Stories to tell, soil to walk and a destination to come. Asianway Travel is willing to take you to explore My Son Sanctuary – the ancient architectural ruins in the middle of forest, the remains near UNESCO protected heritage of Hoi An. The place is worth visiting for those who are seeking for truly exotic, not-so-mainstream Asian cultural and historical preferences.
My Son Sanctuary History
Riding against the current of time, from the breezing Ancient Town of Hoi An, through the bumpy tracks between the green fields, heading to a place that time has stood still for 1600 years, the My Son Sanctuary of the ancient Champa Kingdom.
My Son is a complex of Hindu temples that were constructed by the Champa kingdom, which ruled the Central and Southern part of Vietnam, from the 3rd century until 1832. After the Vietnamese defeated the kingdom, the temples were abandoned among the lush nature of Hon Quap (Cat’s Tooth Mountain) and Thu Bon River.
Thanks to the explorers like Camille Paris, who rediscovered the My Son complex during his cartography expedition in Vietnam in 1889. Later on, in 1903, Henri Parmentier, a French archeologist and his team began an excavation of the site that lasted eleven months. They documented the site of 71 rediscovered structures within two kilometres. They also managed to restore some of them, but unfortunately, the holy place full of secrets was bombarded during the Vietnam War in 1969 when American forces attacked Viet Cong that had made a base in the ancient ruins.
Dated back from 4th century to 13th century CE, My Son is located on Duy Xuyen border district. The complex is surrounded by a ring of mountains where the watershed of Thu Bon Rover begins. The location gives the site significant defensive and strategic advantages.
Well-known as the main relic of Cham culture in Vietnam, My Son Sanctuary is where you can get back in time. This place is a Hindu holy place of the Kingdom of Champa. My Son is the only point of Cham Pa art has the most continuous development from the 7th century to the 13th century.
In December 1999, the My Son relic was officially recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site. My Son is evaluated with two standards that is the typical of cultural exchange and indigenous culture integration.
The structure that lasts for centuries
What makes tourists most interested in the beauty of the My Son Da Nang is probably the architecture. According to many researches, the first temple in My Son Holy Land was made of wood in the 4th century. It was then rebuilt with brick, with unique construction techniques and still be a mystery to date . In general, My Son Santuary is a cluster of temples, tombs with many different styles, from ancient styles, Hoa Lai, Dong Duong, My Son to Binh Dinh.
The monuments of the My Son sanctuary are the most important constructions of the My Son civilization. The tower temples were inspired mostly by the conception of Mount Meru, the sacred mountain home of Hindu gods at the center of the universe, now symbolically reproduced on Earth in the mountainous homeland of the Cham people. Fired bricks and stone pillars were used to construct the body of the temples while sandstones were used to make bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. These details further proved the technological sophistication of Cham engineering skills, at the same time, showed insight into Cham’s religious and political thought.
You won’t see simplicity this well-executed as that of My Son temples anywhere else. Temples’ upper parts are heavy and thicker than their foundations. The interior has a divine closure with no windows inside the worshiping places. The darkness created the right conditions and helped shamans who entered the temples communicate with the deities.
What struck our attention the most, is the actual structure of the temples. If you pay attention, after a while you can realize a fact that there is no mortar that holds bricks together to be found. This absence just speaks volumes about the skills of Cham people. The difference in the bricks’ appearance is also an interesting thing we would love to point out. You can see that there are bricks covered in moss and bricks that still keep its reddish color. Common sense would answer for us that the ones with moss are the original bricks? Well, we can only say that My Son is something beyond common sense. Cham people had such excellent brick firing technique – a well-kept secret until this day – the original bricks are the ones that don’t change their color.
My Son Sanctuary is composed of several tower sectors every one of which has a main worshiping tower, surrounded by smaller towers and buildings for other purposes. The main tower-temple was a miniature of a universe’s center which also the worshiping place dedicated to Shiva. The front face of each sector lies a gateway, a hall to place offerings and perform traditional dancing and singing. Once you go inside, you can see a construction named Kosa Grha which always face north.
Kazimierz Kwiatkowski, the Polish architect who contributed the most in the restoration of My Son Sanctuary in the 1980s, once said: “The old Champa people have harmonized their soul with soil and stone, connected themselves to the mother of nature and built a mighty, magnificent and eternal lasting My Son. This is also a monumental museum of humanity, archiving invaluable knowledge of long-forgotten culture, sculpture and architecture surpassing our understanding for hundreds of years to come”.
That’s a fact. The temples and towers of the Sanctuary are full of mysteries that still riddle historians and specialists. These buildings have reached perfection and withstood the harsh trial of time.
The Chams were mainly Hindus, (only a few of them followed the teachings of Mahayan Buddhism) and you’ll be able to see their devotion to the god Shiva depicted on the temples symbolically as a linga or in human form.
My Son Sanctuary Entrance Fee
For foreigner tourist: 150.000 VNĐ
For Vietnamese tourist: 100.000 VNĐ
Opening hours: 6am – 5pm
Important note before you go to My Son Sanctuary
Best time to visit My Son Vietnam: you can visit My Son Sanctuary in the early morning, right after the gate is opened to avoid the extreme heat here, but please note that there are more and more people coming here for sunrise tours. Another option is to visit the site in the afternoon, around 2 pm, when all the tourists are gone.
There are no English broads around the temples, so if you enter the site, make sure to enter the museum first to find wall posters explaining the history of My Son Sanctuary, which will help you to explore the site without a guide.
My Son is usually in very hot weather, so it’s better to use the free electric shuttle with 10-minute ride to save a ton of energy. The shuttle leaves every 15-25 minutes. It will take you to lush jungles, then drop you off close to the ruins, and from there it’s only a couple of minutes walking.
Walk only through the marked paths and don’t detour into the lush forest by yourself, since there is still a de-mining process going on in the area of My Son.