Eight kilometres from Phan Rang is a collection of ancient towers built by the Cham people roundabout the turn of the 13th century.
The towers were built to honor a Cham king who was known for his good works for the people. Phan Rang-Thap Cham was the last capital of the Cham kingdom before it was conquered by the ethnic Vietnamese, so the spot holds a lot of significance for the ethnic Cham who still chaff a bit under their rule of the majority people.
There's a long 'gallery' leading up to the foot of the hill the towers occupy -- mostly just curios and souvenirs for tourists to buy, but the first gallery features some excellent photographs -- National Geographic calibre -- at prices that are a fraction of what a framed blow up of the same size and quality would go for back home. If you're a photography buff, or you're looking for something to ship back home to your penthouse, you could find just the thing here. You can also get an unflattering rendering of the Mona Lisa in wooden bas-relief, if that's to your taste.
The towers themselves are of impressively sturdy design and delicately ornamented (given the damage the ravages of time have wrought). The Cham people still use the towers as a pilgrimage spot -- on our visit, some of the faithful were gathered in the small interior of one of the towers, chanting in honour of their ancestors. It's just another old pile of rocks, but we enjoyed it. There are signs pointing to 'traditional Cham houses' on the other side of the hill, but they seemed to be recently-built, were closed on our visit, and did little to spark our imagination -- we recommend skipping them.
How to get there
To reach Po Klong Garai Cham Tower, head out of Phan Rang south on Thong Nhat past the post office, bearing left. At the next big intersection, take a left, following the signs to Da Lat. At the roundabout, circle round but keep straight. You'll pass through the town of Thap Cham (and understand why we didn't bother to cover it). After the railroad tracks, there's a sign pointing to the towers, 150 metres off the road to the right.
Last updated on 23rd May, 2007.