A COMPLETE VISIT GUIDE TO MY SON SANCTUARY VIETNAM


My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam makes it a perfect day trip from Hoi An. In this guide, you are about to find out why you should add My Son to your travel around Vietnam, and how you can visit one of the most fascinating Hindu Sanctuaries from the ancient Champa civilization!

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam is often skipped. However, it is a worthwhile place to visit as a day trip from Hoi An or Danang.

The fascinating site of My Son, once had over 70 structures of the ancient Champa civilization, mostly dedicated to the deities of Shiva, Krishna, and Vishnu had most of the temples were destroyed by the Vietnam War bombing.

During your visit to Vietnam, if you have more time in Hoi An or Danang, you have plenty of options for day trips such as the ancient Hindu Sanctuary of My Son. Actually, My Son Sanctuary can be explored in as short as a half-day trip from Hoi An only!

My Son Hindu Sanctuary is a great example of the ancient Champa civilization, with temples dated over 1,000 years in the middle of the jungle. Their skillful use of red bricks and sandstone with their intricate carved-brick decorations is remarkable.

The impressive Hindu-themed ruins feature many beautiful stone sculptures, temples, and towers in tropical jungle surroundings. My Son was also a political center and royal burial ground and the complex consists of more than 70 structures devoted to Hindu gods and goddesses and the most noticeable one, Shiva, was considered the protector of the Champa’s kings.

Enjoy this guide to the My Son Sanctuary and safe travels!

MY SON SANCTUARY, VIETNAM HISTORY

My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam was an independent state from around the 2nd to the 17th century, at which time it was occupied by Vietnam. It is the main surviving architectural complex of the Champa dynasty its oldest structures are believed to date back to the 4th century and the site was used until the 15th century.

The origins of their spiritualism were India-based, and the Champas built My Son in honor of the Hindu god, Shiva, crafting each tower of sandstone bricks and a mixture of sand and water. Once a tower was completed, the Champas burned it to harden the sand and water mortar into stone.

The vast territory covered by temple ruins reflects the glory of the Champa Kingdom, which ruled the Central and Southern parts of Vietnam, from the 3rd century until 1832. After the Vietnamese defeated the kingdom, the temples were abandoned among the lush nature of Hon Quap (Cat’s Tooth Mountain) and the Thu Bon River.

The explorer Camille Paris, rediscovered the My Son complex during his cartography expedition in Vietnam in 1889. Later on, in 1903, Henri Parmentier, a French archeologist, and his team began an excavation of the site that lasted eleven months. They documented the site of 71 rediscovered structures within two kilometers. They also managed to restore some of them, but unfortunately, the holy place full of secrets was bombarded during the Vietnam War in 1969 when American forces attacked Viet Cong that had made a base in the ancient ruins.

MY SON SANCTUARY AND THE WAR IN VIETNAM

Parts of the My Son temple complex were destroyed during the Vietnam War when the Viet Cong used the area as a base and American forces bombed it. It is heartbreaking to see that the temples are not well preserved, and many are covered by vegetation. 

During the Vietnam War, US military command believed that the site housed a North Vietnamese base and very nearly bombed it to oblivion. During the tour, you can notice marks from US bombs on the temples, and also large craters in the ground measuring about 8 meters across and 4 deep. 

I was told that during the US Vietnam War, the Viet Cong were believed to have used this complex as a repository of military supplies. Only 17 structures out of 71 survived the bombing, although Vietnamese and international teams have been doing conservation work on the site since 1975. Sadly, the floods from the nearby river and climate conditions such as high humidity jeopardize the ability to preserve the site. But My Son survived, and despite its dismal condition, it is worth the hour’s drive to see it.

Preserving the My Son Hindu Temples
Preserving the My Son Hindu Temples
My Son temple damage from Vietnam War
Preserving the historical ruins

MY SON SANCTUARY VIETNAM: A DAY TRIP FROM HOI AN

My Son Sanctuary is located 40 km from Hoi An and it takes about 1.5 hours by car. If you are thinking about day trips from Hoi An, My Son Sanctuary is an amazing option. Located within the village of Duy Phu the complex stretches out two kilometers within a valley and is surrounded by mountain ranges.

You can get to My Son by a personal driver, an organized tour from Hoi An or Danang, or by motorbike. The roads are okay to drive, but I opted for a local drive because driving on the road in Vietnam can be challenging – especially on a rainy day.

HIRING A DRIVER TO VISIT MY SON SANCTUARY

Hiring a driver to visit the My Son Sanctuary may be the best option. It is also the most expensive, but considering the exchange rate, it is still very affordable. It is the most comfortable and safest way to visit My Son. You have the benefit to have the freedom to explore My Son at your own time, as the private driver will wait for you at eh parking lot until you are done.

I chose this option and it was safe, easy, and very affordable.

You can check private drivers’ rates and availability here and decide if this is the best option for you.

BOOKING A TOUR TO VISIT MY SON SANCTUARY

If you are looking for a convenient and easy way to visit the amazing My Son Sanctuary, I have picked some tours options that you may love:

My Son Sanctuary visit & Thu Bon River Cruise with Lunch: With this tour, you have the opportunity to experience rural Vietnam on a minivan trip to My Son and a boat tour with lunch on the Thu Bon River.

My Son Sanctuary & Marble Mountains Private Tour: Explore the ancient My Son Sanctuary and marvel at stunning panoramic views of Danang from the peak of the Marble Mountains on a private tour.

From Hoi An to My Son Sanctuary Early Morning Tour: Watch the sunrise over the countryside of Vietnam before visiting the Hindu sanctuary of My Son. Stroll among the ancient ruins and learn more about its fascinating history as the center of the Champa Kingdom.

RIDING A MOTORCICLE TO VISIT MY SON SANCTUARY

If you are visiting Hoi-An and decides o go on a day tour to My Son, an easy and on a budget option is to rent a motorcycle to visit My Son. But keep in mind that riding in Vietnam can be dangerous, especially on a rainy day. The road to get to My Son is curvy and you will be mostly driving into rural areas. Be prepared for potholes, lots of trucks, and drivers with questionable driving skills.

Hindu Temples at My Son

MY SON SANCTUARY PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Hiring a personal driver was very very affordable – US$15 for 2 people. I booked a local driver through my Airbnb host and the driver took me there, waited the time I needed for the tour, and drove me back. It is very interesting to see the change in the scenery since My Son is surrounded by mountains and you will notice the misty forest making it even look mystical.

MY SON SANCTUARY ENTRANCE FEE

The My Son Entree Fee is 150 000 VND – $6 USD and the prices are only when you visit My Son Sanctuary by yourself, and it doesn’t include a private guide or a group tour.

MY SON SANCTUARY BEST TIME TO VISIT

The whole tour in My Son Sanctuary can take around 1-3 hours since it’s not very large and it doesn’t take too long to explore the whole site.

My Son Sanctuary site is open from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Early in the morning is the best time to visit. Especially during the summertime, it can get very hot and humid, so if you want to avoid the heat. 

As you can see in my pictures, I visited My Song on a rainy day and it was also during wintertime (December), which made the temperature drop even more, and I am glad I had a rain jacket with me.

Trail around My Son Sanctuary

MY SON SANCTUARY DRESS CODE

Don’t forget that you are visiting a religious site, therefore, dress modestly and cover your knees and shoulders

COMFORTABLE CLOTHES: gym attire can be a good choice! A rain jacket is also a great idea if it is on a rainy day.

STURDY SHOES: I recommend wearing sturdy shoes if you are planning to visit all the sites and climb up to the top. Also, I visited it on a rainy day, and turns very slippery, so wear sturdy and waterproof shoes to be safe.

WHERE TO STAY IN MY SON AREA

If you are planning to stay around the My Son Sanctuary area, I have selected the best hotel options in Hoi-An for all budgets:

Great Value: Countryside Garden Homestay

Boutique Hotel:  Paddy Boutique House Hoian

Best rated on Booking.com: Allegro Hoi An, a little Luxury Hotel & Spa

My Son Vietnam Temple Ruins

HOW TO VISIT MY SON SANCTUARY IN VIETNAM

The My Son Sanctuary has different towers, each of them has a main building called Kalan with many smaller sub-towers surrounding it. You will notice that the towers have different looks, and each one f them has a sacred meaning about the Champa culture and the religion.

The main temples in the My Son Sanctuary workshop are a set of Linga or the statue of Siva God, who is the supreme guardian f the kings of the Champ family. The sub-temples and shrines are places to store sacrifices and are dedicated to the ceremonies.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU VISIT MY SON SANCTUARY

Unfortunately, the temples in My Son are not so well preserved, and if you just walk around observing the buildings may be a little frustrating. I see a lot of people commenting that “it is not worth it to visit”, “it is boring”, ” The temples in Angor-Wat are much better” – My Son is was bombed during the Vietnam War, go figure! My Son is still a World Cultural Heritage.

VISIT THE MUSEUM AT MY SON SANCTUARY

A small outdoor museum houses some carvings of Hindu gods and displays two US missile casings, the first found on the premises in 1988 and the second in 2007. Make sure to enter the museum after you pass through the ticket office. You’ll find many wall posters explaining the history of My Son, which will help you especially if you plan to explore the site without a professional guide. (There are no English boards around the temples.)

YOU MUST LEARN THE HISTORY

The key is to understand the history behind and when you gain important information about relevant attributes, you certainly gain a wider understanding and a greater appreciation for the Mi Song complex. In my case, I bought a book prior to my trip to understand the history behind it and to gain knowledge about the reaming of the buildings, therefore I could just explore at my pace and take as many pictures as I wanted.

My Son temples in Vietnam

CULTURE DANCE SHOW

You can also watch a traditional dance show every day at 9:30 am and 10:30 am for the tour groups that visit in the morning. The stage is before you reach the first group of ruins, on the opposite side to the souvenir shop.

HIRE A TOUR GUIDE

One guided tour around My Son will cost you about 100,000 VND ($4.40 USD). Take a reputable tour as the guide who has a lot of knowledge – but keep in mind that depending on the size of the group, you will need to rush through sites.

Hindu sanctuary My Son complex

BETTER TO CLOCWHISE DIRECTION

Better do Clockwise direction: I started my tour in a clockwise direction and found it to be a better option. Most people will start counter-clockwise. By going the opposite direction I was not following any large groups around and the complex seemed to reveal itself to me gradually rather than seeing the largest temples first.

WALK ON THE MARKET PATH

Walk only through the marked paths and don’t detour into the lush forest by yourself, since there is still a de-mining process going on in the area of My Son.

VISIT THE MY SON SANCTUARY LAKE

You can visit a small lake at my Son Sanctuary that comes from the steams, and you go out by kayak. This is a 3-kilometer long lake that gives you a chance to paddle around and appreciate the peaceful and calm water. You can rent a kayak near the entrance of the My Son and a good option is to finish your tour in My Son going on the lake.

My Son Hindu Sanctuary Vietnam
Moss covered temples and statues

FINAL THOUGHTS ON MY SON SANCTUARY IN VIETNAM

My Son is a fascinating site to visit, especially if you understand the history of this place and the importance of the Champa people and Hinduism. When I was planning my trip to Vietnam, I found the information about My Son, and I was fascinated by it and added it to my 2-weeks itinerary in Vietnam.

It was an easy day trip from Hoi An and I am glad I did it! I recommend if you are in the Hoi An area and have an extra day, including a visit to My Son. Even if the site is not well preserved, as I described above, it is still a well-worse site to visit and contemplate the history from the past.

I recommend hiring a private driver, as the prices vary affordable, and you will have a safer experience visiting My Son in Vietnam.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE

I never leave my home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. Things can go wrong, and you don’t want to get stuck paying tons of money if you get sick or have an accident without travel insurance. 

World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover their trip essentials. Especially if you are like me, travel insurance is ideal for adventurous travelers.

Travel smarter and safer – You can do your quick quote below and find out how little you can pay for the essential benefit of Travel Insurance for your next trip!

WHAT IS NEXT?

Here is some further information I think you might need to plan your  trip:

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16 thoughts on “My Son Hindu Sanctuary, Vietnam | A Perfect Day-Trip from Hoi-An

  1. Moss Clement says:

    Hi Paula,
    Your description of the My Son and the history associated with it makes it more interesting to explore. The name itself makes one more curious to visit. In fact, when I first read the title, I thought you were referring to your born child. But then I realized as I read further that it is the ancient Hindu ruins.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Thanks Moss…Yes, My Son is a beautiful site and a great place that I recommend to visit. The name can be a little tricky, I agree with you 🙂

  2. Shelbs says:

    Vietnam is one of those places I had preconceived notions about and not exactly positive! This post has really opened my eyes to all the beautiful places and tourism potential! Thanks for sharing!

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Hi Shelbs – Vietnam is absolutely incredible beautiful, and the people are so kind and welcoming. I am so glad I could represent Vietnam on a positive way here, because it is one of the most incredible places I have ever visited.

  3. Carley says:

    Fantastic post! Its sad to think about how much damage the war left there, especially on such beautiful and historic places like this. Thanks for sharing! I’ve never seen a temple quite like it before.

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Carley, you are right, it is very sad to see all the negative impact a war can create. I wish these sites could be preserved for eternity, but hopefully, we learned lessons from the past.

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Hi Cosette, it is a shame to see such a gorgeous site that got so damaged, but they tried to reconstruct it without any success, and it is still an amazing place to visit.

  4. Agnes says:

    These pics are straight out of Nat Geo! Vietnam is high on my bucket list once we’re able to make that happen, so will save this for later. I kinda like that the ruins here aren’t as preserved as you might find in the more Disney-esque historical sites. Only shows the importance of these places, and the stories behind them!

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      I love your remarks about the ruins Agnes, it is true. Sometimes these places are out of the itinerary from most visitors because they are not perfectly preserved, but they have so many stories to tell us, it is just fascinating.

  5. galatia savva says:

    oh, I love this! Off the beaten path, super interesting, and your pictures are doing a fab job at selling this to me!

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Hello Galatia, so glad you enjoyed this guide and yes, My Son is a real hidden gem and an intriguing place to visit in Vietnam.

  6. Ryan K Biddulph says:

    Hi Paula,

    What a spot. Too bad I missed it during my 2 months in Hoi An in 2012. I loved that region. Perhaps I will hit it up on a return trip. I loved riding around the rice fields on a bicycle with my wife. The people are incredibly friendly there. Super post.

    Ryan

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Hey Ryan, WOW….you spent 2 months in Hoi An? What a dream, I loved Hoi An so much that I still want to go back to live there for a few months too, so I can experience more that incredible area. The food and the people are amazing.

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