A Shiva Temple in Central Vietnam??

Trip Start Mar 09, 2010
Trip End Jun 11, 2010

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

About 50 kilometers outside of Hoi An is supposedly the best temple complex in all of Vietnam.  Built as a religious and intellectual center under King Bhadravarman in the 4th century, My Son was continuously occupied until the 13th century, marking the longest period of development of any monument in Southeast Asia.  My Son was created by the Champa Dynasty, which occupied parts of Central Vietnam for over 1000 years.  The site was rediscovered by the French in the 19th century, but it was used as a Viet Cong base during the war and was therefore heavily bombed by the Americans.  These bombings destroyed many of the structures, and only 20 of the 68 buildings still stand.

What interested me about this temple site was that the Champa people were heavily influenced by India due to trading ties and adopted Hinduism as a religion and based their script on Sanskrit.  The My Son temples were basically a group of monuments dedicated to Shiva, my favorite of all the Hindu gods.  Finding an Indian temple in the middle of Vietnam was totally unexpected for me, and I made sure to fit it into my schedule.

I opted for the daytrip tour run by our hotel, and they picked me up early in the morning to get to the temple.  The best part was that we had a guide who explained so many things about the temples that I never would have otherwise known.  He was really enthusiastic and had a voice like the guys in old kung fu movies.  Because of all the destruction that occurred here, the temples are nothing like they used to be, and they are divided into ten separate groups, some of which are inaccessible. 

It was so interesting for me to see the Hindu motifs at My Son, and I really enjoyed my visit.  At times, the architecture of the individual temples actually reminded me of some of the temples I had visited in South India, and that was pretty cool to connect.  My Son was located basically in the middle of nowhere, and I also liked getting to walk through the Vietnamese wilderness and see the green, hilly terrain that I expected to find all over the country.  And of course, it was ridiculously hot here. 

We took a boat back to Hoi An, stopping at a small island known for its wood crafts on the way.  There were not a lot of young people on the trip, and I spent most of the day talking with an older South African couple that was really friendly.  Overall, I really liked visiting My Son because I could appreciate the Indian designs that are so familiar to me, while at the same time being so seemingly out of place in a country like Vietnam.  Visiting the temples here was probably one of the highlights of my trip here so far.
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