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Travel Guide > Asia > Vietnam > My Son

My Son Travel Guide

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My Son is a set of ruins from the ancient Cham Empire in the central coast of Vietnam. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My Son was built by the Champa kingdom which ruled south and central Vietnam from c200AD to c1700AD. Influenced by Hinduism, they built temple complexes up and down the area to honor their gods and to bury their kings. My Son, developed between the 4th century and the 13th century, is one of the better-preserved of these sites. Bricks were used to build the temples — without the aid of mortar — and sculptures of gods, priests, animals, and scenes of battle and devotion adorned the walls.

After the fall of the Champa, jungle began to reclaim the site. The temples had already fallen into disrepair by the 1960's, when the Viet Cong used My Son as a base. Unfortunately, that attracted American bombing, which destroyed or damaged many of the surviving temples. Evidence of the conflict can still be seen around the site. The area has, however, been cleared of leftover explosives. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

There are travel guides that compare My Son with Angkor Wat, Bagan and Borobudur. Historically, they have a point: in their time, these complexes were leading spiritual centers, and they have all fallen into a state of atmospheric ruin. However, the ruins at My Son are not as impressive as either of the aforementioned sites, for various reasons: the smaller scale of the original site, for example, the comparatively poor upkeep, and severe damage to the buildings from time and war. As such, they're not likely to wow anyone who's been to Angkor recently, but even so, the gorgeous jungle scenery may be worth the trip, and anyone who has an interest in Vietnamese history that doesn't involve America or France will be fascinated.

The energy of the Champa Kingdom lives in the feelings felt when visiting My Son. The layout of the Champa Kingdom with the temples (My Son), political capital (Tra Kieu) and commercial centre (Hoi An) and the offshore Cham Islands is based on the principles of feng shui.

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