My Son Sanctuary was once the most important place in the kingdom of Champa.
It is where royal weddings took place, monarchs were buried and the important politics of the day were discussed. It was where people prayed to their God Shiva to show them the path to enlightenment.
Today it is one of the most popular Vietnam tourist attractions. A reminder of the good and bad parts of our past.
There is a mystery to My Son, pronounced mee-sun, as it reveals itself from the jungle. A sense of magic and wonder fills the thick hot air. You can hear the sound of running water through the dense surrounding jungle, but you don’t always see it.
Like most sacred sites, it has an unquestionable aura about it. Hairs stand up on your arms. You can’t walk in here without stopping, taking a long slow breath, and wondering about the thousands of years of lives that started and finished here.
Less than a third of the Hindu temples constructed by the Champa kingdom remain and these are now being restored thanks to the site’s relatively recent UNESCO World Heritage site listing.
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong used this area in the small valley of Duy Tan Commune, to hide and plan their attacks. The Americans bombed it. And bombed it again until Richard Nixon declared that My Son, because of its archeological history, was off-limits.
Hoot Holidays offers tours to My Son with guests being picked up from their Hoi An hotels and driven by shuttle bus (40 kilometres from Hoi An and 70 kilometres from Da Nang, with some sights along the way) to My Son.
On arrival, you will be taken on a guided walking tour of the Cham ruins and see a traditional Vietnamese dance performance. The dancers wear local colourful costumes and sing songs accompanied by traditional instruments. The performance usually takes place in one of the Hindu temples. On the way back to Hoi An you will join a two-hour boat trip on the Thu Bon River, passing by a fishing village, a weaving village, and Cam Thanh coconut jungle village.
The Cham ruled Central and some southern parts of Vietnam from the third century until 1832 when the Vietnamese took control.
French archaeologist Henri Parmentier found 71 temple-like structures here when he excavated the site in 1903. The Vietnam War took its toll on the site but today, with significant work, you can see the Cham’s devotion to the God Shiva in the remaining 17 red brick buildings. When constructing the temples, the Champa people used not-yet-fully-baked bricks. When the temple was built, they would set it on fire to harden it almost as one large piece.
Most of the temple statues have been removed from the site. They now sit in museums around the world to conserve them, but it is still possible to see the glory of this unique site.
Shiva is one of the most important Gods in the Hindu religion. He represents goodness, benevolence and serves as a protector. But he also has a dark side. Hindus believe that he is also the leader of evil spirits and the master of thieves.
The best time to visit is early in the morning, as the afternoon sun can be extremely hot.
How should you think about My Son? In simple terms it is the Vietnamese equivalent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Ayutthaya in Thailand. If you visit Hoi An, you should not miss the chance to explore My Son and tell your friends to do the same.