Asia / Vietnam

My Son doesn’t give up!

“Little Ankgor Wat”. My Son – proudly says Vietnam, but I have a feeling he got carried away. My Son has no father. Or if it does it’s way older than Vietnam as its temples were constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa. So there is no father, but there is a mountain. A beautiful one. This is what exactly “My Son” means in Vietnamese. The complex is located in the central part of the country in a valley roughly two km wide that is surrounded by two mountain ranges. My Son is a great place for a one-day trip from Hoi An. If you are fed up with the town (is it even possible?), time to put your Indiana Jones hat on and explore that tiny cluster of wonders. My Son can be slightly disappointing for those of you, who have been to other temples in this part of the world before but I still think it’s worth visiting even though it won’t have the same type of impact on you. With that in mind leave all your expectations behind and just appreciate how diverse is Vietnam. Everyone will find something interesting there. My Son will be the perfect place for people who like history and nature and this is the reason why I also enjoyed it.

My conical hat – perfect accessory for tropical heat.

At the  beginning we were planning to go to My Son by motorbikes as we had them rented for the whole stay in Hoi An. When we shared our plan with the staff at our hotel they were strongly advising us NOT to do so, because: a. it’s too hot, b. it’s far and you would get lost, c. it’s dangerous to drive a motorbike… so we got cold feet and we ended up buying an organized trip through our hotel. As you may suspect, that trip wasn’t the greatest adventure of our life. It wasn’t bad, though. Are you ready to travel to My Son with me?

We arrive to My Son by bus. Surprisingly our tour guide is very knowledgeable and he shares with us a lot of interesting stories not only about My Son. The place was almost wiped out from the map during the war now it’s been slowly reclaimed by the jungles. The jungles of central Vietnam are dense. They hid the Vietcong, that’s why they were being constantly bombed by the Americans. Moreover the Viets left so many mines around you’d better not stray too far from the beaten path. Inviting jungle trails would have to remain untrod, as unexploded ordnance is feared to still litter the surroundings. Nowadays you can see what’s left from 20 temples (at the height of the Champa Kingdom there were once over 70 of them) but you can enter only a few, the rest are just partially standing structures. Ruins. Most of the sculptures disappeared or were taken abroad to be reconstructed (and never came back!). My Son didn’t have much luck but… it doesn’t give up! More and more tourists visiting each year means more money to reconstruct the temples. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for My Son.

As I mentioned before those of you who has already been to Angor Wat probably won’t be amazed by My Son. We, however, liked it a lot. We came here without expecting to see any sort of wonders. It’s a nice place, especially interesting for the history freaks (like my Mario!). We shall bear in mind that Vietnam has seen the rise and fall of empires and the ruined temples are a rare yet tangible reminder that it has a longer history than simply the war that has defined it as a nation. 

So you won’t be amazed but… the fact that My Son temple complex is regarded one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and is the foremost heritage site of this nature in Vietnam it’s quite impressive. It’s high season now and it’s incredibly hot. Hell on Earth so don’t forget to take your conical hat with you as well as water and some Sun cream. You can also avoid the heat if you go there with the Sun rise tour, but we weren’t very motivated to get up at 4am.

It turnes out that we will go back to Hoi An by boat and there is lunch included in the price (we didn’t know it was an option as we booked everything through the hotel).

Coming back by boat sounds cool, but in fact is pretty annoying. It’s very loud so instead of admiring the beauty of the river we just want it to be over. We make a stopover on a little island where we can see how the local fishermen make boats (all of them have eyes and they are the eyes of God bringing good luck). Next stop is a workshop where a local, incredibly talented artist creates amazing hand-made pieces of art using the nacre from the sea. We are being encouraged to have a look  what’s inside the shop, luckily they don’t try to sell their stuff aggressively. 

Finally we return to My Son where we go for THE WORST LUNCH EVER. Cold noodles with an egg. Yuck! We run away from that place as fast as we can and we go to the market where our faveourite Ms. Ha! (I praised her a lot in this post from Hoi An) is serving us delicious soul warming food. When we get back to our hotel I tell Huyen, our receptionist, that the trip was ok apart from the last bit. She seems to be seriously upset we didn’t like it (and for us it doesn’t really matter!) so I decide to shut up and not mention the disgusting lunch.

Om Om 🙂 After trying the worst food ever in Vietnam we are looking for some consolation – Ms Ha’s “white roses (dumplings) do the job!

Speaking about motorbikes in Vietnam. You don’t have to have a driving licence to rent one of those bad boys!! A wild country, indeed.

We were seriously shocked that they didn’t even want to keep a copy of our passports and when we asked them about driving licence this was their answer “well you don’t need it. Tourists in Vietnam no problem with the police. The police won’t stop any White Face. They understand that the White Face is on vacation and could for example forget driving licece from home. No stress.”

Well… brilliant! 🙂 Being granted that permission to drive around Vietnam you can’t really say no to the adventure. Yes, driving a motorbike was one of the greatest adventure during our trip. So don’t miss it out! Be careful though as the Viets drive like crazy so perhaps a better idea that trying it for the very first time in your life in Ho Chi Minh City would be a relaxed ride through the rice fields. It’s way safer and a lot more pleasant. I our case it was Mario who did most of the driving (I tried and decide to take the humble role of a human GPS) as I was super scared so the pic you see on the right is just a typical POSER stuff. You know what I mean. 😉 Last but not least be ready for a lot of honking behind your back. Nothing personal, this is the way the Viets communicate with each other when they drive. Good luck!

In the evening, when we are back from My Son we meet Kasia and Lukasz, our lovely friends from Poland and together we are strolling in the town, for the last time admiring the beauty of Hoi An. I don’t mind the tourists as now I walk with my head in the clouds… or I should rather say “head in the lanterns”. 🙂 It’s a special night. The full moon night. The electricity is off the only light comes from the lanterns. It’s magic. Every full moon people gather to pray for their families and those who passed away. Their commemorate their ancestors. Tomorrow we leave central Vietnam and we head to the south. It will be hotter and even more interesting, because this is how backpacking in Vietnam works, it will surprise you whenever you go.

PS. I really hope you aren’t fed up with me praising Vietnam in each post. I love that country! 🙂

Here’s a small gallery from My Son. Enjoy:

This area was once home to the Champa, a Hindu kingdom that existed from the second century AD. The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Siva.
My Son is perhaps the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina, but a large majority of its architecture was destroyed by US bombing.
This stone linga is dated to the 10th century. It stands next to the temple creatively named “B4.” 
No one really knows how the Chams built those temples as they didn’t know cement. What was the binding material then?
You won’t lose your head over My Son, but it’s definitely worth visiting to appreciate how diverse Vietnam is. Speaking about the heads though, any idea what might happen to them? They left Vietnam and now they are being kept in Louvre were they meant to be reconstructed. It seems to be a real bone of contention between Vietnam and France.
Even though the site was almost completely destroyed you can still find a lot of curious ornaments on what has remained from the temples. What do they symbolize? To find out, you have to visit My Son by yourself!