Phan Rang and Thap Cham's most famous landmark is Po Klong Garai, also known as Po Klong Girai - girai means 'dragon'. The four brick towers were constructed at the end of the 13th century, during the reign of the Cham monarch Jaya Simhavarman III. The towers were built as Hindu temples and stand on a brick platform at the top of Cho'k Hala, a crumbly granite hill covered with some of the most ornery cacti this side of the Rio Grande.
Po Klong Garai Cham Towers
Over the entrance to the largest tower (the kalan, or sanctuary) is a carving of a dancing Shiva with six arms. This bas-relief is known locally as Po Klaun Tri - the Guardian of the Temple Tower - and is famous for its beauty. Note the inscriptions in the ancient Cham language on the doorposts. These tell of past restoration efforts and offerings of sacrifices and slaves made to the temple towers.Po Klong Garai Cham Towers
Inside the vestibule is a statue of the bull Nandin (also known as the Kapil Ox), symbol of the agricultural productivity of the countryside. To ensure a good crop, farmers would place an offering of fresh greens, herbs and areca nuts in front of Nandin's muzzle. Under the main tower is a mukha-linga, a linga with a human face painted on it. A wooden pyramid has been constructed above the mukha-linga.
The architecture of the towers
Inside the tower, opposite the entrance to the sanctuary, you can get a good look at some of the Chains' sophisticated building technology; the wooden columns that support the lightweight roof are visible. The structure attauied to it was originally the main entrance to the complex. On a nearby hill is a rock with an inscription from the year 1050, commemorating the erection of a linga by a Cham prince.Po Klong Garai Cham Towers
On the hill directly south of Cho'k Hala is a concrete water tank built by the Americans in 1965. It is encircled by French pillboxes built during the Franco-Viet Minn War to protect the nearby rail yards. To the north of Cho'k Hala, you can see the concrete revetments of Thanh Son Airbase, used since 1975 by the Vietnamese Air Force. Po Klong Garai is several hundred metres north of Hwy 20, at a point 6km west of Phan Rang towards Dalat. The towers are on the opposite side of the tracks to Thap Cham train station. If you're travelling between Dalat and Nha Trang or Mui Ne Beach, you will pass the site. Most of the open-lour buses shuttling people between Dalat and the coast make a requisite pit stop here.