My Son Sanctuary: Tours, Ticket Prices, & More
Located west of Hoi An in the middle of a lush valley surrounded by jungle mountains is a cluster of Hindu temple remains, the My Son Sanctuary.
It’s a unique site within Vietnam not only for the fact that it was once at the centre of the ruling Champa groups but also for the reason that its construction development began in the 4th century—these structures were going up eight hundred years before Angkor Wat!
This sanctuary was one of the most important constructions for the Champa civilization. Therefore as of 1999, the My Son Sanctuary is part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Nowadays the sanctuary has become a popular day trip from Hoi An for those looking for a picturesque and historical outing.
In this article, Hidden will provide you with everything you need to know about visiting this historic sanctuary in the hills of Central Vietnam.
- The History of My Son Temples
- Visiting the My Son Ruins
- How to get from Hoi An to the My Son Temples
- Hidden’s thoughts
The History of My Son Temples
The My Son Sanctuary consists of a series of tower temples. These are the remains of the unique Cham culture that was present on the central coast of Vietnam during the 4th to 13th centuries CE. The temples were continuously constructed and built up over the next ten centuries. They were the political and religious capital of the Champa Kingdom for that time, with spiritual origins based in Indian Hinduism. Many of the temples were built with the purpose of worshipping the Hindu divinities such as Krishna and Vishnu. However, Shiva above all is predominately portrayed in the reliefs found.
The My Son Sanctuary temples were built by an intriguing construction process where soft firebrick, assembled by hand, was rubbed into its final position. Therefore a much more sophisticated technique than the modern process of bricks and mortar. Mainly used by the Champa as a place of worship, kings and religious leaders were interred here as well. The site was used until the early 19th century before it was forgotten and reclaimed by the jungle.
The Rediscovery of the My Son Sanctuary in 1885
My Son was rediscovered by the Western world in 1885 when the French encountered the site. First documentation, excavations, and inventory works were carried out by Henri Parmentier and his colleagues over 12-months (1903-1904). So at this point in time, My Son was comprised of 72 monuments that were classified into 13 groups. The groups categorised the temples by estimated construction date, along with unique elements that differentiate the structures in the area—therefore making it easier to record and document the temples.
Unfortunately, during the Vietnam War the Viet Cong used the ruins as a base, and consequently, the site was bombed extensively by the Americans. After that, this reduced the number of monuments to 17, now categorised into eight different groups.
The My Son Sanctuary and its monuments are perceived to be the most important constructions of the Champa civilization. For instance, they uniquely depict the cultural interchange that was taking place at the time, with an indigenous society adapting to external cultural influences, namely Indian Hinduism. The main reason why the My Son Sanctuary was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1999.
Hidden Hint: In front of every group of temples is a plaque explaining the significance of the structures. Pay close attention to any large indents in the earth here – bomb craters left from the tons of bombs dropped in the area.
Visiting the My Son Ruins
My Son Sanctuary ticket price: 150,000 VND (6.50 USD) – Business hours: 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The My Son Sanctuary is located on a 142-hectare property on the backdrop of Cat Tooth Mountain. When you enter the actual property, a well-marked path takes you all the way around the area and to the different groups. The remaining temples today are categorised and labelled A to H. Group B-C-D make up the largest cluster and are the best-preserved buildings. However, details and decorations in the other groups are much smaller in comparison and are fading due to age.
Warning: It’s important that you don’t leave the marked paths as demining is ongoing, and the surrounding area has not been completely cleared of unexploded ordnance.
The Museum at the My Son Sanctuary
Before making your way to the temples, we recommend you visit the museum. It is located 100 metres behind the ticket booth on the right side of the road. With a permanent and thematic exhibition, it provides historical, archaeological, and religious information about My Son and the Cham civilisation. The entrance to the museum is free and is a good idea to check it out because it will give you a better understanding of what you’ll be seeing.
Opposite the museum is the bridge and road to the temple complex. While it’s entirely possible to walk up to the site, we’d suggest taking one of the free electric buses that depart frequently. So you can save your energy for wandering around the area and enjoying the temples.
The drop-off location from the bus is also the start of the marked path leading you through the site. There are also a few restaurants here offering refreshments and an office where you can hire a private tour guide to accompany you.
My Son tour guide: 100,000 VND (5 USD) – Big bottle of water: 20,000 VND (1 USD)
Official regulations call for “civilised tourism” and ask visitors to remember that this is a religious site. We advise modesty and to save the beachwear and the like for the beach. Note that covering knees and shoulders is not strictly enforced. However, staying cool and protecting yourself from the sun is probably more important as the My Son Valley holds the heat of the day.
How to get from Hoi An to the My Son Temples
Tours to the My Son Sanctuary
Below you’ll find a number of different ways to reach the My Son Sanctuary. From self-transport, public and private tours, along with cycling, there are plenty of options to choose from.
There are plenty of tour operators around town to book a public tour to My Son with. All of which offer relatively the same package deal. It’s possible to book online for some tours. However, we recommend you book in person to get a really good price. The public tours offer two times to choose from to depart from your hotel and are all usually around 7:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. The tour lasts approximately four hours in total.
Choosing to do a private tour to the My Son Sanctuary is a great option if you’re looking for a more comfortable outing. You’ll be able to choose a time of your choice to be picked up from your hotel, and you’ll have the added comfort of being driven in an air-conditioned car. The driver waits in the parking lot while you take your time exploring the My Son ruins. It is a convenient and pleasant day if you’re willing to spend the extra money.
Choosing a sunrise tour to the My Son Sanctuary holds the benefit of enjoying the ruins with a soft and dreamy light compared to the harsh rays of daytime. Additionally, the temperature will be more bearable. It’s due to these reasons that the sunrise tours are gaining popularity among visitors. Therefore this, in turn, has led to an increase in tourists in the early hours of the morning amongst the temples.
Hidden Hint: If you choose to take a private car or taxi to My Son for sunrise make sure you state this clearly to your driver, along with what time you want to be there. In some unfortunate cases due to misunderstandings, the sun has already risen upon arrival.
Another interesting tour option is to travel to the ruins by car and to return to Hoi An by boat. After enjoying My Son you go to a dock on the Thu Bon River and watch the world go by cruising back downstream towards town.
Type: Private tour – Cost: 2 pax – 780,000 VND (39 USD) – Inclusions: Transportation, entrance tickets, bottle of water
Type: Sunrise Public tour – Cost per person: 160,000 VND (8 USD) – Inclusions: Transportation (Bus-Bus), English speaking tour guide, bottle of water, light breakfast – Exclusion: Entrance fee
Type: Public Boat Tour – Cost per person: 200,000 VND (10 USD) – Inclusions: Transportation (Bus-Boat), English speaking tour guide, bottle of water, light breakfast – Exclusion: Entrance fee
Type: Sunrise Private tour – Cost per person: from 850,000 VND (36 USD) – Inclusions: Transportation, entrance fee, English speaking tour guide, bottle of water
Type: Public Boat Tour – Cost per person: 700,000 VND (35 USD) – Inclusions: Transportation (Bus-Boat), entrance fee, English speaking tour guide, a bottle of water, light lunch on the boat
Cycling Tour from Hoi An to My Son
If you’re looking for a full-day trip along with a workout, an interesting way to reach the My Son temples is with a guided bike tour. You’ll travel along back roads through rural villages and farms that are unpopulated by tourists to reach the temples. However, it’s a long day but well worth it to gain insight into the locals’ life in the countryside.
For those who do not want to cycle the 90-kilometre round trip, a compromise is available. It combines a bicycle tour to My Son with vehicle transportation back from the site. Even though these tours are more expensive than simply renting a bike, there are definite advantages. For instance, the guides know the best off-road paths winding through the remote Vietnamese countryside. In addition, returning to town in an air-conditioned car makes what can be a long hot day, all the more manageable.
Type: Private or public tour – Cost per person: 1,660,000 VND (72 USD) – Inclusions: My Son entrance fee. Biking gear (bike and helmet), vehicle transportation from My Son back to Hoi An, English speaking tour guide, water, fruit snack
Renting a scooter in Hoi An and driving yourself to My Son is your best bet to reach the ruins. Scooters or motorbikes are relatively cheap to rent for a day and prices vary depending on where you rent them. All sorts of shops advertise scooter rentals on signs. Prices start at 80,000 VND (4 USD) per day. Prices at rental companies start 160,000 VND (8 USD) per day.
Google Maps will pretty much give you two routes to get there. We suggest taking the route listed below for the purpose that it will bring you through a much more local setting. Also, it is only five minutes longer than the alternative route first suggested by Google. Official parking is available on the far side of the car park. It is a shaded area and has a permanent guard. Parking a motorbike costs 5,000 VND (0.20c USD).
Firstly start by making your way to the QL1A Highway, located roughly 7-kilometres west of Hoi An. Once you reach the QL1A, head south around 3.5-kilometres to Hung Vuong, then turn right and go west. The road changes names and there are a few bends, but you’ll stay on this road for 19-kilometres. Finally, you’ll turn left and head south for 6.5-kilometres. After that, you’ll reach the entrance for My Son.
So you now have all the information and options available for your visit to the My Son Sanctuary. Above all, choose the option that is the most manageable for you, bearing in mind that there is a lot of walking around on this trip, so you don’t want to exhaust yourself just getting there. Remember that because the valley holds the heat of the day, so arriving earlier is preferable. Because this way you can walk around more freely and explore the ruins comfortably without struggling in the heat.
In conclusion, the ancient sanctuary of My Son is a cultural and historical highlight in the Vietnamese countryside–a rewarding day excursion while visiting Hoi An.