One of the towers of My Son
Traveling on the back of a motorcycle for an hour and half from the Ancient Town of Hoi An, pass the rural countryside, rich with rice paddies and farms, we headed to another of Vietnam’s UNESCO Heritage site – My Son Sanctuary.
I’ve read about My Son Sanctuary in many guidebooks and websites and had an idea that it’s not as grand as its many counter part ancient civilizations like the more famous sites of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur in Indonesia, Pagan in Myanmar, or Ayutthaya in Thailand. But among all these kingdoms, My Son represents the longest continuous occupation for religious purposes within Southeast Asia as a whole. The site was inhabited by the Cham Kingdom from the 4th until the 15th century AD, far longer than any of the other Indian-influenced sites in the region. The Cham Kingdom derived their cultural and spiritual influences almost exclusively from India.
More towers in section A1
Though the architecture has some resemblance to the Khmer structures of Cambodia and eastern Thailand, the builders of My Son, developed their indigenous style of building their structures which still baffles archeologist till this day. It would seem that the Champa Builders were able to “glue” bricks together by using a type of resin native to central Vietnam. The exact method of how they did it is now lost but it would seem that they were able to place the resin by baking the entire monument in fire for days. Then after it has cooled they spend weeks to add details to the monuments.
Entrance to this Heritage Park is around 55000 Dong ($3.35 USD). The ruins itself are located a few kilometers still inside a forest, but there are jeeps and shuttles that will take you there which is inclusive of what you paid for. It will drop you to the Tourist Center where you’ll be able to find a small museum and large map of the area. From there you’ll be going by foot.
Area A1, one the best preserved areas and structures of the complex
Clumps of structures are spread out so you’ll be doing some minor hikes to get from one place to another. They named each clumps in alphabet letters plus a number to identify them. Originally, the complex has 75 towers but now they are reduced to 25 structures and I blame the Americans for this. They went paranoid and berserk and decided to bomb the structures believing that the Vietnams were storing most of their supplies and ammunitions here during the war. At this time though, as if to expiate for what they have done, it was the Americans who are now in charge of restoration and rebuilding these structures.
One of the towers being restored.
Honestly if you’ve been to other ancient civilizations, My Son Sanctuary is a far cry and may disappoint you, for most of the areas are reduced in rubbles. Though there are regions like the A1 area which has somehow thankfully survived the bombings and was preserved, the whole kingdom has lost its grandeur. Gone are the magnificent towers which raise up to 3 stories high and left only ruins which represents the sorry state aftermath brought by the war.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.