An hour drive out of Hoi An is My Son Sanctuary. It was a political and religious capital of the Champa Kingdom. The Cham people belonged to an ethnic group in South East Asia.We were told the Sanctuary was built around the 9th Century, with the dynasty lasting between the 4th Century to 13th Century.
Before exploring the site, visitors can enjoy a performance in the open theatre. The traditional Cham performance included folk music and dancing. It was all quite exquisite.
We were extremely fascinated with the Hindu-influenced temple ruins, the statues and the site itself. As we explored the remains, we could climb into some of the temples and were able to get close to the relics. It is mind-blowing admiring the architecture of the temples and workmanship of the statues.
Although, it was teeming with tourists at My Son, the overall feeling in the air was tranquil and leisurely. It was a shame though, to see some of the site damaged due to bombings that occurred during the Vietnam War (once again reminding us how destructive war can be).
The walk out of the Sanctuary is a peaceful tree-lined path back to the car park. We had spent easily a couple of hours here.
Although we have never been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Bagan in Myanmar, we felt like this would be similar to what we would see there. It actually made us want to see those countries even more.
My Son Sanctuary was listed as a
UNESCO Heritage site in 1999.
To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited,
visit our unofficial bucket list
On the 3 or so days we travelled from Hue to Hoi An, we experienced Vietnam in all aspects and elements. We were escorted on the private tour by a driver and a guide and learnt a great deal about life in Vietnam. As part of the tour, we visited the Healing the Wounded Heart Shop – a charity that supports people who have disabilities or are disadvantaged. The young men who work there make products from recycled goods to sell in the shop. We were able to meet about 5-6 of them, most of whom had hearing impairments. But despite the language and communication barrier, they still managed to have a conversation with us and we enjoyed a laugh together.
Next stop was to visit two schools:
(1) the first was a primary school educating children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism
(2) the second was a secondary boarding school educating youth from families who are very poor and live too far from a school.
It is amazing with the limited funding that they have what the teachers and schools do for these kids.
Hoi An is a gorgeous quaint town where the historical centre is so well-preserved. It probably doesn’t quite compare to Pingyao in China but it certainly is not far off. All the facades are painted a pale yellow and practically identical – it is easy to lose yourself in the woven streets. Now if you have never been to Hoi An, you would probably not believe that you can get a tailor-made suit/s, jacket, dress, shirt (anything that you can think of – a work colleague even had shoes made) in a matter of hours. The streets are lined with pale yellow shops and the pale yellow shows are filled with tailors and fabrics – so plentiful you feel overwhelmed to have to “choose” one over the other. And amazingly, any fabric, colour or style will be made especially for you in less than no time or overnight (and sometimes delivered to your hotel)! When do these people ever sleep? They certainly are hard-working people who take great pride in what they do.
Actually while we were in Hoi An there was a tropical storm making its way to the area and so we were getting the full experience of the preparations – there was broadcasting of the news through speakers of a van that drove around the streets and regular updates by the same van throughout the day. We were a little nervous by this tropical storm but the locals did not appear too concerned. In fact, it worried us a little more when our tour guide decided to get us onto an earlier flight out as apparently it was going to be pretty fierce! The morning we flew out the rain was tremendously forceful on the roof of the hotel. We had luckily timed our stay perfectly.
Now onto the food – pho became our staple for the week that we were in Vietnam, at least for breakfast anyway. We did try a whole bunch of other foods. For lunches and dinners we gave what we could a whirl. Our meals were costing on average under $7 for both of us to eat and the food was delicious, fresh and filling too. Pretty much all the different flavours we tasted were from Hoi An.
View more photos of our trips at Photo Gallery.