Walking into the My Son Temples complex we walked straight into a Buddhist monk, who was contemplating some of the ruins nearest the entrance to the site. We had an interesting conversation about his journey to enlightenment in the temples of south east Asia, and left him there to ponder as we headed off inside the complex on our own journey, to what would end up being one of my favourite places which we visited in Vietnam.
Going over my old Vietnam 2 week trip post, I realised I have a whole wealth of photos and experience to share about places in more detail.
Since this was one of my favourite sites I thought I would start with the afternoon trip which we did to the My Son Temples.
My Son Temples location
We visited this group of ancient temples during our short few day stay in the nearby town of Hoi An.
Craig and I actually hadn’t heard of the My Son temples before, but someone else in our group had suggested going on our free afternoon and we thought that it sounded pretty cool, so opted to join in with this.
It is approximately an hour and 15 minutes drive from the Town to the UNESCO heritage site of My Son. Fortunately for us, as we were on an Intrepid Travel tour of Vietnam, we were able to ask our guide to help us with getting there. Our guide, Tuyen, booked us a minivan taxi, which would take us to the site and give us some time there, waiting to pick us up. I can’t remember how much the taxi cost us, but there was quite a few of us going so it was probably pretty cheap!
It is also feasible to visit the site from other nearby places, such as the city of Danang, which we had travelled to on the overnight train from Nha Trang before driving to Hoi An.
The My Son site
The entrance fee to the site was 150,000 VND, which is just over £5. This includes a shuttle ride up to the site, as it is up in the hills a few km away from the car park and ticket booth. You ride up on a little golf cart type road train thing, which is quite good fun.
At the top there is a little shop where you can buy cold drinks and ice cream and souvenirs. There is also a museum with artefacts which you can go into. I would definitely recommend grabbing a drink as there is quite a lot of walking and it is usually pretty warm and humid thanks to the jungle climate of the area.
The temples sit on around 2km worth of space and are down in a valley surrounded by mountains on both sides. Old watch towers from the various wars are visible in certain places. One safety point worth noting if you’re interested in modern history is that the signs that tell you to stay on the path, and not venture into the jungle, as there are likely unexploded land mines in the area, which was heavily exploited in the recent wars of the last century.
We were there at the end of September, and it was pretty warm still, although cloudy so not too hot to be walking around. It also wasn’t that busy, despite the number of tour buses that we had seen in the car park, there only seemed to be a few other smallish groups of people exploring.
We didn’t do a guided tour and chose to walk around ourselves. There wasn’t much information available, so we largely let our imaginations run wild and observed the extensive damage done in the wars of last century. It was built around 12th Century by the Champa people who lived here then, but aside from that we didn’t know anything really.
To spare you from that knowledge gap that we had to plug after our visit, let me fill you in. The My Son ruins are a collection of Hindu temples, which historians believe were built between the 4th and 14th Century. The temples, of which there are thought to have been at least 70, were used mainly as tombs for royalty and important people of the time.
Restoration work is being carried out, however the damage done in the Vietnam War was pretty extensive. When walking around the complex, one can see bullet holes peppering the side of temples, destroyed carvings that have been defaced by munition damage, and large craters caused by bombs and artillery.
The surviving temples which you can go into though have artefacts and carvings inside, which are really cool to see. There are a few complete temples remaining as well which is pretty awesome.
Is My Son worth visiting?
In my opinion, yes it was absolutely worth visiting.
I love ancient history, so temples and ruins are right up my street for adventures. I felt like Lara Croft wandering around the site, squeezing into the tiniest temples and examining ancient text carved into the stone. Even if you aren’t big on small spaces it’s quite manageable as the temples are only one room and you can see the door at all time.
For people like myself who are much more into ancient history, it was tear-jerking seeing the effects that the war had on this area. I have to admit it was confronting for someone like myself and put modern history into perspective.
As I mentioned, it was nice and quiet when we were there, although I have seen other people recommending going for opening time at 6am. I am sure that would be cool to see sunrise, but that wouldn’t have been practical on our very tight itinerary.
I have also seen people say it isn’t worth it because places like Ankor Wat in Cambodia or Bagan in Myanmar are better. Doesn’t really seem worth pointing out to me as yes those are obviously much grander, but that doesn’t make visiting here any less valuable as far as I am concerned. If I go to a country I am keen to soak up its history and culture in lots of different ways, but maybe that is just me.
If you are interested in ancient civilisations and impressive old temples or the Vietnam War I do think it is worth making the trip. It is a pretty cheap activity and you can be entertained for hours walking round and taking photos. Get your inner explorer on and go!