Po Nagar - Ruins from the Cham Kingdom
High on a hill overlooking the small seaside resort town of Nha Trang in south-central Vietnam, sits the ruins of Po Nagar, a temple and fortress of the Cham Kingdom that once ruled over much of southern Vietnam.
The ruin is located in the northern part of the city, near the coast. It's walkable from the central area where most of the hotels are, but it can be very hot in Nha Trang, so it's probably best to hire a taxi for the 5km trip to the ruins. Po Nagar is one of the most popular sites for tourists in Nha Trang, so it can get very crowded. It's advised to go in the morning before the big tour buses arrive.
The origins of Po Nagar as a holy site dates back to the 2nd century. A small wooden temple stood on the hill in one form or another for the next few hundred years, until it was razed by invading Javanese in the 8th century. After that, Po Nagar was rebuilt in its current form.
Like other Khmer-style temples, Po Nagar was at times both Hindu and Buddhist. It was built late enough that Buddhist culture had already come to this part of Asia, and the Khmer Empire - which heavily influenced the Cham Kingdom - was already in its decline, but there are shrines to Shiva and Ganesh alongside those dedicated to Buddha.
The temple was called Po Nagar, named for the patron goddess of a local Cham clan that lived in the area. If you've already visited Da Nang, up the central coast from Nha Trang, you might have already visited the excellent Cham Museum. This is highly recommended! Unfortunately, there isn't much informational available at the Po Nagar site. Although guides are available at the ticket office, it might not fit a tight budget to book a private tour. There is a tiny one-room museum at the rear of the historical site, but it doesn't explain so much. Still, it's an interesting site to visit, even without a lot of knowledge about the history of the ruins.
If you are lucky, you just might catch a special Cham cultural performance. Although Champa was absorbed into Vietnam in the 19th century, the culture is still very much alive. The Cham people are still found throughout southern Vietnam, and many of the country's ethnic minorities work hard to preserve their unique culture.
The ruins are an interesting place to spend an hour or so, but unfortunately they tend to be too crowded with large groups of people more interested in taking selfies than in respecting the history. When we visited, we were disappointed to see many people ignoring the signs requesting visitors to remove their shoes and to dress appropriately inside the temples and shrines.
Po Nagar Ruins
6:00am - 6:00pm
2 Tháng 4, Vĩnh Phước, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam
Just north of Nha Trang city center