Ancient Cham Ruins at My Son Sanctuary | Vietnam



Waking up to a rainy and foggy morning had me entertaining the idea of staying in until lunch curled up on my bed. Appealing the thought may be, the chance to see another UNESCO World Heritage Site reigned over and proved to be enough of a motivation to make me stand up, stretch my hands and face the window announcing to myself “Good Morning Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Guide

After loading up for breakfast with omelet, Bahn-mi sandwich and Pho noodles, I waited for the tour bus—which the staff from the travel agency told me the day before “No need to go here, bus come to you and take you to My Son”

I originally planned to go to My Son on a DIY thinking it would be cheaper, but guess what? After passing by a few travel agencies located near the ancient city of Hoi-An, I realized it is much cheaper to avail of a tour package. I paid 500,000 VND ($20.00) for a guided day-tour of My Son that includes a bus ride going to My Son, the entrance fee, a bottled water, lunch and a ferry ride going back to Hoi-An.

My Son Sanctuary

It was raining hard when our bus reached the My Son complex. Not wanting to risk my camera, I settled with using my mobile phone to photograph the place. Each of us were given a plastic raincoat by our guide so exploring the compound never became much of a hassle—other than the muddy trail.

Koryn Iledan

The M Sơn temple complex is regarded as one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and the only heritage site of this nature in Vietnam. It is often compared with other cluster of historical temples in Southeast Asia, such as Borobudur of Java in Indonesia, Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Bagan of Myanmar and Ayutthaya of Thailand. As of 1999, My Son has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. At its 23rd meeting, UNESCO accorded M Sơn this recognition pursuant to its criterion C (II), as an example of evolution and change in culture, and pursuant to its criterion C (III), as evidence of an Asian civilization which is now extinct”.

Levy Amosin

My Son Sanctuary is believed to date back to the 4th century until the 14th century. It was built by the kingdom of Champa (yes, earlier than the Khmer Empire's Angkor Wat) as a sanctuary for the Hindi faithful and was constructed to honor the God Shiva, also known as Bhadreshvara.

The My Son Complex is a whole lot smaller than Angkor Wat, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and other ancient temple ruins in Southeast Asia. If you have been to some, do not compare otherwise you will be disappointed. The history of of this place though—as told by our local guide—is as fascinating as the other UNESCO sites I visited.

Sophie Gianan

My Son is situated in the village of Duy Phu and a little more than an hour from Hoi An, in the Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam. The temples here are scattered covering an area of two kilometers wide sandwiched by two mountain ranges.


It was also the location of several religious ceremonies for the rulers of the Champa dynasties—as well as the burial sites for Cham royal leaders and heroes. During the height of the Cham presence in My Son, the collection of temples and other historical structures here, reached more than 70.

Hindu Temples Ruined Twice Over

Even though much of the remaining structures have survived all the elements of nature the last 1,300 years. (the original bricks and stones have outlasted the ones added through conservation works), much of the ruins rediscovered in the late 19th century—unfortunately—barely escaped the wrath of the US carpet bombing during the Vietnam War. Two main temples were totally reduced to a pile of rubble while countless ones were heavily destroyed.  

Jomie Naynes

Even before the Vietnam War, My Son was also ransacked during the French Occupation. A head of an important God statue was believed to have been taken by the French and is now displayed at the Louvre Museum.  "We wanted to have it back, but the French always gives us an answer of no" narrates our guide.

We took a different route on the way back to Hoi-An by ditching the bus in favor of a small ferry, to savor the tranquil waters of Thu Bon River. The ride lasted an hour and along the way, I regale at the sight of fishing village life bursting with simplicity from the banks of the river. That moment, I realized why the Cham dynasty settled and thrived in My Son, as robust waterways always plays a crucial role in the survival of any civilization.

As the weather cleared up to reveal a bright sky, I walked to the back of the boat and stared at the calm and murky waters, wondering the sheer amount of history that ebbed and flowed along its torrent.