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Pressure on My Son holy land

As one of the two world cultural heritage sites in the central province of Quang Nam, My Son has become a destination of local and international tourists.


The relic is quiet in the afternoon.

Besides the increasing of visitors, the pressure on this heritage is also on the rise. Keeping balance between tourism development and preservation is a big problem for My Son authorities.

The number of tourists to My Son has soared, from only 27,104 visitors in 1999, the year My Son was recognized as a world heritage, to 209,032 in 2011. Revenue from entrance tickets last year was nearly VND11 billion ($500,000). At present, the relic welcomes 500-700 visitors a day on average, which rises to 1,200-1,500 at weekend.

The more tourists come to sites, the more services are required. In Hoi An ancient town, the number of visitors is regular during the day and in a wide space but in My Son, 9-11am are the peak hours. During this time, a large number of visitors hustle in a narrow space of several hundreds of meters in diameter.

The overload is seen in the shortage of guides and transport services during the peak hours.

Nguyen Cong Huong, head of the My Son Relic Preservation Board said that the board has six cars to take visitors into the relic and 12 guides. All of the vehicles and guides work at full capacity during the peak hours but they could not satisfy visitors.

However, the board cannot increase the number of cars and guides because most of visitors come to the site on the morning, Huong said.

Conservation experts advice the board to not permit big cars to get into the relics, but as the number of tourists is very high during peaking hours, the advice is neglected.

Huong said that the management board would ask travel firms to not take tourists to the relic only on the morning to avoid overload. The board will take measures to reduce the pressure by welcoming visitors who enjoy free entrance in the afternoon, cutting down ticket price for visitors in the afternoon, etc.

My Son is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa. The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, known under various local names, the most important of which is “Bhadresvara.”

The relic is around 70km southwest of Da Nang city. The temples are in a valley roughly two kilometers wide that is surrounded by two mountain ranges.

From the 4th to the 14th century AD, the valley at My Son was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. It was closely associated with the nearby Cham cities of Indrapura and Simhapura. At one time, the site encompassed over 70 temples as well as numerous stele bearing historically important inscriptions in Sanskrit and Cham.

The My Son temple complex is regarded one of the foremost 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, Bagan of Myanmar and Ayutthaya of Thailand.

As of 1999, My Son has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. At its 23rd meeting, UNESCO accorded My Son this recognition pursuant to its criterion C (II), as an example of evolution and change in culture, and pursuant to its criterion C (III), as evidence of an Asian civilization which is now extinct.

Vu Lan

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