Commonly known as Thap Ba, the Po Nagar Cham Towers are a complex of stone and brick temples erected from approximately 784 A.D continuing well into the 12th Century. These are some of the most well-preserved Cham Towers in Vietnam, having undergone a lot of restoration, to return the site to its former glory – minus a rather extravagant golden dome on one of the towers, that local legend suggests was stolen by pirates.
The towers are situated on the hill top of Cù Lao, on the Cai river in the middle of what was the medieval principality of Kauthara, near modern day Nha Trang in the Khanh Hoa province. Before 774 AD wooden temple structures had long been located on the site, however these were raised to the ground by invading Javanese.
As part of the ancient Champa Kingdom, the towers were built to honour the Lady Mother of the Kingdom or Lady Thien Y-ana (also known as Po Nagar) who was said to be a great teacher of weaving and agricultural techniques. The largest tower is around 25m high and was built in 817 AD, inside is a statue dedicated to Po Nagar (said to have been made in 1050) alongside a linga. The remaining towers are dedicated to different gods; the North-West tower said to be for Sandhaka, Po Nagar’s father; the South tower to Ganeca, Po Nagar’s daughter and the Central tower (although less finely constructed) in honour of Cri Cambhu, believed to bless devotees with fertility, containing a linga (stylised phallus said to promote creative energy and fertility).
The stone pillars that remain on the lower section of the hill, lead to the original (now unused) stair case to the towers. These pillars are relics from a meditation temple and have undergone massive reconstruction over the years.
This is a highly religious site and as such visitors are asked to remain respectful at all times. Shoes must be removed before entering any of the four towers. Dress appropriately with long skirts or trousers and definitely no bare shoulders, knees or excessive cleavage on show.
The entrance fee is 21,000 VND per person,the towers are open to visitors from 6am until 6pm and can be reached easily by car, motorbike, scooter, bicycle or on foot from the centre of Nha Trang. A taxi costs around 60,00 VND (metered price) from the main tourist area of Nha Trang. Stick to the reputable taxi companies such as Mai Linh, to avoid unreasonable fees or erratic meters.
The Po Nagar cham towers are stunning in their own right, but the hill-top location also offers a good vantage point for photographers and sight-seers alike. The cafe based on the top of the hill serves a great Vietnamese coffee. A must-see on your list when staying in Nha Trang, or passing through.