The Forgotten Temples of Mỹ Sơn

The My Son temple in Vietnam is 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?

The Entrance to The My Son Temple in Vietnam

Despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, My Son Temple 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 My Son temple complex was 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 were highly influenced by that of Ancient India. This brick temple complex was the religious center of their empire.

A Statue at the My Son Temple in VietnamBrick Ruins of the My Son Temple in Vietnam

Ruins of the My Son Temple in Vietnam built in the 10th Century

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

Sandstone statue at the My Son Temple in VietnamBroken Remains of Sculpture at the My Son Temple in Vietnam

My Son Temple is often compared to Angkor Wat, although truthfully it cannot compare in scope or beauty. The years haven’t been kind to the complex. Neglect has taken its 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.

The Jungle Taking Over the Ruins of the My Son Temple in VietnamFallen Columns at the My Son Temple in Vietnam

Restoration Efforts Around a Building at the My Son Temple Complex in Vietnam

International efforts are now being made to restore My Son Temple and to preserve its 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.

A View of the My Son Temple from the Jungle in Vietnam

 

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The Forgotten My Son Temple in Vietnam

 

13 thoughts on “The Forgotten Temples of Mỹ Sơn”

  1. 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 😐

  2. 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 ?

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

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