My Son, Mystic Cham Ruins in Vietnam

In August 1969, American B-52’s carpet-bombed the My Son Sanctuary in Viet Nam to dislodge a unit of Viet Cong using the area for training. The Viet Cong believed the United States would not bomb a sacred and historical site. They felt safe in this naturally defensible area nestled on a valley two miles wide between two mountain ranges and fed by the Thu Bon River. The valley seemed a perfect place for training and rest. They were right about the valley but wrong about the Americans. The Americans bombed the area for a week, until various religious leaders pleaded with them to stop. Only 17 of the 71 original structures, rediscovered by French archeologist M.C. Paris in 1898, were saved.

My Son, which means “beautiful mountain” in Vietnamese is a cluster of 4th through 14th century Hindu Temples near the village of Duy Phu built by the Champa dynasties and built in conjunction with the cities of Indrapura and Simhapura. The cities today are known by the Vietnamese names of Dong Durong and Tra Kieu. Mu Son is the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. In 1899 Henry Parmentier and M.L Finot did extensive documentary work marking out the various sites, grouping temples, sketching and photographing different buildings, while working in, what a Frenchman would consider, incredible heat and humidity. The temples were built to honor such Hindu Gods as Krishna, Vishnu, and especially Shiva.

For many centuries the Champa ruled much of today’s Viet Nam. Their center of power was at Dong Durong, near My Son. Eventually the Viet defeated them and pushed them out of the area. They moved farther south but were unable to survive as a cohesive group.

Thirty-two steles (large stones and slabs carrying inscriptions) survive in the area. The inscriptions document various kings, and gifts of land and treasure to groups in the area. They also tell of different Gods. Some of the more interesting Steles document historical events including wars with Cambodia in the 12th century.

Most visitors today come from DaNang or Hoi An on organized tours. Roadside cafes line the route. Some tour buses stop at higher priced restaurants because they receive a commission. Most larger tours do not bother and drive directly to My Son where snacks and drinks are available next to the gift shop. The nearest hotel is about a mile from the entrance.

The sunrise tour departs Hoi An about 5:30 am. This tour arrives about 6:30 before the throngs of regular tourists who arrive at 8:30 or later.

There is a Champa museum near the ticket office and another one inside the compound. The best Champa museum is in DaNang and is well worth a visit. Tours can be arranged at almost any hotel, guesthouse, or travel agency in nearby towns including Hoi An, DaNang, and Hue. Return trips from My Son to Hoi An often include a one hour boat ride back to the town.

Electric trams drive visitors from the entrance to the ruins about a mile away. The path through the sites is relatively level and an easy walk under a canopy of rich green foliage. The gift shop offers a variety of interesting goods including reproductions of a dancing Shiva.

On a stage near the gift shop dancers offer a program as part of the tour. Just the costumes offer a lovely site although the authenticity of the dances are suspect, having little original information from which to draw. Regardless, the performances offer a nice respite in the shade and are unique pleasure.

There is a beautiful lake near the ruins. So far the lake is mostly undiscovered. This will not last long. Several tours, like Karma Waters, offer hiking in the area and kayaking on the lake. Discover a secluded area and tourists will come. Such is the dilemma caused by tourism.

Mystic Seaport Captured – Links to Our Past Guide, Part 3

Mystic Seaport celebrates the seafaring past of New England. Known as The Museum of America and the Sea, the seaport is an entertaining journey through 19th century nautical life.

This is the third part in the series of popular attractions for New England vacations with a historical theme. Others in the series are Plymouth Plantation, Mayflower II, and Old Sturbridge Village.

Located 100 miles from Boston on Route 95 at exit 90 in Connecticut, the Mystic Seaport exhibits are open between 9-5pm April-October, and 10-4:00pm November – March.

Here’s what you’ll see and how to get the best out of your trip.

There’s three main exhibits at Mystic Seaport: the historic ships, the authentic seaport village and exhibits, and the preservation shipyard.

THE SHIPS…

Whenever I visit Mystic Seaport I head straight for the Tall Ships in the museum dock area. I’m just drawn to these magnificent vessels, and the most popular to tour is the Charles W. Morgan – a wonderful example of a wooden whaling ship. It made 37 whaling trips from its launch in 1841 and before retiring in 1921.

The Joseph Conrad and L.A.Dunton are the other fine specimens of Tall Ships in the museum collection.

These ships alone are worth the trip to Mystic Seaport. But two others with a unique and rich history are the Sabino and Emma C. Berry. More later about the Sabino, but Emma C. first launched in 1866, and since then has undergone many changes as a fishing vessel and a coastal freighter. She was beautifully restored and donated to Mystic Seaport in 1969.

THE AUTHENTIC VILLAGE AND EXHIBITS…

A short walk from the ships is the village exhibits and galleries.

A stroll through the recreated Mystic Seaport village stirs the imagination. Most of the buildings in the village are authentic and moved from other locations in New England and the Northeast.

With 46 exhibits you’ll discover a rich assortment of shops, homes, and stores. Amble around the nautical shops and discover rope making, rigging, cooperage, and the sail loft. And two must-see exhibits are the Mystic River Scale Model, and the Shipsmith shop.

Further down from the village check out the galleries and make sure you spend time inside both the Voyages and Figurehead exhibits.

The three-floor exhibit of Voyages celebrates the legacy of America and the sea, and how it continues to impact our lives in many subtle ways. And across the street is the Figurehead exhibit, and a wonderful collection of carvings.

Unfortunately, these carvings are a bittersweet display. The desire for these carvings on ships has dwindled and it’s now become an endangered art form.

Now wander back to the shipyard area and get ready to be amazed…

THE PRESERVATION SHIPYARD…

I don’t know about you but I’ve always had a healthy fascination for the old mastercarft skills, and love to watch people work with them. Many of these skills are being lost as the economics of our time reduce the need for them. Wooden ships are a thing of the past, and so the wonderful carpentry and shipwright skills have dwindled throughout the world.

But here in this corner of the world they are uniquely preserved.

In the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard many of these skills are still practiced to keep the museum ships in tip top shape.

In the yard you’ll see carpenter’s shops, a rigging loft, a paint shop, metalworking shop, lumber shed, and an old-fashioned sawmill. Close by is the documentation shop containing vital records used by the museum’s shipwrights, carpenters and riggers, to maintain accuracy as they work on preserving the ships.

Just across from the duPont building is the shipbuilding exhibit. Here you can see the keel of the whaleship Thames, and take in a revealing display of the many stages of building a ship.

And when you’re finally ready for a rest take a 30 or 90 minute cruise on the Sabino steamboat as she travels up and down the Mystic River.

Now that you’ve armed with this information it’s time to set the main sail, raise anchor, and head out to Mystic Seaport to experience this all for yourself.

For more information and ticket prices for Mystic Seaport visit their web site at http://www.mysticseaport.org.

Christmas Shopping Breaks

Fancy a Christmas shopping break? A change to the normal shopping fare, to help you tackle your every increasing present list?

If you’re thinking about the festive season, but instead of turkey or beef, you’re deciding between New York or Rome, here’s some information on Christmas shopping breaks! Never before have there been so many breaks to choose from, as cities around the world go crazy over Christmas.

No surprise that New York is right there at the top. The city that never sleeps comes into its own league at Christmas time. Not only is there amazing shopping in world famous Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s but also fabulous designer stores and vintage, retro boutiques. And that’s not to mention toy shop of all toy shops, FAO Schwarz! And of course, the window shopping is worth going for too – the festive displays both inside the shops and outside take most visitors back to feeling like little kids again.

Staying in America, how about Minneapolis, home to the world’s largest shopping mall, crammed with 400 shops, it even has a roller coaster and entertainment when you want a break from all those shops.

Edinburgh has the perfect backdrop for Christmas – the mystical castle in the cold brings a proper festive feel. The shopping is outstanding in this Scottish city, with a great mix of designer, high street and one-off boutiques, not to mention fine dining and trendy bars.

Hundreds of Christmas markets could get a mention here, but just Zurich is highlighted as it plays host to Europe’s largest indoor Christmas market, which you’ll find in the city’s main railway station. A mile long, covered in over 20,000 twinkling lights and a tree decorated in over 5,000 crystals, it’s one of the most Christmassy places on Earth.

Tepid temperatures and festive lights, Madrid offers its visitors a shopper’s paradise. Big designer brands, high street and one-off individual outlets, there’s something for everyone here, not to mention the cosmopolitan feel this city oozes.

As well as world class hotels, all year round sunshine, Dubai offers unbelievable shopping – especially if you’re after gold or diamonds! As well as shopping you can enjoy ice-skating and skiing to help get you into the Christmassy spirit. And even if you’re shopped out, be sure to go to Dubai Mall, where, along with more shops than you can imagine, there are 33,000 fish swimming behind the world’s largest acrylic panel.