My Son Ruins
Trip Start May 04, 2004
13Trip End May 20, 2004
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We arrived at the site around 7:30 and began the trek in. First stop is the ticket booth, excercising local and foreigner prices, like most other sites in the country. Our tickets were the standard 50,000 VND, approximately $2.50 US. Following ticket purchase, you take a jeep in the first part of the way to the ruins. The driver of our old US military jeep drove along quite happily singing Ho Chi Minh propaganda songs to himself. Once the paved road ended, it was another pleasant twenty minute walk to the ruins. There was virtually no cover, however, and we were glad that it was morning and cool. On arriving at the site, we were also glad to have come early as we had it all to ourselves. Many thanks to the Banana Split Cafe guy for advising an early morning visit.
My Son contains anywhere from 25 to 70 buildings (depending who you ask) from the ancient Cham civilization of Vietnam. The Hindu religious complex was built in stages from the 4th to the 13th century and has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its example of cultural interchange as it show cases Hindu architecture in Southeast Asia in addition to be an excellent remnant of Cham culture. I'm sure anyone who has been to Angkor Wat might be disappointed with the significantly smaller display at My Son, we were somewhat surprised by the small size ourselves. However, the site is several centuries older than and is very different from the pictures I have seen of Angkor Wat, and is worth seeing in its own right.
Unfortunately, the site was heavily bombed during the war as US intelligence believed the Viet Cong were hiding among the ruins. Bombing was stopped in 1969 after strong public protest, but the impressive central temple had already been destoryed. Shell craters can still be seen around the deep red brick buildings. There is no mortar holding the bricks together and no one knows how the buildings were constructed. Some say clay was used between the bricks while others suggest a vegetable resin.
Into the buildings are carved beautiful, if crumbling, pictures of Cham kings, soliders, and dancing girls, windows into a long vanished culture. The site is still being excavated from the war and the wilderness and we saw a few teams working on various sites. The jungle encroaches on the complex on all sides making for some interesting wandering off to the less central ruins. The scenery in the valley is also impressive, closed in by verdant green mountains, including the aptly named cat tooth mountain pictured at the beginning of this entry.
We spent a little over an hour wandering in solitude and departed just as the first busloads of tourists were arriving.