I walk along jungle trails in the heat-inflicted silence. Blackened, red-brick humps lie strangled in greenery against steep mountains devoured by rain clouds. I am in My Son, in central Vietnam, forty miles inland from the coast of the South China Sea. Flowers and grass grow out of every nonvertical surface of each monument where altars, lamps, and lingas used to be placed, swimming in incense and camphor. Half-destroyed statues that recall India deep in Southeast Asia are embraced by columns in the walls, blotched blue and white with lichen. There are headless gods and time-mottled dancing figures now ferociously explored by insects. The loose bricks are like missing teeth: the monuments so hacked and battered that what remains recall the abstract shapes of modernist sculpture. A lichen-coated linga, the phallic symbol of Shiva's manhood, stands alone and sentinel against the ages.
- From Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and The End of a Stable Pacific by Robert D. Kaplan