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The Forgotten Temples of Mỹ Sơn

The My Son ruins in Vietnam are possibly the oldest archeological site in mainland South East Asia. The earliest buildings here were created 700 years before the temples of Angkor Wat. Still, you’ve probably never heard of them- why?

Despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site My Son receives none of the attention of the bigger archeological sites like Angkor Wat, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. On the day of our visit there was barely anyone there- just a handful of motorbikes from nearby Hoi An. It’s kind of a pain to get to and it’s not on most tourists itineraries.

This is a shame because it’s actually a pretty fascinating place. The temples were built by the now defunct Kingdom of Champa, which ruled Southern Vietnam for most of the past two centuries. They were primarily Hindu, and their art and architecture was highly influenced by that of Ancient India. This brick templed complex was the religious center of their empire.

Most of the existing temples were built during the tenth century. They were made of fired brick and decorated with beautiful sandstone reliefs and statues

My Son is often compared to Angkor Wat, although truthfully it can not compare in scope or beauty. The years haven’t been kind to the complex. Neglect has taken it’s toll, and a viciously tenacious jungle seems intent on reclaiming the land. Shamefully, the area was heavily bombed by the United States during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong used the ruins as a base, and even now you can see gigantic bomb craters.

International efforts are now being made to restore My Son and to preserve it’s history. This is a really great development because even now it’s well worth a day trip from Hoi An. In a country that has been through such radical changes, it’s good to see some historical constants remain.

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13 Responses to The Forgotten Temples of Mỹ Sơn

  1. Mica September 8, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

    Thanks for writing about this ruin, I’ll be sure to include it on my list when I get over there!

  2. CheezyK September 8, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

    Just beautiful! I love the look of the old stone temples with the green jungle edging its way in like in the last photo. It truly is a pity though what happens to places like this in times of war.

  3. Lilian September 9, 2011 at 12:34 PM #

    Interesting…So far I’ve visited only Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
    When I have time, will head to central Vietnam to check this out!

  4. Venus September 9, 2011 at 5:44 PM #

    There is something kind of romantic about visiting ruins in a foreign country… I can’t quite put your finger on what it is, maybe an air of mystery would best describe it. It’s a feeling I also get when I visit “famous” cemeteries while I’m in a foreign country. Peculiar, isn’t it? But really beautiful, thanks for the insight!

  5. Nicki September 12, 2011 at 12:12 PM #

    My husband and I went here when we were traveling up Vietnam. We rented motorbikes in Hoi An and then drove out on our own. It was absolutely awesome and one of my favorite memories of our trip!

  6. Nomadic Samuel September 15, 2011 at 2:27 AM #

    Steph, when I visited there in 2008 it was exactly as you described – hardly anybody around! It was a welcome relief from some of the other experiences I’ve had at temples in SE Asia where you feel as though you can barely even move without bumping into somebody.

    • Steph September 18, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

      That plus the jungle creeping in from all sides made it seem like a totally hidden spot.

  7. indianviajador September 21, 2011 at 9:22 AM #

    these were built by the champa kings (hindu rulers of ancient vietnam)..i was surprised to see the architecture and the idols (identical to south india,where i am from) ..i was wondering what language was used in the scripts i saw..any idea ?

  8. Jason October 13, 2011 at 9:17 PM #

    Fascinating. I’m going to Vietnam next year and My Son is definitely going on the list.

    • Steph October 16, 2011 at 9:51 PM #

      Awesome! It’s totally worth a look.

  9. Nivedana August 28, 2013 at 12:05 AM #

    Hey, love your article! I was in Hoi An only 2 weeks ago, and really wanted to visit My Son. Unfortunately, the tours were full booked out.. Reading the article makes me wish I had tried harder to book something 😐

    • Steph August 28, 2013 at 10:18 AM #

      We rented a motorbike and went on our own, but I’d recommend that for experienced bikers only!

  10. AloTrip May 13, 2015 at 4:08 AM #

    My Son Temple in Vietnam, i like my country

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