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.
After China earlier this year, the next planned trip was the one to Florida and the Caribbean. So the bonus trip to Vietnam was unexpected, admittedly there was a work component at the end but why not use the opportunity to explore another country we hadn’t thought of doing any time soon. With only 6 days available towards the north of the country, we had to decide what it was we wanted to do before we got there. We booked a Charitable Tour of Hue and Hoi An with AdventureWorld.
Flying with Vietnam Airlines – the food was good, seats were comfortable with good leg room in economy and the best surprise was being able to order 2-minute cup noodles throughout the flight. Score!! And we were simply looking forward to eating loads and loads of pho.
At Hanoi airport, we were picked up by a representative of AdventureWorld (or the local equivalent) and transferred to the hotel. We were told that the humidity was “only
about 50%” as opposed to the usual 80-90% they had been experiencing not that long ago. Geez, we were feeling it at 50%. The heat wasn’t the only thing we needed to get use to. It was also the currency; the Vietnamese dong – spending in hundreds of thousands and millions. So we can technically say we were millionaires for a week. The exciting thing for us though was that the money was plastic like the Australian notes.
After one night in Hanoi, we flew to Hue and stayed in an amazing hotel, Hotel Saigon Morin. Air-con in the room was blissfully cool. We enjoyed wandering the streets but not so much the crossing of the roads. Seriously, the amount of motorbikes and scooters on the streets are intense. We were clearly instructed that to cross the roads, you do it slowly. Do not run!
How can you not run when you have hundreds of vehicles flooding towards you? Your instinct automatically tells you to run for safety from one footpath to the other footpath which is 4 lanes across. But the secret is finding a little break in the flow and stepping down and proceeding slowly while looking at the oncoming traffic – it was the in-between of not hesitating and not making that mad dash.
This was going to take some getting use to. To avoid crossing the road, we kept making right turns as that was the only option other than to turn back. Before long, we decided that we needed to cross the road to find something to eat. We watched how the Vietnamese people do it and they made it looks so easy. It clearly is a skill!
With our hearts pounding and sweaty palms, we clung onto each other’s hands to refrain ourselves from bolting across. Miraculously, we made it to safety only to come to the realisation that we would have to do the same thing just to get back to the hotel after lunch. Oh well, we will deal with that later. For the time being we would enjoy what we could without having to cross too many more busy roads.
View more photos of our trips at Photo Gallery.