A UNESCO World Heritage site that is just outside from Da Nang, My Son (pronounced “mi sun”) is a great site to visit and walk visit the remains of the Champa Kingdom.
Located about an hour outside of Da Nang, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is small enough visit in a day and easy enough to visit without booking through a tour group. The cost is $200,000VND (about $8 USD) and is really worth it for anyone who enjoys visiting old temples and religious sites where they actually are vs. in a bland museum setting.
My Son is located about 40km from Da Nang. Although it’s only 40KMs, it takes about an hour to get there because you really can’t drive that quickly to get there. Remember this is Vietnam so there are scooters, motorcycles, and mopeds all over the street and you’ll be fighting them for any sort of presence on the road. That said, even in the pouring rain, the drive there took about an hour, which I thought was fair.
How to get there
You have multiple options but as a solo traveler, I’d recommend hiring a driver for the day or for X number of hours and going at your own pace. You could go on a bus tour but then you’re tied to their schedule and my guess is you’ll be forced to make multiple stops at stores to get you to shop there. It just doesn’t sound that enjoyable to be but you never know….and you might make some cool friends while on the bus.
Before coming to Vietnam, you should download the Grab app which is SE Asia’s version of Uber. From there you’ll even have the option of hiring a driver for X number of hours ( believe the choices were from 2, 4, and 8 hour increments). That said, I tried multiple times to hire a driver for 4 hours and no one accepted my fare.
The thing is though, at least the app gives you an idea of what these drivers are expecting to make for that type of fare. Now I have to assume that the only reason no one accepted my fare was because it was too low. However, it’ll give you a place to start if you find a driver. You can just ask your Grab driver (if you feel like that person is trustworthy) and ask him/her what they’d charge for the trip. I guess you could always try haggling, but to me it doesn’t make much sense to go at or below the price quoted on Grab.
How much should it cost?
When I tried to book a Grab that would have allowed me to hire a driver for 4 hours, the cost was around $825K VND. I thought that was plenty fair but when no one accepted/agreed to that price via the Grab app, I realized that the amount was probably too low.
When I finally got a hold of a Grab driver and asked him how much he would charge, he said $900K VND and I quickly accepted. Maybe he left some room there for negotiation but I knew I wasn’t going to get him down to $200K VND so I really didn’t think twice about it. I’d suggest that if you’re in the same boat, to consider doing the same thing. You can probably make a driver’s year by asking for his/her services and it really reminded me of when I was in Siem Reap. The driver was so elated that I wanted to hire him, he basically camped out in front of my hotel to offer me rides when I didn’t even expect them. When I surprised him by doubling the agreed upon price, he pretty much shit himself.
I guess what I’m saying is you can probably get there for cheaper but use the Grab app as a metric to decide what’s fair. Then don’t try to haggle too much since it means more to them than it does to you.
When to Go
I usually like to go to site first thing in the morning so that I can get there before all the tourist buses and annoying people with their selfie sticks. With that said, it usually means that if the weather is terrible, most people will decide not to go because it isn’t worth the trouble.
Unfortunately that isn’t the case here and I think it’s because most of the people who are coming on tours are also here because it’s include in their tour package. Basically, most of the people who come aren’t interested in seeing the site but more interested in maximizing value. I was there when it was raining buckets and never would have thought anyone would be visiting the site. However, since it’s an hour outside of town, my guess is that the vans were already booked and those who decided to go probably didn’t want to be left out if they had already paid for it as part of their tour.
That said, much like everything else, I believe that the best time to visit is first thing in the morning. Now, you may have to pay extra to your driver if you want to get a super early start, but it’s well worth it. I got there around 8:30 am and although there weren’t many people there when I arrived, the parking lot was full with buses coming in within 10 mins of my arrival. All to say, it really sucked being there in the rain with so many people.
I’ve also heard that getting there fairly late (around 2-3pm) is also effective since you’ll be arriving after all the tour busses leave so that could be a viable option if you’re not wanting to get up early while on vacation.
How much time do you need?
The entire site isn’t that big and you can easily walk around in about an hour or so. I guess you could spend more time there if you wanted to or if you wanted to take you time with every single site but there are only a handful of sites to visit and see. This is nowhere near the scale of historical sites like Angkor Wat or Chichen Itza. I really can’t see anyone taking more than a couple hours to check out the site.
What really helps is that there are electric carts that will shuttle you for free from the bottom of the hill to the top. Since that would be a fairly lengthy walk, it really cuts down on the walking time.
Know that My Son is located in a jungle setting so you may want to dress a little more warmly or at least have a light jacket with you if you’re coming up from Da Nang or Hoi An. Now, Vietnam is a pretty humid country (at least whenever I’ve been to the country) so it probably may not matter too much but it may be something to think about. When I was there, I was there when a typhoon was approaching so it was raining pretty fiercely.
If you’re there when there aren’t many people around or if you’re trying to beat others to get your photos or to visit the site in relative peace, take the tour BACKWARDS.
When you arrive, you’ll see a path with a map of the site and it’ll clearly mark the entrance to the site and you’ll go down the paved path. The path is fine except that many tours will take the tour backwards. So if you beat others there and go from the beginning, you’ll end up running into a mass of people. The thing is the end of site has the most interesting ruins so it’s the area where you’ll want to get your photos with little interruption.
I got to the site as one of the first ones but since I went down the path as it was marked, all my photos from the beginning turned out great but when I got the end, there were tons of people there since they had started from the end and worked toward the beginning. Just keep that in mind if you think there might be others behind you and you want to take your time with some photos just walking around.
My Son is a great site that is a fun little half day trip from Da Nanang. At about $8 USD, the price is right and even when you include the price of transportation, it shouldn’t cost you more than $40 USD. If you’re traveling with someone or if you find someone to split the cost of the Grab with, you could really see this UNESCO site for a relative bargain. Just be mindful of when you go and know that My Son is on the itinerary for many tour groups so you’ll want to get there super early before they arrive or later in the day (around 2pm) so you can have a quieter experience.