Time traveling to the Kingdom of Champa
After a week full of lectures and reading, it always helps to go somewhere to relax and then come back fresh-minded for the next week. Hoi An itself is a city so generous in its offerings of what to do. This however should not hold us off from discovering the other towns nearby. A two-hour motorbike ride might land you in a totally different experience. In this blog post I would like to introduce you to a destination that is very suitable for a day trip from Hoi An: My Son sanctuary.
My Son is about 40 km West of Hoi An. To get there, you can use the bus, motorbike, or taxi. By any means, you should reach the place in about an hour and a half. The road is smooth and well maintained, plus the ride would treat you to some nice view of Vietnamese countryside along the way: mountains, rivers, paddy fields… The sanctuary is situated in a forest area with lots of trees and small hills. The still and fresh atmosphere can be quite sensational for someone coming from the city.
A ticket into the sanctuary costs about 150.000 dong. The fee includes transport by electric car, as well as entrance to the museums and theatre within the site. I would recommend spending at least 2 hours for the visit.
First thing you will see entering the sanctuary is the museum. One of its wings features a permanent exhibition about the sanctuary and its cultural significance. The other wing hosts a thematic exhibition whose content gets changed every now and then. Some twenty minutes in the museum is important because it gives you an idea about what you are about to explore and, more practically, how to navigate the site.
So what is so special about My Son?
Did you know that Hoi An, and the area surrounding it, was not always part of the present-day Vietnam? Historical proofs tell us that from the 4th to 13th century there used to be a Kingdom named Champa, which spanned the whole central Vietnam. It owed its cultural and spiritual origins to the Hinduism of India. At its height, the kingdom was a naval power, involving in much of the trading of spices and silk in the area. Due to many reasons, it suffered a decline in the 13th century.
My Son is the spiritual center of that Kingdom, where religious practices were carried out and the Monarchs were buried. What remains today of such an important site are partially ruined buildings, towers and scattered relics. However, considering the many centuries that have passed since their construction, these artefacts can be said to have stood the test of time. In fact, the Cham people’s building technique still holds scientists in awe as until now they cannot find out how the bricks were glued together.
The sanctuary consists of several clusters of relics, scattered in an area of about 1.5 square kilometer. Expectably, it takes a lot of walking to see all of them. However, it’s a nice walk since where you do not see the remnants of the sanctuary, you will see trees, countless of them.
On your way out, do remember to drop by the theatre to rest your feet and enjoy the many artistic performances on offer. It is a good way to be introduced to Cham culture and get to see how different it is from the culture of the Kinh people, the ethnic majority who form much of what is normally known as “Vietnamese culture”.