Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Mỹ Sơn Trek and Hội An

My final post about this trip to Indochina starts with another guided trek in the jungle mountains around the ancient Hindu ruins at Mỹ Sơn and ends with a phenomenal, large-scale theatrical performance combining elements of Cirque de Soleil, Olympic Game opening ceremonies, and Super Bowl halftime shows in the old town of Hội An. Together, they provide fascinating glimpses of Vietnam‘s long history and the country’s contemporary vibrancy.

Mỹ Sơn Temple Complex

Mỹ Sơn is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Shaiva Hindu temples in central Vietnam, constructed between the 4th and the 14th century by the Kings of Champa, an Indianized kingdom of the Cham people. The Mỹ Sơn temple complex is regarded as one of the foremost Shaiva Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and is the foremost heritage site of this nature in Vietnam. It is often compared with other historical temple complexes in Southeast Asia, such as Borobudur of Java in Indonesia, Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Vat Phou of Laos, Bagan of Myanmar, and Prasat Hin Phimai of Thailand. As of 1999, Mỹ Sơn has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Mỹ Sơn is perhaps the longest-inhabited archaeological site in Mainland Southeast Asia, but a large majority of its architecture was destroyed by US bombing during a single week of the Vietnam War.

In wet and overcast conditions, my guide arrived when the tour of the temple complex was complete, and we set out to climb into the nearby hills. After such a long time away from the jungle trails, it was a blast to be hiking again! I think my enthusiasm infected my partner. Despite our language gap, we both laughed a lot at the craziness of our journey in those conditions, admired the views that came and went through the clouds, devoured the food he cooked over an open fire, dodged the super-sized insects, and found evidence of illegal rubber cultivation in this protected area.

It is always advisable to have gear that is appropriate to the conditions. My guide wore blue jeans and “soldier shoes,” which worked better for him than my boots and technical hiking pants worked for me. It took me more than an hour to pluck the tiny, barbed seed pods from my pants.

Hội An

My stay in Hội An was too short but long enough to know I want to return again soon. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, it offers numerous attractions. Old Town, the city’s historic district, is recognized as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century, its buildings and street plan reflecting a blend of indigenous and foreign influences. Prominent, for example, is its covered “Japanese Bridge,” dating to the 16th–17th century. The first two photos below were taken of posters so that I could see what this famous bridge normally looks like.

During my visit, it was undergoing a major project to strengthen its structure, so this is all I could see of it.

I always believe that port towns are best seen from the water, and Hội An is no exception. I had the choice of many boats with energetic captains, but my guy hustled the best!

A highlight of my visit to Hội An, Vietnam, and all of Southeast Asia was the completely unknown (by me and most other Western tourists whom I met) Hội An Memories Land and its evening theatrical spectacle. The amusement park was tastefully done, but the “show” absolutely blew my mind. My photos and video clip taken at the end of the show’s finale do not do justice to the huge scale of the performance. I highly recommend that you watch the official YouTube video clip for a better idea of what to expect. It should not be missed!

If you watch nothing else, please check out the official trailer:

Three months in three countries allowed me to see and do a lot in Southeast Asia. I can’t wait to return – there is so much more to experience!

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

2 thoughts on “Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Mỹ Sơn Trek and Hội An”

  1. Thanks Chris,

    What a span of impressions.
    The ruins of generations ago show the skills and achievements of dedicated artists, sponsors and supporters.
    (Destroyed in a week .)

    The intensity of the jungle and rain.

    Lovely views of the harbour tour,

    And the colourful fotos of the cultural event at the end. Where it fits very well. After all these months in Asia.

    Take care on your new pilgrimage!

    Kindest regards

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