Mishon Temple Complex (My Son Sanctuary)
West of Hoi An and Da Nang in a lush valley surrounded by jungle mountains is the ancient city of My Son Sanctuary. It is the remnants of the great Champa civilization that existed in Central Vietnam.
The sanctuary of My Son is a unique place, the center of religious culture of the Champa empire. Its construction began as early as the 4th century, eight hundred years before the construction of the famous Angkor Wat complex. This sanctuary was one of the most important structures for the Champa civilization.
Since 1999 the monument is part of the world cultural heritage of UNESCO. The Mishon Sanctuary has now become a popular destination for day trips from Hoi Anh Dannag.
In this article, Da Nang Life has compiled all the information you need to visit this historic monument in the picturesque hills of Central Vietnam. We will tell you: how to get to My Son Sanctuary, what tour to choose, what to see inside, and how to prepare before your trip. This guide to My Son will be useful for tourists and those who live in Da Nang.
Michon temples hidden in the lush vegetation of Central Vietnam
History of the My Son Temple Complex
The Mishon Sanctuary consists of a series of temples with well-recognized Cham towers. The towers are seen all over central Vietnam in Nha Trang, Phuyen and Mui Ne and other places in the region. They are the remnants of the unique culture of the Cham people. Who lived along the entire central coast of Vietnam from the 4th to the 13th century AD.
Temples were continuously built and constructed for ten centuries. Mishon was the political and religious capital of the Champa kingdom at that time. Based on Indian Hinduism, the Cham religion absorbed the influences of the region and changed constantly over the centuries. Many temples were built to worship Hindu deities such as Krishna and Vishnu. However, the main deity of the Champa culture was the cult of Shiva.
His images dominate the reliefs and sculptures found. There was also a strong influence of the Buddhist culture, in museums and galleries around the world are preserved sculptures of Buddha and bodhisattvas made by the Cham masters. You can learn more about Cham culture and artistic heritage at the Cham Sculpture Museum. It is located in the center of Da Nang near the Dragon Bridge.
A stone bas-relief of the Champa civilization in one of the temples at Mishon
The temples of the Mishon sanctuary were built with a special firebrick, which is a distinctive feature of Champa architecture. The production of building materials at that time is a much more complex and costly undertaking than the modern process of making bricks and mortar.
The Mishon temple complex was mainly used as a place of worship of the gods and also as a burial place for kings and brahmins, religious figures of Hindu culture. The site was used directly for ritual activities until the early 19th century, but the decline of the Cham ethnic group led to the oblivion of the complex, after which the temples were consumed by the jungle.
Red refractory brick temples
Discovery of the Mishon Sanctuary in 1885
The temple complex of Michonne was rediscovered in 1885 when French archaeologists began to explore the region. The first excavations and inventories of the buildings were carried out by Henri Parmantier and his colleagues. For 12 months in 1903-1904, they cleared a site in the jungle and conducted scientific research.
The first inventory included 72 structures, which were divided into 13 groups. These groups classified the temples by estimated date of construction and decorative elements with unique elements.
Unfortunately, the monument was badly damaged during the Second Indochina War. Vietnamese guerrillas used the ruins of Mishon as a guerrilla base. U.S. troops bombed the jungle and Viet Cong bases throughout the war. The Mishon sanctuary did not escape its sad fate. After the war, a new census and inspection of the ruins was conducted. The conclusions were disappointing – the number of monuments was reduced to 17.
Diagram of the Mishon complex (Vietnam)
Repair and reconstruction of the ruins of Mishon
The sanctuary and its monuments are now perceived as the most important structures of the Champa civilization. They reflect the cultural exchange that took place at a time when society was adapting to outside cultural influences, namely Indian Hinduism and Buddhism. The main reason the Mishon Sanctuary was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1999 is the unique synthesis of Indian and Indochinese subcontinent architecture.
In front of each group of temples is a plaque explaining the significance of the structures. Pay close attention to the large depressions in the ground – these are craters left by multi-ton bombs dropped during the war by the Americans. Any war is ruthless to people and ancient shrines. Since 2000 the complex has had a program of restoration. Specialists, using schemes of the late nineteenth century, restore the temples and decorative elements.
The reconstruction of My Son temples continues to this day.
A guide to the My Son ruins
My Son Sanctuary is located on 142 hectares of land with Cat’s Tooth Mountain as a backdrop. A guided trail leads you along groups of temples, from the oldest, to the newest. The groups of structures are qualified by time of construction and religious component. The temples are designated by the letters A through H.
Groups B-C-D constitute the largest cluster and are the best preserved buildings. The details and decorations in the other clusters are much smaller compared to groups B-C-D. They are deteriorating and faded due to the venerable age of the buildings. Do not leave the designated paths. Although the war ended 45 years ago, demining of the jungle areas continues. And even the surrounding compound has not been completely cleared of unexploded ordnance.
Checking tickets at the entrance to the Michonne complex
Prices and opening hours
- Ticket price: VND150,000 (USD 6.50)
- Opening Hours: 6:30 am to 5:30 pm
Museum in the ruins of Mishon
Before going to the temples, we recommend you visit the small museum on the grounds. It is located 100 meters behind the ticket booth on the right side of the road. There is a permanent and thematic exhibition here. In the museum you will learn historical, archaeological and religious information about the temple complex and the Champa civilization. Admission to the museum is included in the ticket price. Its visit will help you better understand what you will see later in the complex.
Opposite the museum is the bridge and the road to the temple complex. You can reach the trail on foot or take one of the free electric buses that leave every 15 to 30 minutes. The place where you get off the bus is the beginning of the sightseeing path that leads you through the entire complex. There are also several cafes where you can buy drinks and light snacks. A large bottle of water costs VND 20,000.
Free electric buses will take you from the parking lot to the ruins
How to dress during your visit
The official rules of the complex call for “civilized tourism” and advise visitors to remember that this is a religious site. We recommend dressing in lightweight but covered clothing. This would be appropriate and protect you from the scorching sun, as the valley is usually hot. Bring a hat or umbrella and a supply of water.
Cultural & Historical Show at the Complex
A dance show in which girls and boys of the Cham people show traditional dances and theatrical sketches from the life of their ancient people takes place in one of the temples on the territory. You can find out about the timing of the show from the park staff and information boards on the grounds, as the performance times vary.
Girls in traditional Cham costumes
How to get from Hoi An and Da Nang to Michon Complex
There are several ways to get to My Son Sanctuary.
To get to the ruins as cheaply as possible, it is best to rent a scooter in Hoi An or Da Nang. The trip from Da Nang will take 1 – 1.5 hours. Rental prices vary depending on where you rent the vehicle. Rental prices start from VND100,000 per stu. If you are ready to go on your own: fill up the bike, create a route on Google Maps and you are ready to go.
Upon arrival, it is better to leave your bike in the parking lot, so you can be sure that nothing is missing from the trunk or the bike is not stolen. Parking is on the far side of the parking lot. It is covered by a tent, so the bike will not get hot when you are not using it and there is constant security. Parking bike costs 5000 VND. This is a small price to pay for the safety of your bike.
By Car or Taxi
A daily rental car in Da Nang costs VND 700,000 – 1,500,000, depending on the type of car. Renting a car with a driver will cost you from VND1,000,000. If you do not have an international driver’s license and experience driving a car in Vietnam, we do not recommend renting a car without a driver. It can turn out badly, as the traffic in the country is chaotic and quite aggressive, local rental companies don’t provide insurance, and in case of an accident the foreigner will be guilty in any case.
A cab or Grab “on the meter” from the hotel near Mikhe Beach will cost VND 450,000 – 500,000 one way. Be sure to arrange for the cab driver to wait a few hours while you explore the area. Although there are always other cab drivers on duty at the parking lot, it’s better to arrange for a specific driver to take you for a fixed amount rather than “on the meter”. It may be 10 to 20% cheaper than the official fare. You can also book an individual transfer in the service Klook and many others, it is more profitable than a cab ride.
Excursions to My Son
To explore My Son Sanctuary, book a group or individual tour. The choice of tour companies and private guides in Da Nang allows you to find an option for any budget and taste.
A typical tour includes:
There are many local companies throughout the city that organize group programs from Hoi An and Da Nang. This is a great opportunity to get the “whole package”. They will pick you up from your hotel, offer you water during the trip, and take you back to your hotel after the tour. But in most cases, the tour will be led by an English-speaking guide.
Specifically at My Son Sanctuary tours usually leave twice a day 7:30 or 1:30 pm. Such a tour lasts approximately four hours. There are combination programs that include other attractions in addition to My Son Sanctuary. Such a tour can last all day.
The average cost of a group tour is VND500,000 – 700,000 per person, with a group size of 8 – 12 people. Sometimes the promised group size is twice that. If you do not want to travel in large groups, choose another option.
Photographer by the Temple
If you’re looking for something more private, we recommend choosing an individual tour at My Son Sanctuary. This is convenient because you choose the time of your choice, the trip takes place in an air-conditioned car, the driver will wait in the parking lot while you and your tour guide take your time exploring the ruins of My Son. It is worth the extra money. The average cost of an individual tour is 1,500,000 – 2,000,000 VND for 2 people.
Lately, early morning excursions have become popular. This allows you to explore the complex during the low heat of the day and enjoy the sunrise. Choosing such a tour to My Son Sanctuary will allow you to see the ruins in the soft dawn light and take stunning shots. If you decide to book a car or cab to the complex to watch the sunrise, make sure you arrange a time with the driver. In some cases, due to miscommunication, tourists are late for the sunrise and the whole experience is blurred.
Dance show with a reconstruction of the temple rituals of the Champa culture
Boat excursion from Hoi An
Another interesting tour option is to travel to the ruins by car and return to Hoi An by boat. After the tour of Michonne, you head back to the city and arrive at the pier on the Tubon River. The average cost of a group tour is between VND500,000 – 700,000 per person for a group size of 8 – 12 people.
Bike tour from Hoi Ng.
If you want to combine a sightseeing trip along with a physical workout, a bike tour to My Son temples is a good option. You will ride on country roads through villages and farms, which can not be seen by regular tourists. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to get a glimpse of the real life of the locals.
For those who do not want to cycle the 90 kilometers there and back, there is a compromise. You can combine a bike tour to Michonne and a car ride back. Although these tours are more expensive than just renting a bike, there are certain advantages.
For example, the guides know the best routes, which are full of scenic spots. In addition, the return to the city in an air-conditioned car is a worthy reward after the trip. The cost of such a tour is 1,800,000 to 2,000,000 VND per person.
Photos against the backdrop of ancient temples
In lieu of a conclusion
The ancient temple complex of Mishon is a cultural and historical landmark in Central Vietnam. Despite the fact that it was badly damaged during the war and is smaller than its Cambodian “counterpart”, it is still called “Vietnam’s Angkor Wat”.
But the main thing you can see here is evidence of the greatness of the Champa Empire, a unique state at the crossroads of cultures – the Chinese culture, of which the Viets were part, and the Indian culture, of which the Khmer were part.
We hope this article helps you get more out of your trip and that your tour of My Son Sanctuary’s quiet trails will be full of new knowledge and impressions.
Mishon Temple Complex
For many centuries, Michon was considered the capital of Champa, then the entire culture of the Cham people was influenced by Hinduism, which is reflected in the architecture of the Michon temple complex dedicated to Shiva.
The complex was built around the fourth century. At the end of the 20th century, it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Once upon a time, back at the time of its founding, this place was the capital of Champa. The inhabitants of this great empire lived not only on the territory of the present ruins, but also far beyond their borders. The Chamas came here from Java and Indonesia, and were the first people to bring Hinduism to Vietnam. A huge temple complex was built by the Chamas in honor of Shiva.
The name “Mishon” literally translates as “beautiful mountain”. Everyone who has ever visited the temple was convinced of the relevance and complete appropriateness of such a name. The ruins are surrounded by jungle and high mountain ranges. Even from cracks in the walls of the once majestic structure today grow numerous, sometimes surprising plants.
Naturally, during construction, there were no cracks or chips. To increase the strength of the chamas, they used unique technology, which nowadays few people can take advantage of. The walls of the temple were built of bricks, created at low temperatures, so the structure was soft. It was stacked tightly on top of each other, creating thick, strong walls. After the entire structure was erected, it was burned with fire for some time so that the material would stick together and become a single monolith. Surprisingly, no bonding materials were ever used in the construction.
The locals believed that Shiva knew of their wishes, which he always granted. As a rule, the chamas asked for an increase in fertility because they thought that their power lay in quantity. This was due to the fact that the people came from far away and were unsure of their protection, which was exactly what more people were needed for.
Protecting their territory was always the overriding goal of the Cham people. Many enemies gathered around the empire, among them even the Chinese. In the 11th century, the Vietnamese did conquer Cham territory, pushing them far to the south. However, the temple of Mishon was under their protection for several more centuries.
For many years, Mishon was hidden in the jungle from prying eyes, so very few people knew of its existence. The situation changed in 1889 when the French found the temple complex. By that time it was almost a ruin. However, French researchers immediately realized that they are dealing with the old holy place and soon closely involved in the restoration of the surviving buildings.
In 1969, the Vietnam War began, which nullified the restorers’ efforts. The bombers were just a week away from razing the sanctuary. However, some of the buildings managed to survive, and have survived to the present day.
The architecture of Michonne
The Mishon complex consists of three zones suitable for tourist purposes. The first zone is represented by the fully preserved main temple, which consists of about ten small structures. The structures represent the stages of development of the empire, the worship of Shiva. This is by far the most impressive and interesting thing that remains of the temple.
The second zone is the hardest hit by the bombs, so there is not much to see there yet. In fact, scientists have not even begun to explore the place.
Finally, the third zone. This place is still under restoration. But already now you can see the differences in color, texture and age of the bricks. Compared to the first zone, this part is a modern temple buildings, made in the same way as at the time of the erection of the chambers.
The history of mankind is such that simultaneously with the discovery of new historical monuments, there is the destruction of similar ones. Mishon was not spared such a fate.
The temple is located in Vietnam, not far from another representative of the world heritage – the city of Hoi An. You can get here from the nearest town of Da Nang. Entrance to the area will cost about $ 7 dollars.