My Son Sanctuary by Motorbike
First Impressions About Vietnam
To be absolutely honest with you, Kristina and I have never thought we would like Vietnam so much. Having previously visited what we thought were absolute gems of South-East Asia such as Komodo National Park in Indonesia or Phuket in Thailand we expected Vietnam to “blend into the crowd” at best. Having just completed a three-week bus/motorcycle trip in Vietnam we realized we could not have been more wrong.
Compared to Indonesia and Thailand, Vietnam proved to be reasonably advanced, organized and “functional” country. Yes, the ten or so police officers we tried to speak to in tourist hotspot Da Nang had no idea how to deal with foreigners and could not even provide a basic report/statement, the traffic was a little crazy and service in eateries was a little slow but … public transport system seemed to be working fine (including inter- and intracity buses), in hotels and hostels we were met with smiles and received decent customer service and we even went shopping to one or two supermarkets.
Despite all of the above (which I should probably call influence from the West), Vietnam seemed to have retained its authentic look, taste and vibe. But more about it in other posts.
About My Son Sanctuary
One of the first major attraction points we decided to visit in Vietnam was the famous My Son Sanctuary. It is located approximately 40km west from the city of Hoi An and is an ancient (UNESCO Heritage) site. My Son Sanctuary is a complex of shrines and temples constructed between 4th and 13th century. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.
The site has been partially destroyed by bombings which took place during the second world war but it is being partially reconstructed using techniques and materials similar to those used by the craftsmen and engineers (Cham People) of the time.
For those interested in history of this UNESCO site I would recommend reading This article.
My Son Sanctuary by Motorbike versus Pre-Organized Tour
Upon our arrival in Hoi An (which ended up being our favourite city in Vietnam) we immediately began looking for the best and cheapest way to visit My Son Sanctuary. What we quickly learned about our possibilities did not surprise us too much. We could either “buy the comfort” and opt for joining a pre-organized tour which would have included a pick-up from our hotel, a ride to My Son in an air conditioned mini-bus and a guided tour OR we could “DIY” it.
So far in our trip we almost always chose the Do It Yourself option and shortly after learning about the price of the tour (850k VND per person) we realized this will not be an exception. We quickly found a local motorbike rental company which offered us a motorbike for 130k VND per day. Even though My Son Sanctuary was located around 40km away from Hoi An we knew we could quite easily do it in one day.
This meant that our total expenses would be:
- 150k VND per person for My Son entrance tickets = 300k VND for two of us
- 130k VND for motorbike rental to go to My Son
- 40-60k VND for fuel
Note: A grand total for visiting My Son by motorbike was around 490k VND. This is 3.5 times less than the mini-bus tour for two (1.7M VND).
Although I would not necessarily recommend motorcycling through Vietnamese roads to people who are not comfortable with Asian traffic, anyone with a bit of experience will be able to do it no problem. The ride is mainly on flat, paved, good quality roads weaving through small-ish towns and villages. It took us just over one hour to reach My Son Sanctuary by motorbike but you might be able to do it even quicker if you are fast.
After spending around three hours exploring this site we returned to the car park, paid 10k VND for parking, said good bye to My Son and followed the same route back to Hoi An. Just keep in mind that if you want to return before sunset, you should leave in the morning and definitely not later than noon.
A quick word of caution before you go though. In other parts of the country we have heard stories of tourists being stopped by the police and fined heavily for not wearing helmets or not having their drivers licence on them. We have also heard about corrupt policemen demanding foreigners to pay a “tourist tax”. Having said that we have not had any such encounters ourselves. You will reduce your chances of being stopped if you do not speed (basically don’t drive faster than everyone else), wear your helmet and behave reasonably on the road.
Tip: Use your bike wisely. As an example, we frequently combine motorbike trips with shopping, other attractions or simply dining in more remote/interesting places. It saved us decent amount in bus/taxi fares over the last 6+ months of travelling.
An Easy Choice for Budget Conscious Travellers
I appreciate that some travellers might be willing to spend a little extra to get the comfort an organized tour can provide while others might simply not be comfortable riding a motorbike in a country like Vietnam. If, however, none applies to you a DIY trip to My Son Sanctuary by motorbike might be the best option.
With your own bike you will have the freedom to go whenever you want, spend as much time as you want exploring the ruins of ancient shrines and temples and stop to check out other places on the way if you wish to do so. On top of that you will save a whole bunch of cash. A tough one to say no to if you ask me.