Scotsabroad's Weblog

January 8, 2013

My Son Sanctuary

Filed under: Holidays — scotsabroad @ 9:23 pm

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Three pillars representing, creation, conservation and destruction.

While staying in Hoi An, the boys visited another (Unesco) World Heritage site in the area, the My Son Sanctuary. For $6 each we traveled in a filthy, rickety, diesel-fumed, old bus (with a fantastic guide) and followed the sacred Thu Bon River, through the heartland of the ancient Champa kingdom for about 60 km. We drove up to an elevated geological basin surrounded by a ring of mountains. Abundant paddy fields providing evidence that Vietnam is the second biggest exporter of rice in the world today. The source of the river is in the mountains and it flows past the monuments at My Son, out of the basin, and eventually drains into the South China Sea near Hoi An.

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Our guide told us about the Cham people (who originated from Java) and their Hindu culture (especially the worship of Shiva) that developed in the region. My Son dates from the 4th to the 13th centuries. The temples were built over ten centuries by the Cham clans in the kingdom of Champapura (Sanskrit for City of Cham people). Then it went into decline and was forgotten about, became overgrown and covered with vegetation. Because of the sacred significance of the site everything seemed to be left as it was. When the French discovered My Son in the 19th century they found the library still contained manuscripts and statues. Before leaving their disastrous colonial tenure in Indo-China, they took many of the statue’s heads that now rest in the Louvre.  But, they did realise the historical significance of the site and they did try to persuade Nixon and Kissinger not to bomb the site during the Vietnam War. However, B52 Bombers intentionally dropped their loads on My Son (a Viet-Com base) and it was very much destroyed. The largest tower put up some stiff resistance, made from sandstone blocks linked together – until the US sent in a helicopter full of sappers to bring it down. Our guide kept asking, why did the Americans do this?

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In the late eighties My Son began to attract tourists and with the help of the East German army the Vietnamese managed to clear the site of unexploded ordnance and mines. You can see a couple of B52 shell cases above. The water filled bomb crater below was once a temple. 

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Some of the amazing brick work withstood the bombings. Indeed, it is still a mystery as to how the Charm people stuck the bricks together. They used no cement or mortar. One explanation is that they used tree sap from the surrounding forests. The original brickwork is amazing and continues to survive while restored sections begin to fall apart. Carving was done while the bricks were still soft in the walls.

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What was a magnificent creation has now become a major conservation headache – after such mindless destruction.

However, a great way to spend New Year’s Day. My sons loved it. Big change in the weather. Sunny and hot.

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Another great feature of the area was the beach at Hoi An. Next day we headed for the beach to walk the endless, almost deserted sands. Our favourite family activity. A few holiday makers on sunbeds and some dodgy restaurants in town but then only fishermen. The fishermen use what look like traditional coracle boats. We saw one pair go out battling over the surf and turning, almost pumping, the attached oar vigorously.

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Fantastic beach with clean sand and no rubbish. Beautiful shells and an exciting surf.



  1. These two blogs read like the best holiday ever!!! Ian and Linda Fraser

    Comment by Ian and Linda — January 10, 2013 @ 5:39 am | Reply

  2. What a great visit!

    Comment by Ana Gaby — January 10, 2013 @ 7:47 am | Reply

  3. Wow what an experience ! The Americans ! such a vengeful people ! What a fantastic holiday …

    Comment by gordon — January 10, 2013 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

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