Misadventure on Our Way to My Son Sanctuary: A Guide on Visiting the Site Without a Tour Group

Last Updated on April 13, 2021 by Tina

When I traveled to Vietnam in June 2018, one of the must-visit on my list was the My Son Sanctuary. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. My trip to Vietnam was a spontaneous one. My brother was on his Southeast Asia backpacking trip and I was looking for a place to spend my birthday. I asked him where he would be during that time and he said he’ll be in Vietnam so I decided to join him for a few days.

We agreed to meet in Hoi An on my birthday. I took the night bus from Hanoi the day before and arrived in Hoi An at midday. We visited the My Son Sanctuary the following day before traveling to Hue.

History of My Son Sanctuary

My Son sanctuary is a cluster of the remains of Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and 13th century AD. During that period, a unique culture that owed its spiritual origins to the Hinduism of the Indian sub-continent evolved on the coast of contemporary Vietnam. The site was the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom for most of its existence. The temples were dedicated to the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. 

My Son Sanctuary
Photo by Raymond de Peralta

It was destroyed by time and wars. In the early part of the 20th century CE, the complex was discovered by French archaeologists. Conservation of the My Son monuments began but during World War II, the First Indo-China War, and especially during the Second Indo-China War, many tower temples were damaged. Mistakenly thinking that the enemies would not touch a holy site, the Viet Cong used it as a hiding place. However, the Americans bombed this area. The majority of the central complex survived the bombs and parts of the ruins have now been rebuilt.

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Where is My Son Sanctuary Located?

My Son Sanctuary is located in a small valley in Duy Tan Commune, Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam. It is about 70 km southwest of Danang and 45 km from Hoi An Ancient Town Cultural Heritage. The temples are surrounded by a ring of mountains. They are in a valley roughly two kilometers wide.

My Son temple
Photo by Raymond de Peralta

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The Cause of Our Misadventure

We visited My Son Sanctuary from Hoi An. My brother and I arranged our schedule in such a way that we will be able to get back to the hotel before lunchtime to check out. My brother tried to look for cheaper ways of going to My Son without joining a tour group. But it turns out there isn’t really any reliable public transport from Hoi An and booking a tour is the cheapest way to go.

We decided to book a Sunrise Tour with the hotel we were staying at. The tour costs VND 200 000 (~10 USD). It is inclusive of an English-speaking guide, hotel pick-up, and breakfast. We will be picked up from the hotel at 5 in the morning and will be back at 9 in the morning. We were happy coz we will still have a little time to roam around the Old Town before checking out. Everything would have turned out as planned except when we got back to our hotel room after having dinner and exploring Hoi An Old Town, we found this note in our door:

Stormy, seriously? It was already late to find another booking office to book a tour, and we didn’t want to skip visiting this site so my brother searched for directions on how to get there by public transport. It involves taking a bus bound for Phuda and a motorcycle/taxi ride from the intersection going to My Son.

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Our Little Misadventure on Our Way to My Son Sanctuary

The following day, we left the hotel before 6 in the morning. We rode on a taxi to the T-junction (Ngã ba Vĩnh Điện)(refer to the map below). There we waited for route number 6 bus (the bus from Da Nang bound for Phuda).

The area encircled with red is where we asked the taxi driver to drop us off

It didn’t take long for the bus to arrive. The bus is an ordinary minibus (not air-conditioned). Bus fare is VND 40 000 (~2 USD) and travel time is about 45 minutes. If you are taking the bus, make sure to tell the bus attendant to drop you off at the intersection to My Son, especially if you plan on sleeping on the bus (like what my brother did).

Inside the bus to Phuda

We thought that there would be motorcycle taxis waiting at the intersection, but we were wrong. There were locals who offered to take us there but they were charging VND 300 000 (~15 USD) for the round trip. We thought it’s too expensive (compared to the cost of booking a tour) so we declined. We decided to walk until we find a cheaper alternative, and even considered walking up to My Son, but the sign at the intersection says My Son is 9 kilometers away.

If we had plenty of time we would have done it. But we needed to be back to Hoi An before noon so we tried asking the people that we passed by if they know of a motorcycle taxi that could take us there. What made our search for transportation to take us to My Son more difficult was that the locals didn’t know how to speak English. We communicated with them mostly through sign language and Google translate.

Finding a Ride

Just when we have given up the thought of finding a ride, a man on a motorcycle with a sidecar stopped beside us and offered to take us there. I forgot to take a picture of his vehicle, but it looks like the ones used to transport sacks of rice from the farm. It looks old and rusty but I didn’t mind riding in there anymore as long as he can take us to My Son.

Just like the others, he doesn’t speak English too. His offer was like the others, VND 300 000 (~15 USD). We tried to haggle with him using Google translate and we agreed at VND 200 000 (~10 USD) round trip. After we agreed on the rate, he called someone over the phone. A few minutes later, a young Vietnamese guy arrived on a motorcycle. He was the one who took us to My Son.

Touring the My Son Sanctuary

We arrived at My Son at past 8 in the morning. There was only one vehicle parked and they have just arrived. This means the place is not crowded with other tourists. After paying the entrance fee, we started our tour. On the way to the station for the electric shuttle car, we passed by the My Son Museum. When we saw the group of tourists who arrived there before us heading towards the museum, we decided to go directly to the ruins so we could enjoy the place to ourselves.

The visitors who arrived there before us

From the entrance, you need to walk a few hundred meters to the station of electric shuttle cars which you can ride free to the ruins. On your way to the station, you will pass by the museum and a bridge.

My brother at the bridge on the way to the station of the electric shuttle car

The distance from the station of the electric shuttle car to the ruins is around 2 kilometers. It’s an easy walk but if you’re pressed with time or if it’s very hot, it’s better to take the shuttle.

My Son Sanctuary Map
My Son Sanctuary Map

The ruins are explored by foot. At the drop-off point of the shuttle, there is a map of the My Son site. The map gave us the impression that the place is larger than it actually is. We thought we had to walk a few kilometers before reaching the ruins but about five minutes into our walk we already saw a site that is under restoration.

The pathway that leads to the ruins.

The Ruins

There are three major areas that you can see in My Son: the first is a relatively complete temple complex with about a dozen buildings; the second is the site where the bombs destroyed a temple complex; the third is where restoration had either taken place or is still taking place.

Example of a site where bombs destroyed a temple complex
Temple in My Son destryed by bomb
Photo by Raymond de Peralta
Temple in My Son destryed by bomb
Photo by Raymond de Peralta
Restoration in progress

Photo by Raymond de Peralta
The site with relatively complete temple complex with about a dozen buildings

More photos of My Son Sanctuary photographed by my brother Raymond:

Below are pictures of some of the things you’ll see inside the temples. Photos from my brother.

What started out to be a misfortune turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We may have spent more going to My Son by public transport, and even had a hard time finding a ride, but when we got there we were able to enjoy the place by ourselves. We were able to explore the whole place, including the museum in less than 2 hours. By the time we finished exploring the sites, tour groups started to arrive. Oh, and by the way, it was sunny when we explored the site and there were no traces that it had been stormy there the day before.

Groups of tourists started to arrive when we finished exploring the site

My Son Sanctuary Ticket Price and Schedule

Entrance ticket to My Son costs 150,000 VND (~7.5 USD) for foreigners and 100,000 VND (~5 USD) for Vietnamese. The fee includes entrance and service fees.

It is open from Monday to Sunday (including holidays, New Year, etc.) from 6:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon.


How To Get There

There are many options when going to My Son:

  • Join a tour group. This is probably one of the cheapest options. These leave Hoi An at 5 and 8 in the morning and costs around VND 150 000 to 200 000 (~7.5 to 10 USD). Hotels in Hoi An arrange a tour and you can also book in the ticketing offices in Hoi An. You can also book online for a sunset tour, a day tour from Hoi An, or a day tour from Da Nang.
  • Car hire with driver. Car hire costs around VND 700 000 to 800 000 (~35 to 40 USD) from Hoi An. You can book online here.
  • Hire a motorbike and drive yourself. Motorbike hire costs around VND 80 000 to 100 000 (~4 to 5 USD) for the day.
  • By public transport. Ride a taxi from your hotel to the T-junction (Ngã ba Vĩnh Điện)(refer to the map above). Taxi fare is around VND 120 000 (~6 USD) At the intersection ride route number 6 bus (the bus from Da Nang bound for Phuda). Tell the bus attendant to drop you off at the highway intersection to My Son. Bus fare is VND 40 000 (~2 USD). From there, hire a motorcycle taxi to My Son. Fare for a round trip for 2 persons ranges from VND 200 000 to 300 000 (~10 to 15 USD).

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Tips When Visiting

  • If you want to avoid too many tourists when you explore this place, don’t join a group tour and be in My Son by 8 in the morning. It will be more expensive going there on your own but there won’t be any tourists by that time because the sunrise tour groups leave My Son before 8 am and the 2nd tour leaves Hoi An at that time so you have about an hour to explore the place all by yourselves.
  • If you are not an early riser, visit the place in the afternoon. The place is much busier with tours in the morning.
  • You’ll be walking a lot so it is recommended to wear comfortable footwear when exploring the place.
  • Bring water and snacks if you get hungry easily. There are plenty of benches to sit on in case you get tired from all the walking. There is also a canteen inside the sanctuary.

I hope you enjoyed reading our misadventure story and I hope this guide has been helpful to you in planning for your visit to My Son Sanctuary.  Have any misadventure stories that you would like to share? Please feel free to share them below.

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