Vietnam – Day 5 – My Son Sanctuary

Today I woke up at 5:00am with an alarm. Why so early? Well today I was heading to My Son Sanctuary; about an hours drive away.

The My Son Sanctuary is a cluster of abandoned Hindu temples that were constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries by the kings of Champa. Champa was a collection of independent Cham societies that extended in roughly the same area that today is central and south Vietnam from the 2nd century until 1832, when Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang absorbed and annexed it.

The temples at the My Son Sanctuary are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva. Some of the temples lay in partial ruin. Restoration began in 1937 by the French and ended in 1943. Unfortunately many buildings were again destroyed in the Vietnam War in August 1969 and the surrounding area became dangerous due to unexploded land mines. Restoration began again since being recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1999, with the majority of the money being funded by the Italians and Japanese, as well as some money from the Ministry of Culture of Vietnam.

I had rented a motorcycle from the villa the previous night for 110000 Dong ($6.85 CDN). I set off around 6:00am and stopped at a local coffee shop close to the sanctuary called Café Que Huong (Liberty Café). I had coffee with the owner and took a selfie together. After having the coffee I continued towards the sanctuary.

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Parking at the sanctuary was 5000 Dong ($0.32 CDN). After parking I ate some hand pulled noodles in a chicken broth at the restaurant at the entrance before walking to the electric tram that would drive me to the start of the ruins.

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I explored around the ruins and it was pretty quiet until about 10:00am, when the tourist groups started showing up. I finished walking around the site at around 11:00am and was hungry again so I decided to have more noodles at the restaurant before getting my motorcycle and heading back to the hotel.

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The ride back to the hotel was very hot and the traffic was heavier. It took a lot of concentration and it was pretty slow going. I stopped on the way back to the villa for some more beer and some more Doritos. I spent the afternoon hanging out at the pool.

At around 6:00pm I decided to head into town for dinner. I went to a restaurant called Vinh Hung Restaurant and had the famous local Hoi An dish called Cao Lau Noodles. Cao Lau Noodle dishes typically contain pork and greens, with rice noodles that have been soaked in lye water, from a famous local well, giving them a unique texture and colour that sets them apart from other traditional Vietnamese noodle dishes. To be honest I absolutely love the flavour and texture.

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After dinner I walked around and explored the night market, before riding the motorcycle back to the villa.

Check back tomorrow as I dive head first into a Vietnamese cooking class and take a tour on a traditional Hoi An Basket Boat.

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Thailand – Day 2 – Ayutthaya

Today I woke up at 2:00am because my internal clock is out of whack. I talked to some friends on the phone and made myself some coffee in my hotel room before I took a cab to the main train station so that I could catch a ride to Ayutthaya. The first cab turned me down, but the second one accepted me, although I had to give him directions as he didn’t seem to understand what I was looking for. Luckily I had brushed up on these four key words; no, stop, left and right.

When I arrived at the train station I purchased a ticket on the “high speed special diesel” locomotive since I missed the cheap local train, which cost me 345 baht (about $13.80) instead of the 45 baht the local train could have cost me, and the kicker is the train was 45 minutes late arriving anyways. It did come with air conditioning which was a plus.

After purchasing my ticket I went and got a bowl of soup and waited for the train. The train ride was nice, with lots of perspective of what the rest of Bangkok is like, and the countryside is like. Bangkok was attempting to grow their transportation network; there is tons of elevated train stations and highways being built, but the government pulled the plug in the 1990’s on the company involved because there was lots of corruption and over spending. I also got to see some beautiful temples along the way. I even was served coffee and a custard filled bun, which was delicious!

Upon arriving in Ayutthaya I took a water taxi across the river for 5 baht. I then explored the amazing historical site of Ayutthaya, visiting the sites of Wat Maya That, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Thammikarat, Ancient Palace, Wat Phra Si Samphet, and Lokayasutharam. I also had some amazing Thai chicken noodle soup for 40 baht. I walked a total of 20km’s.

On the way back I took a local train without air conditioning for only 20 baht. It was hot, but actually pretty bearable. I helped a few people that had heavy bags with that that needed help getting them off the train. Upon arriving at Bangkok station I took a taxi back to the hotel for 70 baht ($2.80), a distance of about 4km.

I relaxed for a bit before venturing out to Khao San Road. It was really cool, and beyond anything I imagined from what I read and what people told me. Of course it’s super touristy but ya cool; it’s like a mini Vegas strip in the heart of Bangkok.

I was then feeling pretty sleepy so I head back to the hotel room to get some sleep. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next part of my adventure; a journey on the Death Railway towards Myanmar (Burma)!

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Japan – Osaka

The next stop on my trip to Japan was Osaka. Osaka definitely feels a lot busier than Kyoto and has a completely different vibe as well. Osaka felt very westernized compared to Kyoto. I spent three days in Kyoto, including a side trip to a wonderful place called Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site; more on that later.

Osaka was very different from Kyoto. I found the castle in Osaka to be better, and it was a more modern city, but my favorite of the two has to be Kyoto. Osaka had a great metro system, a great zoo, a super cool building called Umeda Sky Building, a great museum on the history of the city, and some really pretty temples. I also tried Sake for the first time here!

Stay tuned for the last installment of my Japan series where I visit the beautiful city of Hiroshima!

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