My Son is the major site in Vietnam from the ancient Champa Kingdom which flourished between the 2nd and 15th centuries. Descendants of the Champa civilisation still live along the coast of Vietnam though they are now fully integrated in Vietnamese society.
The Kingdom at My Son dates back to the 4th century and remained fully occupied through until the 13th century which makes it the longest occupied of all the major monuments of SE Asia. It served as a religious and intellectual centre where Champa kings were crowned and buried. In 1999 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The site is often compared with some of the other great Indian influenced archaeological sites of SE Asia including Borobodur in Indonesia, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Ayuthaya in Thailand and Pagan in Burma.
Unfortunately, events during the American War destroyed many of the site’s temples. The VC had used My Son as a key base which forced US bombing of the site leaving about 20 of the original 70 structures intact. Bomb craters next to some of the temples are clearly visible.
A major restoration project is underway though nobody from our high-tech world has yet managed to work out how the Chams were able to get their baked bricks to stick together during construction!
How to get there?
Every hotel and travel agency in Hoi An is selling excursions to My Son for unbelievably cheap prices. We took the Sinh Café coach tour which collected us at 8am then proceeded to collect more passengers until the bus was full. On arrival it’s a 2km walk from the car park to the site though jeeps run back and to constantly. We were given a guided tour, returned to the bus that dropped us off at a river stop from where we returned to Hoi An by boat with lunch on board. This whole trip cost a mere $5 plus 60,000 VN (= $4 US) entrance fee.
For a more rewarding experience it would be a good idea to get there before the tour buses arrive. You can hire a car and driver in Hoi An for around $20 and aim to be there at sunrise (truly atmospheric)which is preferable to being there amongst the hordes of tourists. But then again that depends on your budget. The cheap coach trip was fine.