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 Vietnam Itinerary, 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, is located in a lush rainforest creating a dramatic site. It was built between the 4th and 13th centuries CE, and during this time, Cham was a unique culture that developed on the coast of modern Viet Nam and had its spiritual origins traced back to Indian Hinduism.
Today you still can explore the 1600-year-old ruins of the Champa Kingdom and be mesmerized by its history and impressive tower temples, which once had over 70 structures of the ancient Champa civilization, mostly dedicated to the deities of Shiva, Krishna, and Vishnu.
But unfortunately, most of the temples were destroyed by the Vietnam War bombing. What is left of their greatness is now only visible as collections of ruins and old temples in several parts of Vietnam. So, without any further ado, let’s dive into the most complete guide on how to visit the fascinating My Son Sanctuary.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, you will love these articles:
- Vietnam Travel Planning: All You Need to Plan Your Trip
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Read More: A Perfect 2 weeks Vietnam Itinerary
Is it Worth Visiting the My Son Sanctuary?
If you are wondering if it is worth it to visit the My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam, my answer is YES! Especially if you appreciate history! The UNESCO World Heritage Site of My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam is often skipped. However, it is easy to get here if you are visiting on a day trip from Hoi An or Danang.
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. The complex consists of more than 70 structures devoted to Hindu gods and goddesses the most noticeable one, Shiva, was considered the protector of the Champa’s kings.
How to Get to My Son Sanctuary
My Son Sanctuary is located 25 miles (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 1.2 miles (2 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 on 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.
Visit My Son Sanctuary with a Tour
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.
Renting a motorbike to visit My Son Sanctuary
If you are visiting Hoi-An and decide 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.
How To Visit My Son Sanctuary
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 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 ceremonies.
What to expect when you visit My Son Sanctuary
Besides My Son Sanctuary being a UNESCO World Cultural Site, you will notice it is not well-preserved and many buildings are in bad shape. 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”, and ” The temples in Angor-Wat are much better” –
My Son was bombed during the Vietnam War, so go figure! Also, My Son Sanctuary is also at risk because of the severe climatic conditions, such as flooding and high humidity.
Any time I visit a new place, I try to learn as much as I can about that place, and I embrace its beauty and history, never comparing one place with another. This helps me to admire and connect with the energy of the place, and to take each opportunity as a learning experience. My Son is one of these places, so set your expectations for your visit!
Also, when visiting My Son Sanctuary, make sure to 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.
Hire a Tour Guide
I recommend taking 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.
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 of the souvenir shop.
Visit the Museum at the 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.)
It is better to visit 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.
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 to the lake.
You Must learn the history of My Son…it will help you to appreciate this fascinating site!
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.
The Fascinating History of My Son Sanctuary
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.
Practical Information to Visit My Son Sanctuary
Hire a Personal Driver: 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.
Entry Fee: The My Son Entree Fee is 150 000 VND – $6 USD the prices are only when you visit My Son Sanctuary by yourself, and it doesn’t include a private guide or a group tour.
Tour Time: 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.
What to Expect: 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. The complex consists of more than 70 structures devoted to Hindu gods and goddesses the most noticeable one, Shiva, was considered the protector of the Champa’s kings.
When to Visit My Son Sanctuary
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.
Where to Stay:
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
Best Recommended Tours 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.
My Son Sanctuary Dress Code
Dress Modestly: Don’t forget that you are visiting a religious site, therefore, dress modestly and cover your knees and shoulders
Comfortable Clothes: You can never go wrong with gym attire! You will be walking dirty. Also, there are mosquitoes so long pants are a good idea. Make sure to always pack a packable rain jacket, I am glad I had mine during my visit as I got to visit the site 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.
Day Pack: I always carry my Osprey day pack on my trips, with a refilled water bottle, some healthy snacks, sunblock, and a hat. This is my go-to travel kit!
My Son Sanctuary Conclusion
My Son Sanctuary 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 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 of the past.
I recommend hiring a private driver, as the prices vary and affordable, and you will have a safer experience visiting My Son in Vietnam.
Here is some further information I think you might need to plan your trip:
- Vietnam Itinerary 7 Days: The Best One Week in Vietnam
- Homestay with the BlackHmong in Sapa
- 3 Days in Sapa Itinerary
- 3-Day Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary
- The Ultimate Hanoi Itinerary
- Complete Guide to Visit the Marble Mountain in Danang
- 15 Best Things to do in Mui Ne
- 10 Incredible Halong Bay Luxury Cruises
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