A Photo Walk through the My Son Sanctuary

Temples in Group C in My Son Valley

Mỹ Sơn means a beautiful mountain in Vietnamese. This valley jungle is the home of more than 70 temples and towers left of the Champa Empire from the 4th to 13th centuries. My Son Sanctuary is a place that has seen so much destruction of Hindu temples during the Vietnam War and now reconstruction as they work tirelessly to rebuild and restore these temples. Which is how this site is now on the UNESCO world heritage list because of ‘its outstanding universal value to the people of Vietnam, for Southeast Asia, for societies across the world.”

Temples in Group C in My Son Valley

Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary InformationSide view of Group C temples at My Son

The best way to see the Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary is to take a day trip from Hoi An or Danang. You can drive here yourself as well if you think you want more time to explore the temples. My Son’s open hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is better to go later in the day as it should be cooler and there will be fewer crowds. The park is somewhat small where you are allowed to visit, so be prepared for lots of people if you come early in the daytime. The entrance fee is 150,000 VND. Most tours do not include this price so, make sure you bring extra cash. You should bring water and a poncho as there are not a lot of areas to rest if it starts to rain or is too hot. I was able to purchase a rain poncho at the entrance by the cafe on my rainy day visit to the valley.

You will have to walk a few minutes from the main entrance over a bridge to the tram station. The tram takes you up 2 km on a winding road to the gift shop before the pathways for the temples. You can choose to walk if you don’t want to wait, but there is no sidewalk, and the road is only wide enough for two trams to get by each other.My Son TransportationMy Son Sanctuary Map

Champa MuseumChampa Museum

The Champa Museum is close by the ticket office and is a great place to start your tour of the My Son site. There are artifacts preserved from the valley found during the restoration of the temples. You can read about the history of the area and see a 3D map of the valley with the groups of temples labeled. There is a wood structure of a Champa shrine that includes a stone pillar. This is a reproduction of a ritual space that was found in the main temple in Group C. The fascinating artifact is the stone that is riddled with bullet holes from the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong hid in this valley, and the US carpet-bombed My Son damaging several of the Hindu temples.Champa Wooden SculptureStone riddled with bullet holes from the Vietnam War

Group F TemplesRestored temple gate in My Son Sanctuary

Group F is the first set of temples that you come across on your walk through the valley. They do let you climb up the steps of the temple but try to be respectful when visiting. You can see the difference in colors of the bricks, which shows the newer reconstruction versus the orginal temple. This temple seems to be one of the more massive gates in the complex. Also, when you are exploring the valley, make sure to stay on the path. There are signs in Vietnamese to keep out of the forest because there are still undiscovered land mines in the area. The wood is so dense away from the temples that you can’t see anything through all the vegetation. After this group of temples, there is a small hut that does demonstrations (weaving).My Son Sanctuary ValleyDo Not Enter areas in My Son SanctuaryWeaving a scarf

Group A TemplesHuge temple in My Son Sanctuary

Group A is the second group of temples that you will pass on the walk through the valley. This group of temples has a large main temple that you can walk in. Please do not walk on the small foundation wall surrounding this group. There is a small walk bridge that goes over the wall to help you get from the path to the temple area. You can see another group of temples nearby that are currently being restored. Also, this is the first area that you see multiple craters left where bombs fell. Some are in the woods by the path, and one is right next to one of the ruins. You will also find some weird face mask carvings directly into the exterior of the temple walls.Heather standing in My son templeRestored temple at My SonSide view of Restored templeView through the temple

Group C TemplesTemples with mountains in the background

Group C is the last group of temples that I visited. There are more groups of temples, but they are further out and were not part of the tour I was on. This was the biggest collection of temples and the largest of the temples and towers still intact. We were given some free time to explore this section of the complex, and you could get lost among these ruins. The detail of the statues carved in the wall is so intricate along with the designs of these buildings. It is such a shame that we bombed this valley so heavily. But understandable as these abandoned ruins were used as a hiding place for the Viet Cong inside this entire valley. It is wonderful though to see countries and organizations reaching out and restoring these precious Hindu temples. Ruins at My Son SanctuaryHeather sitting on the steps of the Tower Gate

Traditional Cham Dance Dancing a Traditional Cham Dance

What a nice surprise to catch a traditional Cham dance after exploring the My Son temples.  The performers are in local costumes, and the music is with traditional instruments. I came across the show mid-way through as I was caught up in taking photographs of the temples. I was able to see two of the dances, and they were delightful. You can see one of them below in the video.Ladies performing an Apsara Dance

Creative Apsara Dance

The end of the Apsara Dance

Summarybuildings in the My Son valley

The My Son Sanctuary is considered the foremost Hindu temple complex in Southeast Asia. These temples should be on your bucket list when visiting Vietnam. As an American visiting these sites where we did so much damage to historical buildings is heartbreaking and a bit overwhelming. I’m fortunate that I can visit and explore these sites to understand what we did, not necessarily to understand the why but to acknowledge it did happen. I am also grateful for the countries and companies that are working to preserve and restore these magnificent temples and towers. Which they should be restored, history shouldn’t be wiped away completely. It should be protected for future generations to see and visit so that they can appreciate these archaeological gems.

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Further Reading

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