Located west of Hoi An, Vietnam is My Son Sanctuary, a culturally and historically important site that boasts expansive Hindu temple remains from the Champa people. While not as grand in scale as the likes of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, My Son is a hugely important monument to history.
As of 1999, My Son Sanctuary is a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. These preserved architectural ruins are a must-visit during your stay in Hoi An and make for an easy day trip. You’ll find everything you need to make the most of your visit to My Son below.
My Son Sanctuary
What is My Son Sanctuary?
Whether you are a history buff or not, My Son Sanctuary will mystify and enchant your senses. It offers a unique glimpse into Cham culture and Vietnam’s history. When you walk through the site of previous kings and religious leaders from centuries’ past, you’ll be drawn back to another time.
My Son was not just a place to construct temples, perform rituals and worship. It was also where victories and conquests were commemorated and the spiritual center from which rulers could contact the gods.
My Son is an impressive complex of Hindu temples, ruins and sculptures built by the Champa civilization and in use from the 4th century until the 13th century CE during the time of Champa rule over Central Vietnam. This complex represented the political and religious capital of the Champa Kingdom as it was used as a political center, place of worship and for royal burials.
Where is My Son?
Located in the southern part of Vietnam, My Son is in a small valley the nestles between mountainous ranges of tropical jungle. It’s situated in Duy Tan Commune, Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province or about 40 km west of Hoi An and 70 km southwest of Da Nang.
History of My Son
During the years of the Champa Kingdom, the main spiritual affiliation was Indian Hinduism. For this reason, many of the temples were built and devoted to Hindu divinities such as Krishna, Vishnu and Shiva. Shiva was the most represented as this deity was considered a protector.
Over the years, My Son was ruined and rebuilt, destroyed numerous times by fire and war and then eventually forgotten about for centuries until it was rediscovered by the French in 1898.
Unfortunately, the American War was responsible for some of the most destructive damage to the site. The inaccessibility of the region made it a great hiding place for North Vietnamese forces and liberation fighters. The US Air Force bombed the area but, unfortunately for posterity, My Son suffered while the hidden military base remained intact. Luckily, 17 out of 71 structures survived and parts of the ruins have been rebuilt and conserved since 1975.
My Son Museum
If you’re interested in learning more about the temples or before you explore the ruins, there is a free museum on site. The museum provides more detailed information on the historical, religious and archaeological significance of My Son Sanctuary. We recommend engaging a guide (100,000 VND) but If you don’t a visit to the museum is highly recommended before you venture further.
Hoi An to My Son
My Son Sanctuary Tour
Experiencing My Son Sanctuary through a tour is a great option if you want to do less work planning your own logistics. Booking a tour is a popular option as it includes round-trip transport from Hoi An and an informative tour guide. However, you will be more restricted to a schedule and may be with a larger group. There are several tour operators in Hoi An with whom to book a public tour but we recommend VM Travel or The Sinh Tourist. If you prefer a more leisurely and comfortable option, it’s also possible to book a private tour.
Getting from Hoi An to My Son
My Son Sanctuary is approximately 43 km west or a 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Hoi An. There are a few ways to get to My Son. You can book a tour as mentioned above or simply hire a car that picks you up from your accommodation in Hoi An and go privately. The driver will wait as part of the package.
If you already have a motorbike, this will be your cheapest option. You can easily get there on your own as well and there are well-marked paths that lead you to different areas, including the best-preserved sections.
Note: We recommend driving yourself only if you have prior experience with a motorbike. If you don’t have much experience you can always hire an EasyRider to drive the bike for you. And be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding a Vietnam motorbike license before you travel.
When planning your My Son excursion, we recommend planning to arrive for the sunrise or around closing times to have the best chance of avoiding crowds and peak mid-day heat.
Note: As de-mining is still ongoing around the My Son complex, it is important to refrain from venturing off the well-marked paths.
As mentioned above, if you choose to take on My Son by yourself, hiring a private car to get there is the recommended option. Also, if you’re interested in the cultural and historical significance of the site, get yourself a guide as its inexpensive and really makes a difference. Visiting the museum first is also recommended.
On entering the site you can walk or take one of the free electric buses. For those without a guide a well-marked path links all the different areas available for viewing and in front of each group of ‘buildings’ is a plaque that explains the significance of each group for the Cham people.
What to wear at My Son
As it is still seen as an important religious site, you should dress respectfully and modestly for your visit to My Son. This means wearing clothing that covers your knees and shoulders.
Points of Interest
- Look out for bomb craters that pockmark the site from the American War.
- The nearby mountain range was a safe shelter for the liberation fighters during the American War. While the US Air Force failed to hit the military base due to the difficult terrain, many temples either collapsed or were damaged by the assaults.
- The bricks used in the temple construction were fired to a specific hardness and were laid using a natural tree resin. These combined technologies stood the test of time and are arguably superior to anything the modern day offers in terms of longevity.
- Continuous restoration led by European archaeologists is ongoing as is the clearance of unexploded ordnance.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are planning to book a tour then it’s a good idea to give reasonable notice. If you’re visiting under your own steam, there’s no need to book. If booking a tour, check their cancellation policy before committing.
We feel it’s a great idea to get a guide. Organized tours have guides built in but if you’re not fond of traveling in groups you can get a guide at the site. If you have the money, going by private car affords the greatest flexibility. On the other hand, organized tours lay it all out for you on a platter. Horses for courses.
Most people stay in hotels in Hoi An and the specific location there won’t matter much to your travel time. Another possibility much closer to the site is My Son Heritage Resort And Spa.
There are no high-quality restaurants near My Son. Vietnamese style road-side cafes and a few places for tourists to eat and drink line the road between Hoi An and My Son. Tourist buses usually do not stop along the route but some tour and bus operators receive commissions from somewhat overpriced tourist eateries.
There are no other attractions nearby, most are closer to Hoi An. The closest are: (14.16 mi) Thanh Ha Terracotta Park; (15.32 mi) Kim Bong Carpentry Village; (14.10 mi) Thanh Ha Pottery Village