, hand-in-hand with a beautiful girl. I almost believed they were an apparition because, after all, these were ruins from the Cham Dynasty, a Hindu people that once ruled southern and central parts of Vietnam from the 7th century to early 1800s.

Cham Tower
Cham Tower

Once I realized that I was not imagining the two young people and that they were on the other side of the locked gate, I wanted to be able to get in there, too. The young lad turned out to be the son of the caretaker of these Cham Towers. He offered to get the keys to let us in. While he went looking for the keys, his girlfriend told us that she lived about 500km away and was visiting for a short while. I felt guilty about taking up their time but she smiled and said they were happy to help.

Cham Tower detail
Hindu influences

Once inside, the closer I got to the Cham Towers, the more apparent it became that these structures were built by people that had a strong connection to my land, India. There were styles in the carvings that felt immensely familiar. I had only been able to do cursory research on the Cham Empire so this was rather humbling.

Cham Tower detail
Elephant heads and other details

These towers looked like they had been partly renovated as we could easily identify new bricks from the original bricks. The inside of each tower was dark and filled with screeching bats. It was rather oppressive as there was bat excrement on the floor and in the air. There was also abandoned scaffolding that seemed to lean precariously in my direction. I stepped out rather quickly.

Cham Tower detail
Close-up of an elephant head carving

We didn't get to meet the caretaker and his son knew no details. He refused to accept money from us and instead, he just smiled, took his girlfriend's hand and wandered off.

Cham Tower
Partly rebuilt

Unfortunately, it was rather breezy and the wind continued to slap a thin film of sticky mud onto my lens, making it very difficult to take pictures. I salvaged these from the lot that I did take.

I still can't believe that these ancient towers stand right by the highway and remain largely ignored.

7 comments:

Gay said...

Beautiful Manisha, Vietnam ia on my liar od places to visit.

Peggy said...

So nice that you got to go there. Yes, like Southern China, fall/winter can be a tricky beast. We were in China the very first time in the winter on a visit to Guilin and had the same issues. Beautiful shots.

Namitha said...

Beautiful pictures,M ! Interesting to know about the Indian styled carvings

john k.Tas. said...

dear Manisha, they must have an overload of tourist places in that area, if the locals ignore calling at that " Cham Towers " ! it looks so photogenic, let alone its historic value ! or am i just showing my age ? ! cheers, john k.

Manisha Pandit said...

Gay, mine, too! I want to go back. I wish it didn't take almost 2 days (door-to-door) to get there. I shouldn't complain because everything's amazing and nobody's happy!

Peggy, it was quite crazy. Like a film that I had to keep wiping off! You went to Guilin?! Oh my! What a beautiful place and such lovely light there! I want to go there, too!

Namitha, thanks! It was quite awe inspiring!

John, actually no! We were in a place that is often described as "no-one goes there" or "just drive through as there's nothing there!" Seriously! Not a tourist trap for sure. There are still a fair number of Cham people in this area. It's possible that it is a lot like in India where we let our heritage sites literally crumble due to inadequate funding and perhaps even carelessness.

Anjali said...

Really nice and the architecture has a similarity with the Vijayanagar empire. The Gopurams reminded me so much of Hampi, You must visit Manisha next time you are here in India.

Desisoccermom said...

I am like you, I want to stop at the non-touristy attractions and explore old ruins. At times like that I wish I had "vision power" so I could envision how that place looked in its glory days.