On the way to Po Ro Me, we highly recommend a stop at the two craft villages in the town of Phuoc Don, 10km from Phan Rang.
Bau Truc is known for its earthen-ware pottery and sculpture, the design of which is part of Cham people's cultural tradition. There's a line of pottery shops all along the same road, and each one is a little different and worth a look. The pots are made by hand, without the use of a kick wheel, and sometimes (quite amusingly) the potter circles around the pot to make it round. The sculpture is very imaginative folk art -- many of the figures are almost gargoyles, contorted in pain, others are nursing mothers or couples arguing -- a bit reminiscent of the wooden figures carved on Jarai tombs. The potters are perfectly happy to entertain visitors and welcome photographs without, thankfully, stopping to pose or looking in the camera. If you see a billow of smoke coming from behind one of the shops, go and investigate. The pots are fired by piling white wood and rice straw around them and setting it ablaze -- it smoulders for five hours before the clay is set.
My Nhiep is nearby Bau Truc and offers a similar experience, only weaving is the local metier. We only found one place open on our visit, but that was quite enough to entertain us. The weavers, mostly young women, sit at long traditional looms and weave colourful and intricate designs into swaths of fabric that seem to go on forever. The girls appeared to be quite happy when people showed up to visit (however beautiful the work they are doing, its bound to get a tad monotonous) though we found them a bit more camera shy at first than the potters.
How to get there
To get to Bau Truc, head north on Thong Nhat St from Phan Rang for nine kilometres -- look for a large white plinth on your right in the town of Phuoc Dan. Take the right before the plinth through the 'gate' which has the words 'Bau Truc' on it. Less than a kilometre into the village there's a school on the left -- take a left just before it (if you get to where the road tees, you've gone too far). Continue down that road a bit and you'll see the signs for the pottery shops on either side of the street, and perhaps some smoke blowing around from the clay being fired.
To reach My Nhiep, follow the directions out of town to Bau Truc, but pass the plinth and also pass the main road that branches to the right just on the other side. Immediately after, on the left, there's a small road that leads to the village -- you'll cross over a bridge and through some rice fields if you're on the right track. As you enter the village there are some retail shops selling fabrics -- pass those until you reach the town square (uh...large patch of dirt and grass) and you'll find the weavers.
Last updated on 23rd May, 2007.