Po Nagar Tham Towers
The ancient Po Nagar Towers are one of the most colorful sights in Nha Trang, a must-see sightseeing tour of the city and simply a significant cultural object. They are what lured us with their respectable age, numerous reviews of satisfied tourists and a convenient location. That’s why we carved out a few hours for the Cham towers of Po Nagar and offer you more information about this temple complex.
The Cham (Cham) Towers are perched atop Mount Ku Lao. Looking at them, it is hard to imagine that they are more than 1,000 years old – so well preserved.
A bit of history
The main temple complex, of which the Po Nagar Towers are a part, was built between the 7th and 12th centuries, although the first of the towers was built in 784 during the reign of Lord Champa. To this day, religious ceremonies, rituals, traditional processions and other events are held here. Of course, over the centuries the towers were repeatedly exposed to all sorts of attacks. They have withstood fire, pirate invasions, revolutionary mutinies, and military invasions. The temple was repeatedly destroyed, but the locals, who believe in the powerful energy and tremendous power of the place, always rebuilt Po Nagar.
Originally the temple complex consisted of 10 towers. Each of them differed in architectural composition, because the difference between the years of construction was several centuries.
Today there is an opportunity to get acquainted with four towers.
In the northern tower, Thap Chinh is an example of Taman architecture. Built in 817 by Harivarman I, it was looted by Malay pirates. Today it is famous for being the site of the statue of the goddess Uma with her ten arms and the figure of Shakti Shiva.
The largest tower was erected in honor of the goddess Ponagar. It is believed that she is the one who passed on to the human race the skills of agriculture and handicrafts. The height of the tower is 28 meters.
The central tower dates from the 7th century and cannot boast an abundance of decorations. Nevertheless, it used to hold many riches.
Myeu Dong Nam, or Southern Tower, is dedicated to Ganache. Lavishly decorated, it holds ancient statues, inscriptions, and, of course, atmosphere.
Today’s West Tower has not fully survived; it was founded by King Vikrantavarman.
The northwest tower is dedicated to Shiva (Sandhaka), the south tower to Ganesha the god of wisdom and prosperity, the central tower to the patron of fertility Kri Kambhu.
Every year at the end of March a Buddhist festival is held at the temple complex. The colorful rituals and ceremonies, mass theatrical performances attract both tourists and locals.
Seeing the Complex
The Po Nagar Towers are located on Mount Cù Lao. A very remarkable place from which you can enjoy stunning views of Nha Trang.
As you go higher and higher up the stairs you will enjoy new views of the Cai River and the bridge over it.
At the top there is a small cafe where you can grab a cold drink and enjoy the wonderful view and take a couple of photos.
The cost to enter the Cham Towers of Po Nagar is more than symbolic, one dollar or 21,000 dong. The cost is the same for all visitors. And here you see the monumental gate at the Cham Towers:
Before approaching the towers, you have to walk through a series of columns. As you walk past them, it’s easy to imagine how the priests used to parade here with torches and how majestically they performed rituals in ancient times.
Of course, tourists are not allowed to the most sacred places, where only monks pray. To climb to the top for them built a special staircase. Made with the sole purpose: to preserve the remains of the ancient staircase. The first goddess we meet is the buffalo demon slayer. Her name is Durga.
Once inside the towers, one immediately hears the aroma of numerous incenses. Moreover, a mystical mist envelops the towers. However, this mystery was soon solved: the smoke from the smoking sticks is very dense, and the light from the candles allows it to disperse throughout the space.
The towers are narrow and cramped: a large tourist group will not have enough space, not even enough for the altar and the numerous offerings of the faithful (flowers, fruit).
The grounds of the complex
The area of the complex is well maintained and green. Enterprising Vietnamese have set up an infrastructure here: organized a toilet, rest areas, cafes, souvenir market. The greenery is watered by automatic hoses.
On the territory there are benches and fountains.
And just atmospheric objects.
Not far away is a tiny showroom, where you can spend 10 minutes. There are both traditional specimens, like the garments of the ancient Chams, and more original exhibits like :
- a woman without a head;
- an elephant man;
- a phallus;
Infrastructure of the Po Nagar Temple
On the territory of the temple complex has everything you need, including cafes and souvenir stores. The prices are average Nha Trang prices, however, there is no point in spending especially here, because the trip will not take more than a few hours. Visitors usually buy souvenirs. The cost of them varies (an average of 2 to 10 dollars, ie, 50-200 thousand VND).
Of course, coming to the Cham towers and not going inside is a big mistake, but before entering the towers, you need to be appropriately dressed. Proper dress means shoulders and knees covered, no head coverings, and bare feet. If you come to the towers inappropriate – you can get special clothes in a designated place. All robes issued to tourists are gray and blue.
Each tower has a different atmosphere and, of course, a mystical setting. Many Vietnamese pray in front of the statues of the gods, tourists mostly make wishes.
It is a common belief among the Vietnamese that it is in the towers of Ponagar should pray to those who have problems with conception and childbirth. It is better to come to this prayer in the morning and bring some presents with you. A bouquet of flowers or a soft toy may well be a gift. Religion does not matter for this rite. Women mostly pray near the Central Tower, dedicated to Krim Kambhu, the god of fertility.
In general, it is enough to allocate 1 hour to the temple Po Nagar (both the towers and the territory). Afterwards, you can wander around the souvenir shops and pick out some nice gifts for your loved ones or yourself as a keepsake. They sell all sorts of figurines, magnets, bags and backpacks, jewelry, colorful scarves and all sorts of other themed things. At one of the outlets, a woman teaches tourists how to weave. Naturally, for a nominal fee.
How to get to the Po Nagar Temple Complex
The Po Nagar Cham Towers are one of the most accessible attractions in Nha Trang. The complex is close to the tourist areas and can be reached by:
- Walking across the Cai River (about 40 minutes from the center of Nha Trang);
- By bus #4 for $0.3 or 7,000 VND. This bus is a real find for the active tourist, because the route #4 goes through the main attractions of the city. You definitely can’t miss the stop, because the Chamchkie Towers are visible from afar, well, the bus stops in 1 minute walk. The bus runs at 15-20 minute intervals throughout the day;
- by renting a bike ($ 5-7 and 100-150 thousand VND per day). It makes sense to take a bike if you just drive around town or want to combine a tour of Po Nagar with another attraction, such as Thap Ba Mud Clinic;
- A cab to the temple will cost about $3 from the center of Nha Trang, the equivalent of 60-65 thousand VND;
Opening hours, costs
Cham Towers is open from 6am to 6pm daily. Standard admission is VND21,000 ($1), if you need an English-speaking guide, you will have to pay VND50,000 ($2) for the tour.
The Cham Towers of Po Nagar certainly can’t compete with the famous Asian temples and palaces. But anyone who loves history and architecture will find it interesting to spend time here. Po Nagar is a complex with its own atmosphere, well since it is easy to get to and costs almost nothing to visit, you can brighten your day with a visit to Po Nagar. Don’t forget your cameras and a good mood!
Po Nagar Cham Towers – Ancient Buddhist Temple
Perhaps the most popular attraction in Nha Trang after the Wynperl amusement park and Long Son Pagoda are the ancient Cham Towers of Po Nagar, which are over a thousand years old.
How to get there
As always, the easiest way to get to the towers is to rent a motorcycle. It takes a maximum of ten minutes to get there from Lotus (the city center). There is a parking lot near the attraction where you can leave your bike for only 5,000 VND.
Since the towers are located within the city limits, you can also get to them by public transportation – bus number 4 for 7,000 dong.
If you prefer comfort and convenience in traveling, a cab to the towers will cost you only 50,000 VND (130 rubles).
Cost of visiting
Entrance to the temple complex is paid, the price – 22 thousand dong, that’s about $1 per tourist. There are also English-speaking guides for 50,000 VND.
It is open daily, from 6:00 to 19:00. You can buy souvenirs at the entrance near the ticket office.
The oldest structures in Nha Trang are the Cham or Tham Towers. The pronunciation of their name depends on the locality. They carry a magical power, if you walk around them, you feel the peace and grandeur of antiquity. This is not surprising, because these buildings are more than a thousand years old.
They are built of many small red bricks, between which you can’t squeeze a piece of paper as thick as a cobweb. They are the silent witnesses of the once mighty state of Champa. It existed in the VII-XII centuries AD, during its heyday and began to build a temple complex. The first of the towers was built in the middle of VIII century. The towers were located on Mount Kulao at the very entrance to the city.
The temple had many attempts to seize. It was attacked by pirates, several times it was almost completely destroyed. But the inhabitants considered the place sacred, each time the attacks were repelled and the temple was rebuilt.
The whole complex is considered “feminine”. The fact is that at the time of the Champs Principality, the ruling clans were divided into “male” (Yin) and “female” (Yang) clans. The male was located in the mountain gorge of Michonne, and the female was here in modern Nha Trang. At that time there were many wars over these territories, gradually the northern neighbors of the Champ absorbed them, and in the first half of the 19th century these territories became part of Vietnam.
About the temple
The entire complex is still a functioning Buddhist temple, despite the fact that Vietnam positions itself as a secular state and most Vietnamese are considered atheists. The temple is kept in perfect condition, and it is one of the main attractions of the country. Buddhist rituals are performed here, and sometimes older, not very understandable to tourists – pagan rituals. Once they were performed with sacrifices, now the sacrifice is fruit, plants, flowers. In general, everything is harmless.
In those places where monks pray, ordinary tourists can not go, but the rest of the complex can walk around without restrictions. There are comfortable cafes with Buddhist cuisine, rest areas, benches, shady gazebos and excellent toilets. Prices in the cafes for all meals are very democratic, the entrance to the towers themselves are free.
You may be struck by the abundance of flowers, small statues, Buddhist sculptures, fountains and small ponds. The whole area is lined with beautiful stones, with comfortable paths among the plants. Automatic artificial watering was made for the lawns.
The towers and viewing platforms
To the towers you can climb the stairs through the monumental gates. But first you have to go through a gallery of tall ancient columns, built at the same time as the towers. You will immediately see the image of the goddess Durga defeating a buffalo demon.
There used to be more than ten of these towers here, but only four remain. They differ markedly in their architecture, as they were built at different times. Local believers climb here by one of the stairs, but for tourist routes made another – specifically to keep in pristine condition the ancient steps. Tourists can look at them from the observation decks.
In the towers themselves one can feel the strong aroma of incense – there are many burning scented candles. The light from them easily dispels the haze they create.
The towers themselves are narrow and there is little room for a group.
The Tower of the Goddess Po Nagar
The main tower is dedicated to Po Nagar, the goddess of all crafts and the fertility goddess. The tower is intricately decorated with images of Po Nagar and inside there is a statue of her. It is the tallest of all, reaching a height of 28 meters. Vietnamese still come to this temple to worship the goddess and ask her for protection for their loved ones.
The North Tower
The North Tower is an example of Champean architecture. It was built during the reign of Harivarman I, in 817. It was richly decorated, but was almost completely looted by pirates in the early 11th century. Now it is famous for the fact that it keeps the statue of ten-armed goddess Uma and the figure of Shiva (Sandhaku), which, in fact, and is dedicated to.
The least decorated of all. Built in the middle of VII century, it once housed many riches, but, like the North Tower, was looted. Nevertheless, it too is very revered among local believers. The tower is dedicated to the fertility god Kri Kambhu.
Its local name, Myeu Dong Nam, is dedicated to the god of wisdom and chastity Ganache. The tower is beautifully decorated with many ancient statues and inscriptions in the language of the time. Believers say that in the tower itself there is a special aura that only a true Buddhist can feel.
There are also the ruins of the West Tower, built during the reign of Emperor Vikrantavarman.
Cham towers are cult constructions, you can not be in them with open legs and hands. Everyone’s head must be uncovered. If you do come there “improperly dressed”, you will be given special clothes of gray color at the entrance, in which you will see everything. These clothes are very similar to those of a monk, so you may well be mistaken for a local monk.
You should undress to enter the towers themselves.
Overall, it is always beautiful and cozy, and you can come at any time of the year. The Po Nagar Cham Towers are recommended for all tourists coming to Vietnam.
You are especially lucky if you come at the end of March, when the Buddhist festival is held. Then you can see the different rituals, even participate in them, and taste the delicious food.
Since 2013, I have been living with my wife in different countries, including China, the Philippines, the USA, and Vietnam. I photograph and write about travel blogs.