Duy Xuyên District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam
Photo by John Newton
My SonRoughly an hour inland from both Hoi An and Da Nang, up in the foothills that overlook the sea, My Son has the impressive distinction of possibly being the longest inhabited archaeological site in Southeast Asia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is older than Bagan in Burma, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Borobudur in Indonesia.
Yet if you visit My Son, you might think that it pales in comparison to those other ruins. A large part of this is due to U.S. carpet bombing in the region which destroyed many of the temples that once stood here. (U.S. intelligence indicated the area was being used as a base by Vietcong. Whether it was or not is still a source of contention.) Several craters from bombs remain as reminders of that period in Vietnam's history, but alongside them are the temples from the 4th to 13th centuries that are My Son's main claim to fame. They were constructed by the Champa people who practiced Hinduism, and most of the ones at My Son were dedicated to Shiva. Typically the layout of the temples consisted of a meditation hall adjacent to a separate shrine, and this arrangement is repeated throughout the site.
My Son is a very popular day trip, and this may determine the timing of your visit—mornings are generally cooler but with bigger crowds. In the afternoon, there are fewer people, but on hot days the temperature can become unbearable. Regardless of what time you visit, bring plenty of water (there are vendors at the parking lot selling water, juice, soda, and snacks, as well as souvenirs). Also, there's a trolley that runs from the parking lot up to the ruins—there's no need to be martyr and make the trek on foot, especially on warm summer days.