One of the best aspects of travel to Vietnam is the multitude of day trips that are available all throughout the country. An hour drive south from Hoi An and Da Nang City (1.5 hours) is one of these interesting (and educational) trips: the My Son Sanctuary. A collection of temples and tombs dating from the 4th to the 14th centuries, this site is loaded with history, culture and ancient religion. Buses and tours head out to My Son daily from Hoi An and Da Nang (both individual and group tours), or you can rent motorbikes and make the beautiful drive for yourself.
The route to the ‘Holy land’ is a very scenic one, passing beautiful villages, lush green rice paddies and local cafés/restaurants along the way. Also found along the roadside are large bomb craters left in the land from the American/Vietnam war, so the cruise is both visually appealing and historically remarkable. Once at the sanctuary you can walk through the large number of temples and tombs located on site, scattered all throughout the hilly outdoor museum. One of Southeast Asia’s longest inhabited archaeological sites, the My Son Sanctuary is a Vietnamese cultural gem and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Likened to Myanmar’s Bagan and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, My Son is a great visit for any lover of ancient history and culture.
There are a few things to keep in mind when visiting My Son that can maximize your experience. If you choose to visit with a group tour that is selling tickets for a very cheap price, it won’t take you long to realize why. If the tour is advertised for a half day (6 hours), there’s a good chance that between the driving, mandatory restaurant and rest stops, your visit of the site will be reduced to little more than an hour (not leaving much time for photos and exploration). So if you choose to go with a large group, make sure you inquire about how the time is spent during the tour (sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for the proper visit).
Also, if you’re visiting My Son during the warmer months in central Vietnam (April-September), keep in mind that walking around during the hottest part of the day may not be very comfortable. Instead, you can book a sunrise tour which gives you plenty of time to explore the site before the oppressive heat kicks in. The afternoon may also be a more suitable time to visit (after the noon heat), with the park open until 5pm.
The best way to avoid the crowds at My Son is to either book personal tours or to hire a car/motorbike and visit the sanctuary yourself. You will have all the time you want to explore, photograph and move around at your own pace. If it’s not the hot season (or you don’t mind the heat), most tours leave the site during the lunch hours, so visiting during this time can be quite peaceful and enjoyable.
A visit to My Son is an interesting, quick day trip during your tours through Central Vietnam. It gives you a glimpse into ancient Vietnam & Indochina, and also displays visible remnants and fractures leftover from the war (many of the temples were destroyed during American carpet bombings).So if you have a half day to spare during your travels, a trip out to My Son is well worth the visit.