Vietnam :: My Son Sanctuary

“That’s ‘Mee Sahn’ Not like English ‘My Son’, that means ‘my little boy’. This is not a little boy, this is a sanctuary!”
– Our guide

“Mỹ Sơn is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa. The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, known under various local names, the most important of which is Bhadreshvara.”

My Son is another UNESCO Heritage Site (I’m just gonna straight up make this whole trip about visiting the UNESCO sites at this point) and is offered as a very comfortable day trip out of Hoi An. (Comfortable if you’re not there in the hottest months though, because we were there in March and we were really freaking hot by the end of it). I managed without a hat, but I would still recommend bringing something for your head. Remember sun screen(!), extra water and sunglasses. Wear something that covers your shoulders and knees – mostly to show respect (which you should), but also because this will help against sunburn. You’ll thank me, trust me.

The My Son temple complex is considered one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in South-East Asia and is often compared to Angkor Wat and Bagan.

From the 4th to the 14th century AD, the valley at Mỹ Sơn was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. At one time, the site encompassed over 70 temples as well as numerous stele bearing historically important inscriptions in Sanskrit and Cham.

Mỹ Sơn is perhaps the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina, but a large majority of its architecture was destroyed by US carpet bombing during a single week of the Vietnam War.

My own experience of My Son, (apart from it being extremely hot), was that it took me about 30 minutes to lose my group. I ended up with two Japanese tourists and their overheated little son (poor guy was drenched in sweat) taking pictures by the ruins at one part of the complex. All of a sudden I couldn’t see anyone I remembered form my group and my guide’s little, Vietnamese flag-on-a-stick was nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t hear his cries of “Team Vietnaaaaaam!” either… But then, I realized I probably wouldn’t recognize people from my group if I was standing right next to them anyway, and the guide knew me so I hoped he wouldn’t leave without me 😉

Pro tip: Strike up a convo with your guide whenever you are on a tour, ask a question in private or just tell him a joke if you find a relevant one. This will make it easier for him/her to remember you and reduces the risk of being left behind.

Ironically this is the one guide I had in Vietnam that I can’t remember the name of… But I remember he was a funny guy, kept calling cows the “Shiva/Vishnu motorbike”. He also seemed to have a fascination with the local frog population. The frogs flock into the massive holes left after the Vietnam War bombing as these holes fill with water and apparently make for a perfect little froggy home.

During the Vietnam War the area of My Son was bombed en masse by the US because the Viet Cong was said to hide there. This damaged the beautiful temple structures beyond repair and makes it little more than a gathering of ruins today. It is such a shame, because the damage is so big I actually had trouble picturing how grand it all used to be – which is something I didn’t have a problem with in the Angkor Wat complex.

Some of the old religious ornaments were left, we saw a statue/religious paraphernalia where they used to clean the stone phallos symbol with milk, insert it in the “female part” and then drink the leftover milk… It’s not too often I go “Yuck!”, but this was one of them… Bleh… Apparently this was a huge deal and the priest/monk would wash the stone penisy-thing and the king would then hand the milk back to the local folk for consumption #NomNom

Michelin ***

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