AROUND HOI AN
Cua Dai Beach
The fine sands of palm lined Cua Dai Beach (Bai Tam Cua Dai) are popular at weekends, but can often be deserted at other time. Safe swimming is usually only possible between April and October , but it’s nice to walk or just hangout here. During the full moon, people wander around until late at night. Frech seafood and refestments are sold at a line of kiosks that lead to the beachfront.
Cua Dai beach is 5km east of Hoi An on Đ Cua Dai, which is the continuation of Đ Tran Hung Dao and Đ Phan Dinh Phung. The road passes shrimp hatching pools built with Australian assistance.
For information about accommodation at Cua Dai Beach, see Places to Stay in the Hoi An section.
Cam Kim Island
The master woodcarvers, who in previuos centuries produced the fine carvings that graced the homes of Hoi An’s merchants and the town’s public buildings, came from Kim Bong Village on Cam Kinh Island. These days, most of the woodcarvings on sale in Hoi An are produced here. Some of the villagers also build wooden boats.
To reach the island, catch one of the frequent boats that leave from the Đ Hoang Van Thu Dock.
Also konwn as Culao Cham, Cham Island is 21km from Hoi An in the South China Sea. The island is famous as a source of swiftlet nests, which are exported to Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere for use in bird’s-nest soup.
Permits are needed to visit Cham Island, and the weather determines when boats run there. Public boats leave at around 7am and the one way journey takes three hours, but it’s difficult for foreigners to organise the paperwork to travel on one of these. Some tours run to the island; ask for information at Son My Son Tour, among the agencies opposite the Hoi An hotel.
Sometimes called the “pottery village”, Thanh Ha is 3km west of Hoi An. In the recent past, there were many pottery factories here, but the pottery industry has been in decline. Still, some artisans are employed in this hot, sweaty work. The locals don’r mind if you visit their factories to watch them at work, though they’d be happier if you bough something in exchange for showing you around. Many tours to My Son make a stop here on the way back to Hoi An.
One of the most stunning sight to see in the Hoi AN area is My Son (admission 50,000d, open 6.30am-4.30pm daily), Vietnam’s most important site of the ancient kingdom of Champa, and as of 2000, a Unesco World Heritage site.
During the centuries when Tra Kieu (the known as Simhapura) served as the politicala capital of the kingdom of Champa, My Son was the site of the most important Cham intellectual and religious centre, and also may have served as a burial place for Cham monarch. My SOn in considered to be Champa’s smaller counterpart to be grand cities of Southeast. Asia’s other Indian influenced civilisation: Angkor (cambodia); Bagan (Myanmar); Ayuthaya (Thailand) and Borobudur (Java).
The monuments are set in verdant vallay surrounded by hills and overlooked by the massive Cat’s Tooth Mountain (Hon Quap), Clear streams run between the structures and past nearby coffe plantations.
My Son became a religious centre under King Bhadravarman in the late 4th century and was occupied until th 13th century – the longest period of development of any nonument in Southeast Asia (by comparison, Angkor’s period of development lasted only three centuries, as did that of Bagan). Most of the temples were dedicated to Cham kings associated with divinities, especially Shiva, who was regarded as founder and protector of Champa’s dynasties.
Champa’s contact with Java was extentsive. Cham scholar were sent to Java to study and there was a great deal of commerce between the two empires – Cham pottery has been found on Java and, in the 12th century, the Cham king wed a Javanese woman.
Because some of the ornamentation work at My Son was never finished, archaeologists know that the Chams first built their structures and only then carved decorations into the brickwork. Researchers have yet to figure out for certain how the Chams managed to get the baked bricks to stick together. According to one theory, they used a paste prepared with a botanical oil that is indigenous to central Vietnam. During one period in their history, the summits of someof the towers were completely covered with layer of gold.
During the American War, this region was completely devastated and depopulated in extended bitter fighting. Figding it to be a covenient staging ground, the VC used My Son as a base; in respone the Americans bombed the monuments. Traces of 68 structures have been found, of which 25 surviced repeated pillaging in previous centuries by Chinese, Khmer and Vietnamese. The American bombings spared about 20 of these, some of which sustained extansive damage. These days, Vietnamese authorities are attempting to restore as much as possible of the remaining sites
The entry fee includes local transport from the parking area to the sites, about 2km away. By departing from Hoi An at about 5am, you will arrive to wake up the gods (and the guards) for the sunrise and could be leaving just as the tour groups reach the area! It gets very busy at My Son; if you can go early or late do so, and soak up the scenery and atmospherein relative peace and quite.
Places to Stay
The nearest hotels are in Hoi An and Danang.
Getting there & Away
Minibus Numerous hotels in Hoi An can book a day trip to My Son that includes a stop-off at Tra Kieu. At US$2 to US$3 per person, you could hardly do it cheaper unless you walked. The minibus depart from Hoi An at 8am and return at 2pm. Some agencies offer the option of returning to Hoi An by boat.
Car A hire a car with driver will get you to My Son for around US$20. Going under your own steam gives you the option of arriving before or after the tour groups, and My Son is quite spectacular and atsmospheric when you’re one of only a few people there.
Motorbike It’s possible to get to the sites by rented motorbike. We have had numerous compaints from travellers that their rented motorbike were vandalised by the local at My Son, who then asked about US$25 to repairthe damage they caused. The police are supposed to have cracked down on this, but we suggest caution nonetheless. It may be betterto get somebody else to drive you on their motorbike and then ask them to wait for you.
TRA KIEU (SIMHAPURA)
Formerly called Simhapura (Lion Citadel), Tra Kieu was the first capital city of Champa, serving in that capacity from the 4th through to the 8th centuries. Today, northing remains of the ancient city except the rectangular ramparts. A large number of artefacts, including some of the finest carving in the Museum of Cham Sulcupture in Danang were found here.
You can get a good view of the city’s outlines from the Mountain Church (Nha Tho Nui), om the top of Buu Chau Hill in Tra Kieu. This modern, open-air structure was built in 1970 to replace an earlier church destroyed by time and war. A Cham tower once stood on this spot.
The Mountian Church is 6.5km from National Hwy 1 and 19.5km from the start of footpath to My Son. Within Tra Kieu, it is 200m from the mornign market, CHo Tra Kieu, and 550, from Tra Kieu Church.
Tra Kieu CHurch
This church (Dia So Tra Kieu), which serves the town’s Catholic population of 3000, was built a century ago. There’s fantastic ceramic mosiac dragon on the external stairs. A priest working here, who died in 1989, was interested in Cham civilization and amassed a collection of Cham artefacts found by local people. A 2nd - floor room in the building to the right of the church opened as a museum in 1990. The round ceramic objects that have faces on them, which date to between the 8th and 10th centuries, were affixed to the ends of tiled roofs. The face is of Kala, the God of Time. Tra Kieu Church is 7km from national Hwy 1 and 19km from the trail to My Son. It is 150m down an alley opposite the town’s Clinic of Western Medicine (Quay thuoc Tay Y), 350m from the morning market and 550m from the Mountian Church.
Getting There & Away
Most day trips to My Son from Hoi An include a stop-off at Tra Kieu. Otherwise you’ll need to rent a bike or a car (with driver). See the Getting there & Away section My Son.
Tam Ky, the capital of Quang Nam province, is a nondescript town on the highway between Chu Lai and Danang. However, travellers are drawn to the Cham towers at nearby Chien Dan (Chien Dan Cham) which is located 5km north of Tam Ky 69km north of Quang Ngai and 62km south of Danang.
The three towers are enclosed by a wall and a broken stele here dates from the 13th century reign of king Harivarman. Many of the Cham statues you cans see on display at Chien Dan were collected from other parts of the country after the American Warand show signs of war-related damage. Expect to have to make a donation to the site’s insistent custodian; there were no tickets or price lists when we visited, but aruond 5,000 per person is probably a fair amount to give.
The Cham religious centre of Dong Duong (formerly called Indrapura) was the site of Monastery of Lakshmindra-Lokeshvara, an important Mahayana Buddhist monastery that was founded in AD 875. Dong Duong also served as the capital of Champa from AD 860 to AD 986, until the capital was transferred to Cha Dan (near Qui Nhon). Tragically, as a result of the devastation wrought by wars with the French and Americans, oly part of the gate to Dong Duong remains.
Plaecs to Stay
Tam Ky Hotel (Khach san Tam Ky; National Hwy 1) is a big pink place in the centre of town. This is the only hotel in Tam Ky that can accommodate travellers; you’re better off staying in Hoi An.
About 30km north of Quang NGai, the buildings and concreteaircraft revetments of the huge American base at Chu Lai stretch along several kilometres of sand to the east of National Hwy 1.
Dung Quat oil refinery, the first nefinery in Vietnam, is being developed at Chu Lai. An airport to service it was due to open at the time of writting; this will provide another point of entry (by air) to central Vietnam. Check schedule services on offer when you arrive.