The ruins and mystery of My Son
When we decided to go to Mỹ Sơn (pronounced as [mǐˀ səːn]) at the outskirt of Hoi An, Vietnam, I was doing it just for the sake of completeness of our visit. I’ve been to other more grande ruins such as Borobudur, Ayutthaya, and Angkor Wat. The scale of My Son area is, compared to these all, minute; you can finish the whole complex within 2 hours.
From a total of 71 remnants of temples, towers, and various statues, only around 20 structures left in the complex, clustered in several groups. Many artifacts are now stored in a museum in Da Nang. It is, at least for me, not clear which are the towers and which are the temples. Probably because I was busy taking pictures and not listening well to our tour guide.
What is clear, though, is that the complex was built in a nice valley by a river side, in the middle of a forest. And from the few brick buildings and stone statues it was also clear that the Champa people did a fine carving.
Mỹ Sơn was built between the 4th and 14th century by the Kings of Champa which occupied parts of Central Vietnam for over 1000 years. As it was built to honor Shiva, many Shiva statues can be found here.
The cultural value and the proof of Hindu influence into Southeast Asia has made UNESCO recognized it as a world heritage in 1999. This, however, was done after the complex endured more damage during the Vietnam War where the Americans bombed it as it was used as one of the VietCong’s base (also see Champa: the Destruction of My Son).
What fascinated us is the fact that all the ruins were all made out of bricks. All carvings on the brick walls were done after the walls were set, on the wall; they were not inserted into voids on the walls. How the bricks hold together remain a mystery to the historians to date.
The small complex, the swarm of tourists, and the rush of the tour guides there, made the trip here less enjoyable. Many times, when you were trying to listen to your English speaking guide, someone else was explaining the same thing in Korean and yet another one in Spanish (or Portuguese) just a few meters away. If there is a next time for me to go back here, I will probably go by my own as early as possible before other tourists start to arrive.