The People On The Bus Go 'Raa Raa Raa'

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 31, 2014

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What I did
Cham Ruins at My Son

Flag of Vietnam  , Quảng Nam,
Friday, December 7, 2012

Near to Hoi An, there is a place called My Son and we've booked ourselves on a half-day bus trip to go and have a look. At My Son lies the ruins of a Cham dynasty capital, it was continuously constructed between the 4th and 12th centuries AD but it is ruined and abandoned now, as the Cham People were long ago pushed into the south by the expanding Vietnamese. The temples and monuments within the My Son complex were built to the Hindu divinities such as Krishna and Vishnu, but above all Shiva (although there is a strong Buddhist element too). The complex once housed some incredible and beautiful structures, the most famous tower at My Son stood 75 feet tall, made of sandstone carved with lions and elephants and other images, but it and most of the structures were destroyed during US bombing in 1969. It is a sad, recurring theme here in Vietnam.

The tour bus picks us up from our hotel at 8:30am and off we go. We make a few more stops around town, picking up people from other hotels, whilst enduring the whinging of an elderly man at the front of the bus. He keeps banging on at the guide about how they picked him up at 7:30 and here he was an hour later still in Hoi An picking people up..blah blah blah... He is highly irritating and the guide is becoming more and more frustrated with his bitching. A few minutes after leaving the centre of Hoi An, the guide requests we all hand him a 100,000d and he will buy the entrance tickets for us en-masse. This is how it is done on ALL the trips we have been on and sometimes the asking fee is a little more than the 'actual' fee. We heard the entrance fee should be 60,000d (although our guide book is a couple of years out of date and often underpriced) but an increase of 40,000d (1.20) is not exactly a bank-breaker so we pay without hesitation. Unfortunately for our guide and the rest of the bus (about 50 people-ish), a handful of people, spurred on by the old-annoying-fart, refuse to pay. They have also heard the fee should be 60,000d and demand to buy their own ticket. The atmosphere on the journey is tense and negative and upon nearing My Son an hour and a half later, the shit hits the fan. The guide pretty much explodes during a heated argument during a brief pit-stop before the entrance. The main row is between four English people and the guide. They want to buy their own ticket and he is furious as it implies he is trying to cheat them out of some money. To Asian men, 'losing face' is unbearable and he feels they are calling into question his integrity. They counter that they just want to buy their own ticket and should be allowed to do so. It is not pleasant and at one point he is refusing to even let them back onto the coach. We finally all get back on the coach and make it to the entrance where the (now about 6) people buying their own ticket are told to get off. Most do, but two girls refuse to leave the bus. They are afraid that the bus will leave them if they all get off. The guide tells them they must depart as the coach has to drive through the entrance and be head-counted to match the tickets he has bought. They must walk through and meet on the other side. The girls don't budge. The guide gets angrier. The whole bus is tense. The bus driver decides to get involved and starts shouting too. It is a bad situation and things nearly spiral out of control when the bus driver grabs one of the (gobbiest) girls to push her from the bus. She screams in his face and people on the bus stand up and begin shouting too. The adreniline is racing through our veins and it seems that violence is only a few seconds away. All for the sake of 1.20. It is insane and a uniformed, military looking man steps onto our bus to calm the situation. The girls finally depart the bus and walk through the entrance gate to meet us on the other side. The bus trundles through the gates with the people on board in disarray. It is horrible. Everyone is upset, some even crying. Once the self-purchased ticket people get back on board, for the short drive to the ruins, one of the men stands up and very bravely adresses the entire bus. He apologises for the fiasco and pleads that we all try and get on with enjoying the rest of the day. We discover the tickets ARE 100,000d, the price changed about a week ago. It is all very ridiculous and unnecessary. All parties are in the wrong but the guide should've handled the situation much better than he did.

Anyway, on with the tour. Once we are out in the fresh air, surrounded by the marvellous ruins, we start to regain a feeling of enjoyment. The guide recovers well too and turns out to be full of information and crude jokes. He tells us about the Champa Kingdom, the history of My Son and it's abandonment when the Cham people moved south. We walk around the site stopping at important structures, our guide is particularly interested in a giant stone phallic symbol with a hole in the side! Apparently, if you pop your end in it gives you super-penis powers! Ian starts to unbutton his pants but thankfully Anna stops him before he is arrested for indecency. Our guide also points out the MASSIVE craters where B-52 bombs exploded, destroying much of My Son during the war. You get a sense of how impressive the area once was but unfortunately it is now little more than rubble and memories. We only have 80 minutes to tour the site and to be honest, that is enough. It is a shame the bombs had such a devastating affect but at least we got to see a huge stone willy.

We arrive back in Hoi An around two-ish. Our day trip to My Son has become more about the unwanted scenes on the bus than the curious ruins, but we still very much enjoyed the day and hearing about and seeing the crumbling ruins of this once glorious Cham Capital. It is our last day in Hoi An, so after a rest and some food, we hit the bars for jam-jar size vodka cokes and pool. We even manage to stay out past 9:30... we think.

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