Reporting from Ho Chi Minh CIty
19.07.2012 - 19.07.2012
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Primarily our trip to Vietnam was for a beach holiday, but as I already said we thought we should visit the main cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well, and while we were at it thought we should see something near HoiAn that was historical and cultural. So we arranged for a trip to My Son Holyland- a religious centre from the 4th to 13th centuries before lapsing into ruins. It was discovered in the 1890s by French archeologists, and there were about 70 temples in the valley. Unfortunately during the Vietnam War the most impressive remains were destroyed completely by bombing.
We were up early for a big breakfast and to meet our driver at 7.30, to beat some of the heat of the day. The drive from our resort was a bit over an hour, and we were dropped off at the bottom of a trail to head up to the ruins.
Then when we got to the top, the first thing we saw was a huge empty structure with chairs, a few electric fans and a stage. After a quick refreshing drink of water, the kids took to the stage and Didi in particular took to posing his arms similar to photos on the walls of traditional dancers. We realised there would be a show on in 15 mins and decided to stay exactly where we were in the front row of the seats. Didi and Jie Jie continued to dance around on the stage and then suddenly disappeared behind the curtain... and befriended one of the dancers in the show. When the show started she even waved secretly to them! There were four acts, which were apparently traditional from the original inhabitants of the My Son area.
After the show we walked over to the first group of ruins, the groups of ruins here are imaginatively labelled with just a letter A-K. The first group, and the ones with the 'best' ruins are the BCD Group. The ruins in this area were temples and towers in this Holy City, with the oldest part being the main sanctuary built in the 4th Century. Largely the temples were made of brick, but also with some large stones for supporting structures, it all looks quite romantic as now many of the ruins are covered in vegetation.
In this section as well there are two decent sized halls, which have withstood the ravages of time and now are galleries housing some of the best preserved pieces of Cham sculpture from the region. The Cham Empire was in place in Central Vietnam from the 2nd Century until its downfall in 1832, and most of what remains from the ancient kingdom is the art and architecture, which was most impressive between the 8th and 10th Centuries.
It was very hot while we were here, and there was little respite from the sun, and the kids found it quite tiring and heavy going. Mike and I probably could have stayed there for a bit longer, but the kids were exhausted, and even after a rest stop, and meanders around the ruins, I think they felt that once they had been inside one of the ruins, the rest were all the same. But we kept on and visited most of the groups, but kept moving, and alternately piggy backed the kids. But it was definitely a relief when we gave up our dreams of being Indiana Jones or Lara Croft and returned to the comfort of the air conditioned car and headed back to our resort.
The only thing that scared us was the warning in the guide book to stick to the paths as the area had been mined during the Vietnam War! The My Son ruins are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it was a stunning adventure for us, and made us all the more keen to visit somewhere like Angkor Wat in the future. There is a lot of restoration and rebuilding work being undertaken at the moment, and the preservation of this historic site is important for future visitors.