Return to the Western World

As I’ve been here in Sydney for a week, I’ve gotten a vague idea of Australia. Obviously, Australia is huge and I’ve only seen one city.

Similiarities with other cultures

Australia is, naturally, heavily influenced by England which manifests itself in such things as an abundance of fish’n’chips shops, driving on the left side of the road and cricket fields. However, Australia also has distinct cultural similarities with for example California in the US, like the laid back culture; the flip flops and the board wear.

bondi beach in sydney with surfer
Bondi beach, Sydney.

The language is English but there are a many new words and expressions that I’ve never heard before. The overuse of the word “heaps” is one. It means “a lot” or “many”:

“There are heaps of people on the beach”.

Another fun little quirk of the Australian language is exchanging the end of a word (or name) with “o”:

Bottle-o (bottle shop), arvo (afternoon), servo (service center), David (dave-o).

Sydney Beaches

You’ll see several different types here: You’ve got the German tourists out to lick some sun away from the cold winter back in Europe, you see the young surfers with their blond curly hair and billabong shorts and finally you see the ripped people running around topless (the boys, that is) who spend most of their time going to the gym and eating healthy. In all three situations, the goal is the same: to look good on the beach.

I went to two of the beaches in Sydney so far – Bondi and Bronte. Both extremely nice beaches with white sand and blue water.

bondi beach in sydney
Bondi Beach, Sydney from a high vantage point

You’ll see several different types here: You’ve got the German tourists out to lick some sun away from the cold winter back in Europe, you see the young surfers with their blond curly hair and billabong shorts and finally you see the ripped people running around topless (the boys, that is) who spend most of their time going to the gym and eating healthy. In all three situations, the goal is the same: to look good on the beach.

There is a definitely a large culture evolving around the beach and life on the beach.

Biking in Sydney

One thing, I miss from Denmark, is the bicycle culture. With the amazing weather we’re currently having here in Sydney a bike would be just great. Needless to say I was super stoked when my friend David said that I could borrow his bike. The initial excitement went away though when I learned that bikes are not exactly common in Sydney and people don’t use them as much as a means of transportation but rather recreationally – on racing bikes rather than citybikes.

There are no bike lanes so you share the road with the cars – and some cars really don’t like that so they get super close to you. Still, there is a functioning train/bus system and actual sidewalks which is a nice change of pace from the craziness that is Saigon (and the rest of South East Asia).

Sports

I’ve heard Australians call themselves a very sporty nation many times. They obviously play rugby and cricket but they also play four (!) different types of football, with one of them being the normal style soccer. They have huge stadiums (100.000+ people) and, apparently, the atmosphere in those stadiums is through the roof. Even if I don’t like the sport, I should still go, just for that sensational feeling.

Conclusion

Australia Provides a lot of new and interesting things for me to explore. And I’ve only been in one city so far!

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.