• 12 . 03 . 11
  • Culture, Sun, Sand, Shopping, Beer, Friends, Food and Family: Hoi An provides the perfect day.

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My Son, Hot Sun

Getting up at 4am might not sound like the start to a perfect day, especially on holiday, but this morning it was really worth it. The My Son ruins (pronounced Me Sun) lie 45km outside of Hoi An and are a popular tourist destination, but taking a place on the single tour before sunrise ensured that when we visited there were only 15 people there, which greatly enhanced the mystique of the place.

If you ever wanted proof of the immutability of religion, here is not the place to find it. Originally conceived as a Hindu temple in the 4th century, under influence from India, its later buildings, which stretch through to the 13th century reflected the Cham people’s shift to Buddhism. In fact the Cham people still live in Vietnam, though now further south, where they now practise Islam. This undoubtedly presents a rich opportunity for missionaries and Christianity is surely just around the corner.

Having survived 1600 years of erosion and natural disasters, it was perhaps sadly inevitable that it would be bombed during the Vietnam war. Used by the Viet Cong as a base, the Americans attacked repeatedly until a letter writing campaign from French archaeologists convinced them to stop, a few months too late. Two of the largest complexes were almost entirely destroyed, leaving only the third standing, and craters pock mark the area showing where the missiles fell.

Those that remain are in remarkably good health and have resisted the normal deterioration caused by the wind and rain. Archaeologists still cannot work out what process the original builders used to create their bricks, or why they are in such good shape. After the war, newer bricks were inserted in places to keep some of the affected buildings from falling down, but just 40 years later, they are discoloured, crumbling and moss-ridden while the original bricks from 1000 years ago maintain their original colour and are rock solid. That’s got to be pretty embarrassing for the renovators and is a reminder that mankind has collectively lost a lot of knowledge through the ages.

Back in town by 10am, and with the sun shining, we took ourselves off to Cua Dai beach at the east end of town. After 2 hours spent reading in the sun and listening to the ocean, then lunch and a quick nap to refresh ourselves, we headed downtown.

Hoi An is most famous for its tailoring, and I’m pretty sure there’s more than 100 shops in town, all promising bespoke items in beautiful materials at bargain prices. Despite purchases made in Bangkok, we couldn’t help but look in at a few and as I write this a sewing machine somewhere is busy stitching up two more dresses for us to pick up tomorrow.

Proving how small the the Vietnamese tourist trail is, we bumped into a couple on the same boat as us in Halong Bay, and after a few pleasant beers at the riverside reminiscing about good times less than a week in the past, we had dinner at a fantastic restaurant where I feasted on duck breast with coconut rice and diced mango in passionfruit sauce.

A day of culture, sunshine, shopping, beer, friends and great food was wrapped up with a call back home to speak to the family, rounding out a perfect day.

Perfect enough to ignore the major sunburn that is sure to appear tomorrow. Unlike Australia, Vietnam may have the benefit of fully completed “O-zone La-yer”, but the sun was far stronger than I thought it would be. Fingers crossed.

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