My Son is the major site in Vietnam from the ancient Champa Kingdom which flourished between the 2nd and 15th centuries. Descendants of the Champa civilization still live along the coast of Vietnam though they are now fully integrated in Vietnamese society. The Kingdom at My Son dates back to the 4th century and remained fully occupied through until the 13th century which makes it the longest occupied of all the major monuments of SE Asia. It served as a religious and intellectual center where Champa kings were crowned and buried. In 1999 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site is often compared with some of the other great Indian influenced archaeological sites of SE Asia including Borobudur in Indonesia, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Ayuthaya in Thailand and Pagan in Burma.
Unfortunately, events during the American War destroyed many of the site’s temples. The VC had used My Son as a key base which forced US bombing of the site leaving about 20 of the original 70 structures intact. Bomb craters next to some of the temples are clearly visible. A major restoration project is underway though nobody from our high-tech world has yet managed to work out how the Chams were able to get their baked bricks to stick together during construction!
Getting to My Son
Every travel agency and hotels in Hoi An is selling excursions to My Son for unbelievably cheap prices. We took the Dulichso coach tour which collected us at 8am then proceeded to collect more passengers until the bus was full. On arrival it’s a 2km walk from the car park to the site though jeeps run back and to constantly. We were given a guided tour, returned to the bus that dropped us off at a river stop from where we returned to Hoi An by boat with lunch on board. This whole trip cost a mere $5 plus 60,000 VN ($4 US) entrance fee.
For a more rewarding experience it would be a good idea to get there before the tour buses arrive. You can hire a car and driver in Hoi An for around $20 and aim to be there at sunrise (truly atmospheric) which is preferable to being there amongst the hordes of tourists. But then again that depends on your budget. The cheap coach trip was fine.
Chau Doc on the edge of the Mekong Delta is the stepping stone to Vietnam for travellers arriving from Cambodia. We arrived on the back of motorbikes that had collected us at the Cambodia/Vietnam border near the town of Tinh Bien which is 30km from Chau Doc (see Vietnam-Cambodia border crossings).
They dropped us at the very nice Trung Nguyen Hotel which overlooks the main market in the town center. Nice, clean rooms with very helpful receptionist at just $10 a night. Another good budget option is the Thuan Loi Hotel which is right on the river where the ferry from Phnom Penh docks. The Song Sao Hotel is a good mid-range option located almost next to a small bookshop called ‘the English Bookstore’. The charming owner loves to practice his English and will take you on private tours of the river.
The town is a busy, lively place with few tourists so not much hassle other than cyclos wanting to take you to Sam Mountain. It was good to be back in Vietnam again and a spicy lunch at Bay Bong restaurant was a nice change for the many coconut-based dishes on the Cambodian menu.