The 1700-year-old site which boasts a total of 20 Hindu temples and monuments used for religious activities during the ruling Champa Dynasty now has only 3 buildings that remain in good condition.
“Time, nature and people have all taken their toll on the site. My Son was under 2 meters of water in the last season, which only speeded up its dilapidation,” Nguyen Cong Khiet, deputy head of My Son Management Board said.
He added that most of the temples were nearing collapse as the massive influx of tourists they receive had seriously affected My Son. The site got more than 247,000 visits from international and domestic tourists since the beginning of 2011.
Weeds, as insignificant as it appears, are another threat to the ancient religious site. However, managers said their staff did not dare to manually clear the wild plants for fear of “pulling up the ancient bricks of the site with it” while using herbicide would pose health risks to visitors.
My Son was first reinforced and restored in 1982 by a team of Polish and Vietnamese preservationists whose effort hardly helped it resist the ravages of time and the elements.
In 2008, Quang Nam’s local government drafted a 12-year preservation and development plan until 2020 for My Son, which was passed by the central government. The implementation of the plan, unfortunately, fails to keep pace with the site’s current dilapidating condition.
“The general plan was passed but detailed planning has not been done while the site is getting worse and worse,” said Huynh Tan Lap, another deputy head of the board.
Local government has recently had to spend VND 9 billion (US$ 428,500) to temporarily preserve the E and E7 temples.”
The board also spent another VND 3 billion out of the VND 6 billion ticket revenue for preservation work, but the money was like a drop in the bucket, Lap said.
Dinh Hai, head of the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the greatest challenge was to figure out an architectural solution to give the site a facelift, such as which material to use to reinforce and protect the constructions.
“Cement is out of the question as it will totally change the site. Some researchers have tried to reproduce the original bricks that had been used to build My Son but have all failed,” Hai said, adding that a group of international experts from UNESCO were now conducting another similar research to produce these bricks.
He commented that preservation is a time-consuming process as preservationists had to be extra-careful not to rebuild the site.
As of 2012, My Son’s management board will use electric cars to carry tourists around the site to reduce human’s effect and hike its tickets to VND 100,000 for foreigners and VND 50,000 for domestic visitors.
The Italian government also promised to sponsor EUR 420,000 (US$ 562,000) to preserve My Son in 2012.