I joined the Sunrise Tour to My Son – this should not be mistaken as meaning I would see My Son at sunrise.
It just meant I was being picked up before sunrise to travel there. This was confirmed by the lightening sky ans the street lamps being switched off as I waited for the bus.
Life in Vietnam starts early.
Even before 5am, the moped riders were beeping and zipping up and down the streets. A bakery was serving coffee to a bus driver sitting beside his bus.
This was not my bus.
Nor were the next two.
The bus arrived and we set off for the My Son Sanctuary around twenty miles from Hoi An. Although still quite dark, market traders by the river were already doing business.
It was full daylight when the bus pulled into the Sanctuary. Jumping onto golf carts with the tour guide, our group was taken up to the first of the temples.
A German girl noted that we were an all female group, commenting: “Can’t the boys get up early?”
Besides the staff who had already arrived to open up the restaurant and maintain the grounds, we were the only people with the complex.
The sun hadn’t yet burned off the morning mist but the heat and humidity was already quite high.
My Son is is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples – my first encounter with Hinduism on this trip.
The temple complexes were constructed between the fourth and the 14th century by the kings of Champa and are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva.
It was the foremost Hindu centre for the Champa people, a very important site that was only visited by the king and the monks.
After the 14th century, the complex fell into disuse and was largely forgotten.
It was rediscovered in 1898 by the Frenchman M. C. Paris. A year later, members of the scholarly society called École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) began to study the inscriptions, architecture, and art of My Son. In 1904, they published their initial findings.
Restoration work began in 1937.
Today, several of the temples are being restored as a result of partnerships with UNESCO, India and Italy. The University of Milan, in particular, has been heavily involved in the restoration of some of the buildings.
Crater holes are frequent.
During the Vietnam (American, as the Vietnamese refer to it) War, the Viet Cong created a base or sheltered (dependent on who is telling the story) in one of the temples.
The Sanctuary was targeted for aerial bombing and at least one of the temples was destroyed completely. Others were damaged and unexploded bombs are still lurking.
Milan University has uncovered the plans to restore one of the buildings but renovation will be too expensive. The other is thought to be a lost cause.
I’ve visited the World War One Battlefields and it is a sombre experience. I’ve visited memorials and museums documenting the horrors of living and dying under totalitarianism.
I don’t profess to have any answers but… seeing the destruction in Vietnam and the health impacts still affecting people today, I can’t help but wonder about the continued enthusiasm for war.