My Son Holyland

My Son HolylandMy Son was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

My Son was built by the Champas who ruled Central Vietnam from c200AD to c1700AD until finally annexed by the Vietnamese in the 19th Century.

Influenced by Hinduism they built temple complexes in Central Vietnam. The best known and preserved temples still in daily use by Buddhists is the Po Nagar Cham Towers in Nha Trang. By 10th Century some Cham people became Muslims (there are Cham Muslim communities in Cambodia).

The Champa King lived in the political capital of Tra Kieu (the commercial capital was the port of Hoi An) – so the temples of My Son were the most important temples of the Champa Kingdom between the 4th century and the 13th century. Bricks were used to build the temples — without the aid of mortar — and sculptures of gods, priests, animals, and scenes of mythical battles and devotion adorned the walls. These temples are places of worship of Lord Vishnu.

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.

After the fall of the Champa the jungle began to reclaim the temples. The temples had already fallen into disrepair by the 1960’s when the Viet Cong used My Son as a base – the Vietnamese are not Cham and having defeated them have little respect or interest in their culture & heritage. Finally an Act of Congress was passed prohibiting US bombing of My Son – which in effect allowed the Vietnamese to use My Son as a base.

Today there is no benefit for the local communities in My Son from tourism to this UNESCO site, although local community benefit is required under UNESCO WHS status. In general SE Asia UNESCO WHS sites are very poorly managed compared to sites in developed countries. This points to a deeper problem within both the United Nations and host countries. A Western foreign tourist to SE Asia should expect all SE Asian UNESCO WHS site status to be no more than a sales & marketing pitch for mass tourism – i.e. more destruction than preservation ! For example, at My Son there are no Hindu Cham monk or priest, no respect for the Hindu religion or temples, no connection of the temple to local communities, no benefits to local communities from tourism, artifacts are being stolen, buffer zone nature being destroyed, etc.

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 could not even be compared to any 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 especially war. As such, they’re not likely to wow anyone, and the jungle scenery may be seen much closer than in My Son. For those who have an interest in Vietnamese history that doesn’t involve America or France, this site provides little to no information besides the ruins themselves, so it is unlikely you’d get fascinated there unless you already there.

The best time of the day is to visit My Son is early in the morning or late afternoon when there are few tourists.

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