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nhan tower traditional clothes tuy hoa phu yen

Nhan Mountain (Núi Nhạn), Tuy Hoa, Phu Yen

Nhan Mountain

“Nhan Mountain boasts interesting architecture, pleasing surroundings and is a historically significant spot for the Cham people. This trifecta of interest makes it a must visit for anyone who has the chance – foreign and domestic tourists alike.”

Nhan Mountain (Núi Nhạn) is found rising high near the city center of Tuy Hoa, the capital city of the Phu Yen province in Vietnam. Nhan Mountain boasts interesting architecture, pleasing surroundings and is a historically significant spot for the Cham people. This trifecta of interest makes it a must visit for anyone who has the chance – foreign and domestic tourists alike.

nhan tower tuy hoa phu yen
Aerial photo of Nhan Tower. Original Photo Source: Internet

For those very reasons, Nhan Mountain is the first thing locals think about when Tuy Hoa is mentioned. It’s become a famous landmark for Tuy Hoa and the entire Phu Yen province.

Even so, Nhan Mountain isn’t often visited by foreign tourists, simply because very few know about Tuy Hoa (or even Phu yen) at all. In other words: it’s a hidden gem.

Architecture and Religion of Nhan Mountain

So far, the Cham people technique of placing bricks tight together without any kind of mortar or adhesive has remained a secret to researchers.

Standing majestically on top of Nhan Mountain, Nhan Tower is an amazing piece of architecture. Nhan tower was built by the Cham people, who lived in the Đà Rằng delta region, between late 11th century and early in 12th century period. It’s the most unique symbol of the long-standing culture of the Cham people.

nhan tower traditional clothes tuy hoa phu yen
Nhan Tower up close. The two girls in the foreground are wearing traditional Vietnamese clothes (Ao Dai). Photo: My Nguyen

When the French colonists invaded Vietnam (1945-1954), they destroyed parts of Nhan tower causing a lot of damage. However, Phu Yen authorities fully repaired and restored both the inside and the outside of the tower in 1960.

The tower itself is a quadrant with four stories’. The tower is 25 meters high and each side of the tower is 10 meters high. The four-story tower illustrates the beauty, art and creativeness of the Cham people and resembles the architecture found in other places such as the Po Nagar Cham towers in Nha Trang.

The roof is made of a lotus bud stone slab which is a Linga symbol of the Cham people. In the top of the tower, four sides have false windows to distinguish between the upper and lower tower.

Inside the tower, the wall was built perpendicular from the bottom to the end of the body. The closer to the top, the smaller it is resulting in a pyramidal roof without the use of terracing or pilasters.

Another sculpture of Durga the goddess, may be found inside the temple: it depicts the four-armed goddess holding a hatchet, a lotus and a club while standing on a buffalo. This sculpture belongs to the Tra Kieu style of Cham art from the end of the 10th century to the beginning of the 11th century.

durga slayer of buffalo demon
Durga, the slayer of the buffalo-demon, is represented in the temple. Original Photo Source: Internet

Nhan Tower is not only a historical and cultural relic but also represents typical architectural and sculptural work of the Cham people. The tower was built using bricks and decorated with stones and ceramics. So far, the Cham people technique of placing bricks tight together without any kind of mortar or adhesive has remained a secret to researchers.

nhan tower on a cloudy day
Nhan Tower on a cloudy day. Photo: Trinh Quang Minh

The tower, shrouded by old trees, is regarded by the locals as having ancient supernatural powers holding the spirits and ghosts of long forgotten times. This is holy ground and many come here to pay homage to the Gods.

paying homage to the gods nhan tower tuy hoa phu yen
Paying Homage to the Gods on Nhan Mountain. Original Photo Source: Internet

Further attractive features of Nhan Mountain

When visiting Nhan Mountain you will a get a sincere feeling of comfort and peace unlike most other places. It will not only help you understand history and religion but also provide insight into the spiritual life and social structure of the Cham people.

Even without the tower, the view from the top of the mountain makes this place worth a visit. From here you can see all over Tuy Hoa city and enjoy the calming view of this tranquil city as well as Chop Chai Mountain

chop chai tuy hoa phu yen
Spectacular view from Nhan Mountain. From here you have the view of Tuy Hoa city and Chop Chai Mountain. Original Photo Source: Internet

A common joke is that you would rather live outside something beautiful (a palace for example) instead of inside it because then you get to look at the beauty all day while if you’re inside you only get to look at the ugly outside.

Luckily, you won’t have to worry about that with Nhan Tower as it is just as beautiful up close as far away. At night, Nhan tower is a shimmering beacon of light due to an advanced light system. Even far away, several kilometers, you can clearly see Nhan mountain shine bright in the night.

Especially, when Nhan mountain is used to celebrate cultural and recreational activities. And it often is.

To give a few examples:
A cultural performance show is celebrated from 6-8pm every Saturday

shows at nhan mountain tuy hoa phu yen
Shows and other celebrations on Nhan Moutain. Original Photo Source: Internet

Nguyen Tieu poetic festival takes place annually on the first full moon day of the lunar new year (Tet). This poetic night is the annual meeting event for poets and supporters gathering under the full moonlight, chanting the lyrical rhymes or discussing the art of poetry. You can experience these magnetic cultural activities and have a chance to harmonize with the rich Vietnamese culture.

poetry night on nhan mountain tuy hoa phu yen
Poetry night on Nhan Mountain. Original Photo Source: Internet

Finally, there is yet an amazing piece of architecture located on the way to the top of the mountain that shouldn’t be missed when traveling to Phu Yen. The monument is called The Heroic Martyrs Monument, is 30 meters high and stands out white under the blue sky. With its elaborate and majestic dimensions, this creative, artsy design, looks like a giant sail and should by all means not be missed.

heroic martyrs monument on nhan mountain tuy hoa phu yen
Heroic Martyrs Monument on Nhan Mountain. Original Photo Source: Internet



Red Reef (or Ganh Do), Part of Xuan Dai Bay

Few people have heard of Song Cau in the Phu Yen province in eastern Vietnam but that’s far from the same as saying the area has nothing to offer. Xuan Dai Bay with its gorgeous sceneries is a must visit.

So what’s so special about it?

“The landscape and scenery is outstanding and unlike anything you’ve seen before – unless you’ve been to paradise that is.”

In the bay, there is a small fishing village called Ganh Đo or “Red Reef”, known for fishing and famous for its fish sauce. In fact, so well-known that the locals are able to lead a comfortable life in an otherwise poor province. However, Ganh Do is so much more than fishing and fish sauce. The landscape and scenery is outstanding and unlike anything you’ve seen before – unless you’ve been to paradise that is.

aerial photo of red reef in xuan dai bay in phu yen province
Aerial photo of Red reef, comfortably located in the peaceful Xuan Dai Bay. Photo: Lee Nguyen Tran

How did Red Reef get its name?

If you’re wondering how Red Reef got its name it’s due to the many reddish – brown reefs scattered around the area.

reddish brown reefs that give red reef its name
The reddish-brown reefs responsible for giving Red Reef its name. Photo: Le Nguyen Tran

Red Reef Beach

Aside from it’s unique beauty and quaint atmosphere, another appealing feature is the Red Reef beach. It has very smooth sand and mild waves, it’s flat, clean, and with shallow waters; even at 50 meters from the beach, the water is only waist deep.

picture of corner of red reef beach in phu yen vietnam
A picturesque corner of the quiet beach. Photo: Lee Nguyen Tran

In the morning, the life in Red Reef is tranquil and gentle. The fishermen, out catching squids, paddle slowly along the shore. Early risers are out and about in the relaxing environment, breathing the fresh air and swimming in the cool water.

sunrise a red reef beach in phu yen province, vietnam
Red Reef beach at sunrise. Photo: Lee Nguyen Tran

Meet the friendly fishermen

“It’s so rare that foreign tourists come to visit their place that being invited in for food and accommodation without even asking for it, is highly likely.”

Red reef is an accommodating destination for those who’d like to explore Vietnamese life far away from the tourist circuits. The local fishermen are very kind and friendly here – far beyond what you’d expect. It’s so rare that foreign tourists come to visit their place that being invited in for food and accommodation without even asking for it, is highly likely. They have no other reason than wanting to talk to you and because of their extraordinary hospitality.

fishermen getting ready in the morning at red reef beach, phu yen, vietnam
Fishermen getting ready for the day. Photo: Lee Nguyen Tran

Don’t forget the surrounding area

If you’re not already packing your bags to go see this gem, this should convince you. Red Reef has a special terrain. Not only does it have the before mentioned dream of a beach but mountains and rice fields can be found in the area as well so there are landscapes to please anyone. It’s not often you have so much beauty and variety packed into one place.

surrounding area of red reef
The outstanding terrain in the are surrounding Red Reef. Photo: Lee Nguyen Tran

When you have the chance, set foot on these lands. You will instantly feel the rustic charm of both the landscape and the people here.

Long-term living on Bali – Hindu full moon ceremony

Continued from part 2…

This is a series about various observations and reflections I’ve had while staying in Ubud, Bali for a month.

How we got to go to the full moon ceremony aka Bulan Purnama

We (Amy and I) noticed that the hostess and the rest of the staff regularly went to the nearby Pura Puseh temple in Ubud and since the staff has been so overly friendly and forthcoming towards us with everything else we thought we’d ask them if they could take us. We thought about going to the temple ourselves to see but I’m glad we didn’t because it would have been like sending two elephants into a porcelain house – we’d stick out like two sore disrespectful thumbs.

“At this point we didn’t know what kind of experience to expect and honestly I just thought it would be a standard Sunday ceremony.”

They suggested we go a few Sundays later (yes, you guessed it – they said yes) and without thinking further about it we smiled, said thanks and started to look forward. At this point we didn’t know what kind of experience to expect and honestly I just thought it would be a standard Sunday ceremony. We would later find out that this was actually a bi-annual event called Bulan Purnama, a full moon ceremony that lasted for four days!

Full moon ceremony, bulan purnama balinese clothes
The staff that was friendly enough to take us to full moon ceremony. It’s Amy on the left.

Full moon ceremony preparations

After visiting countless temples around South East Asia you’ve become used to certain requirements to clothes (long pants, cover your shoulders etc.) but for this ceremony the requirements to clothes were even more strict. Two bags of clothes were kindly handed over to us from the staff prior to the ceremony. One bag for me and one bag for Amy.

Amy’s bag contained:

  • Sarong – A sort of skirt to wear as the lower part of the dress
  • Corset – In earlier days the women went topless.
  • White shirt – In our group we all wore the same style shirt and I think it represents caste/family/relationship.
  • Selandang – A colourful piece of cloth tied around the white shirt as a belt.
classic balinese clothes full moon ceremony
Traditional Balinese attire. The sarong, the selandang, the corset and the white shirt.

My bag contained:

  • Large colourful sarong – Used as inner sarong and only the front part could be seen
  • Small white sarong – Used as outer sarong to create a two-layer effect
  • White shirt
  • Selandang – same as for the women
  • Udeng – A special type of white hat worn by all men.
wearing traditional balinese attire full moon ceremony bali
Wearing the traditional Balinese attire

 

With these clothes, we felt significantly more prepared. It was also at this point we realized the grandeur of the ceremony. They didn’t do this every weekend. Since the women had all set up their hair and the men were wearing hats literally no one was wearing helmets. It seemed the whole region was heading for the temple.

“With these clothes, we felt significantly more prepared. It was also at this point we realized the grandeur of the ceremony.”

Arriving at Pura Puseh (the temple)

As we approached the temple of Pura Puseh in the middle of Ubud we saw hundreds of locals dressed in local attire and a nearby field had been turned into a parking lot to accomodate all the motorbikes rolling up.

If you’ve been in a similar situation you’ll know that it can be very overwhelming to be so suddenly and deeply submerged into foreign culture. You don’t know where to go and what to do – and more importantly: you don’t know what not to do.

full moon ceremony in bali ubud
The full moon ceremony (Bulan Purnama) is in full effect!

To give an example, you are supposed to go by a small fountain next to the entrance and sprinkle yourself with holy water before you enter the temple. It’s easy to miss a detail like that so you’ve got to pay close attention to avoid showing disrespect.

“Anyone who’s been in similar situations knows that it can be very overwhelming to be so suddenly and deeply submerged into foreign culture

The Full moon ceremony commences

The ceremony starts in the morning but doesn’t end till around 10pm because of the many waves of people having to go through the full ceremony. It takes about 1 hour for a ceremony but two parallel ceremonies happen simultaneously – one in the outer temple and one in the inner.

Add to this, the fact that the full moon ceremony (Bulan Purnama) runs for four days straight! That’s a lot of people!

We performed two rituals – first in the outer temple and second in the inner temple. Before each ritual a flower bowl with incense sticks was prepared for every person.

“Add to this, the fact that the full moon ceremony (Bulan Purnama) runs for four days straight! That’s a lot of people!”

Outer temple ritual

The outer temple ritual consisted of 5 steps as follows:

  • Step1: Hold your hands over the incense to “catch” the incense smoke and afterwards pray with your (empty) hands in front of your face. I didn’t get the full details but I’m assuming the “catching” of smoke is a way of cleansing.
  • Step2: Repeat the same procedure but this time you’re holding a yellow flower while you pray. The yellow flower is then put behind your ear.
  • Step3: Repeat the same procedure but this time with a small bucket of flowers
  • Step4: Repeat the same procedure but this time with two flowers, a red and a yellow. Once again, you put them behind your ears afterwards.
  • Step5: This is the same as step1.
full moon ceremony bali praying flowers
This is step3 of the ceremony where I’m praying with my hands in front of my face while holding a small bucket of flowers

My guess is that step 1 and 5 is cleansing before and after the ritual while step 2, 3, and 4 each represents praying to one of the three primary gods in Hinduism:

  • Brahma, who creates the universe
  • Vishnu, who preserves the universe
  • Shiva, who destroys the universe

To make sure everyone follows the same pace, a man with a small bell sets the pace. Each step is performed as long as the bell is ringing.

“Step 1 and 5 is cleansing before and after the ritual while step 2, 3, and 4 each represents praying to one of the three primary gods in Hinduism:

After the ritual, everyone proceeded to the inner temple, bringing with them flowers and offerings.

balinese full moon ceremony women carrying offerings
Offerings are carried around the crowded temple by the women. Mostly they are carried on their head and often without the use of hands

Inner Temple Ritual

Inside was a completely new set-up of Gamelan musicians. To give you an idea of the sheer size of this ceremony, the outer ceremony had about 20 Gamelan musicians while the inner ceremony had closer to 50 musicians.

gamelan musicians inner temple full moon ceremony pular punarna
A subset of the Gamelan musicians performing in the inner temple. The lady smiling at us is our hostess, Wayan.

The first part of the second ritual is the same as the entire first ritual. However, after this is done there is an addendum.

“To give you an idea of the sheer size of this ceremony, the outer ceremony had about 20 Gamelan musicians while the inner ceremony had closer to 50.”

All the offerings are carried to the offer site and while the offering ritual is being performed ladies walk around with holy water (it had a very smoky smell and taste to it) and a second ritual is performed by each person individually:

Step 1-3 is done 3 times

  • Step1: They give you holy water in your hands and you wash your face. This is done 3 times.
  • Step2: They give you holy water in your hands and you drink. This is done 3 times.
  • Step3: They give you holy water in your hands and you put it over your head. This is done 3 times.
  • Step4: Rice is put on your neck and your forehead. It sticks to your body as you are wet from the washing.

Finally, after this step, the ceremony is over and everyone proceeds to the exit. Next group comes in and the ritual is repeated for the next group

 

kids at bali full moon ceremony ubud
Two adorable kids at the full moon ceremony.

After the full moon ceremony

Although most people have the whole weekend and monday off there are still things to do and a large chunk of the ceremony goers head straight home. The majority though, sticks around and participates in the general festivities across the road from the temple where everyone is dancing and singing.

Around 12pm everything ends, the streets can finally rest and only the silence sticks around; until the next the day when the cycle repeats.