Thursday, November 20, 2008

City of ghosts

This Cambodian-style villa lies opposite the Kep crab market
One of the pleasures of visiting Kep on the south coast of Cambodia is to revel in it's abandoned feel and some say ghostly past by visiting the slew of ruined and overgrown villas, but go now before they all disappear under the surge of construction work being undertaken on renovating or rebuilding these witnesses to the Khmer Rouge ideal of destroying anything of a bourgeois and decadent lifestyle. From the early part of the 2oth century, Kep was a haven for the elite of the colonial power France and the rich Cambodia aristocracy, who flocked to their weekend villas at Kep-sur-Mer. The murderous Khmer Rouge regime left the inhabitants dead and their mansions and villas in tatters. Locals talk of bodies found in the fuel drums of the local petrol station. Today, the villas, many in the new wave style of modernist Cambodian architecture of the '50s and '60s, are left empty or host a squatter family of two. All of them have already been snapped up cheaply by property speculators looking to make big money as the seaside resort and the coastline continues to gain in popularity. Included in the array of villas are two that belonged to King Norodom Sihanouk, whilst the mansions in the French colonial style are the one's most likely to receive a make-over rather than the sledge-hammer.
The King's Palace, on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, was never actually used by the sovereign
A viewing platform at the King's Palace at Kep, looking out to sea
Left to rot and roofless, one of 1,200 villas in the Kep area
The only inhabitants at this villa were bored cows munching through the grass
This villa was impossible to gain access to because of the dense vegetation
The second royal residence, the villa of King Norodom Sihanouk that looks out onto Rabbit Island in the bay directly in front
This small French colonial style house is being renovated in its original style, in a quiet side-street in Kep


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andy, as always, thanks for sharing the photos of Kep and the rest of Cambodia. I love the old villas in Kep and in the rest of Cambodia as well. it's good to see people are renovating them and refurbishing them to their original designs. I think it is a smart idea to try to preserve the old classical looks of some of cambodia's architectural legacy. most just needs a good paint job and renovation, refurbishment, etc... glad to see people are doing just that. God bless Cambodia.

November 20, 2008 2:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did not mention the new monstrosity built by Commerce Minister Chan Prasith on the hill overlooking the beach at Kep. He reportedly controls much of the land and development in Kep (not to mention Kampot province generally) where he stands to benefit hansomely from any housing boom.

November 20, 2008 11:53 PM  

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