Quang Nam province, Central Vietnam, 69km SW of Da Nang
08.04.2011 - 11.04.2011
My Son temples
The Hindu temples of My Son were constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries and originally there would have been over 70 temples: there is evidence that it was the longest inhabited archaelogical site in Indochina. However, much of it was destroyed by carpet bombing by the US during the American War and still some areas surrounding the site contain unexploded bombs. Craters are still clearly visible. The temples served as the centre for the Cham civilisation but by the early 15th century, they had lost much of their land and influence. In 1898, the temples were discovered by a group of French and in 1937, French archaeologists began work on the site. In 1999 it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As some of you know, Nick is a very keen cyclist and goes out twice in the week at 0600 in Hanoi and a much longer ride on Saturday mornings (at the later start time of 0700). As I write this retrospective blog on our trip to My Son, Nick is in the UK for a week and is managing to squeeze in two bike rides and even considering bringing his beloved carbon frame bike out here - despite the very dodgy road surfaces. So when Brian came to stay and there was a public holiday, we decided to go down to Hoi An and combine it with a trip out to the Cham temples at My Son.
I'm sure we could have cut part of the journey off by taking the two bicycles and the motorbike (mine!) on a river taxi but that might be seen as lazy! We had a great ride through paddy fields, along the rivers. I took detours if I saw something interesting and was urged to stay in one village and enjoy their celebrations. They were delighted to have a foreigner take an interest but, in my hopeless Vietnamese, I explained my husband was on his bicycle and was far ahead. As it was, I lost Brian and Nick at that point as my "obvious way" wasn't quite theirs! The roads were so quiet compared with Hanoi. Ah! Except for the forced mile or so on Highway One - reputedly the most dangerous road in Vietnam. I did take a photo of them to prove they were on it: Nick and Brian are the two tiny figures in the distance...
I was overtaken by the "support vehicle" with spare bike....
We don't like taking the obvious route on main roads if we can help it but it was a surprise to find ourselves having to cross a river on a bamboo bridge. I lost my nerve a bit and so walked Nick's bike over it whilst he wheeled my motorbike.... my vivid imagination was in overdrive and you can imagine what visions I had. As it was, I had an encounter with a lamp post when I got back into Hoi An which rattled me for a while but now I'm back on the motorbike, going round Hanoi without too much worry but a great deal of concentration!
The temples were stunning. They are much older and smaller than those near Siem Reap and just a few but the undergrowth and trees have been roughly cleared so it has an amazing atmosphere. The temples were built using red bricks but it isn't known how the bricks were fired, whether the intricate carvings were done before construction or afterwards and nor do they know if mortar was used. If you go to Hoi An and have the time, I'd recommend the trip. Once there, it's low key, quiet, few visitors and, knowing a bit about the history of the temples, fascinating.
Cycling back, we past almost Constable like scenes of rural life, going along very local roads and paths but this is Vietnam so there was corn, tobacco, red chillis and bamboo drying on the side of the road in the sun.