This tower isn’t easy to get to like Po Klong Garai, but that’s what makes it worthwhile. Named after the last king of the independent Champa Empire, Po Ro Me is a single tower perched on an isolated hill in the middle of a desert lowland ringed by high hills. The location is stunning, and the fact the caretaker needs to unlock it for you adds to the atmosphere. Once there you’ll want to hang around for a while just to soak up the view. It’s a great place to head on a motorbike, whether on your own steam or with a xe om.
To reach Po Ro Me Cham Tower, head south on Highway 1A. Once you cross the river, continue for 8.2 kilometres. The turn off is at the junction with Highway TL703, on your right hand side. But instead of continuing on TL703, which veers right and heads north all the way back to Thap Cham train station, continue straight on this road for 1.7 kilometres. You’ll come to a bare patch of land used as a football pitch – turn left and follow the road for six kilometres. You’ll pass through La Chu village (there’s an large archway sign “Thon Van Hoa La Chu”) and eventually, at a distance, you will see the tower perched on the hill drowning in pink and white bougainvillea. When we visited in March 2016, there was an ugly tourist centre being built, no doubt to hawk Cham pottery and other souvenirs. Hopefully it won’t change the atmosphere of the place and actually deliver information about the tower.
Steep stairs lead up to the only surviving tower with a doorway adorned with a flame motif, symbolising purity and karmic cleansing. The caretaker will unlock the door for you and sweep up the droppings of the resident bats. Take off your shoes and enter to see the magnificent red and black relief of the king as the many armed Shiva. To his right is his queen, at the vestibule is the bull (Nandi), who is fed by farmers during festivals in hopes of a good crop.
It’s a special feeling to visit this temple, which is still in use, as evidenced by the heady aroma of incense inside. Cham people make pilgrimage to the site every year for the sacred Kate festival, which takes place in the first three days of the seventh month in the Cham calendar.
Pause to enjoy the view of the scrubby flatlands dotted with cacti. A 20,000 dong donation to the caretaker should suffice.
By Cindy Fan
Last updated on 29th April, 2016.