Casino Rouge

Exploring the ruin of the French colonial era Bokor Casino Hotel in Cambodia recently. The Casino was fought over by the invading/liberating Vietnamese army and the murderous Khmer Rouge from 1979 onwards. Due to it’s strategic place and size on Bokor plateau it was invaluable to either side to gain an advantage over the other. In recent years it has been cleaned up and somewhat structurally improved- unfortunately removing most of its neglected charm, tragedy and history in the process.

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Church : Time

Exploring the abandoned former French colonial era church on Bokor Mountain in Cambodia recently. In 1978 the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia, toppling the murderous Khmer Rouge in a matter of weeks. There was however a stalemate for a time on Bokor (and other locations) as the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge battled it out- fighting between the church and nearby casino. In recent years the church has had occasional use- it’s first in nearly four decades. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”

The Ghost Tower

GT1The Sathorn Unique (aka the Ghost Tower) is a 185 meter 49 story unfinished skyscaper in downtown Bangkok near the Chao Phraya river. The proposed luxury condominium tower was designed and developed by prominent architect and real estate developer Rangsan Torsuwan. By 1997 construction was estimated to be 80–90 percent complete when the Asian financial crisis hit. Bangkok’s real estate market collapsed, and the finance companies that had funded the project went bankrupt and were subsequently liquidated. Building construction projects across the city came to a halt and Bangkok was left with over 300 unfinished high-rise projects. However since then most of these buildings have been completed as the economy recovered- but the Sathorn Unique remains a ghost tower…GT2

There are numerous urban legends and superstitions regarding the Sathorn held by people in the nearby community and Bangkok in general. Some believe the building was doomed from the beginning as the land upon which it sits is a former graveyard. Others believe that due to the Sathorn Unique’s shadow falling over the neighboring Wat Yan Nawa, that this brings it bad luck, resulting in its failed completion. After almost two decades and no completion in sight, perhaps there is something to these superstitions after all.GT3

Over the years the Sathorn has become known a bit of an urban exploration mecca, so late last year while in Bangkok we thought we’d pay it a visit. Despite being officially off-limits to the public, access reportedly could be gained by finding your own way in- or bribing a security guard to let you in- we preferred the former. We found the building easily enough, you just have to look up. Unfortunately our timing couldn’t have been worse and was only out by a month or two, as the surrounding fence had been rebuilt and reinforced and certain security guards sacked- no one can enter now (unless your Spiderman) no matter what bribe is offered.GT5

This appears to have occurred due to a number of factors; the increased popularity of the tower, the number of photos, videos and articles popping up on line- and the death of a tourist. In December 2014 the body of a Swedish man was found hanging on the 43rd floor. The cause of death was determined to be suicide, though the news prompted discussion regarding the safety and security of the building. Then in September 2015, Sathorn Unique Co. made known they had filed criminal charges of trespassing against five people who had posted material on the Web, including a pair of tourists who had created a video of themselves freerunning on the tower. They said that this was done in order to set an example and deter people from climbing the building. They added that the number of people illegally entering the premises had risen sharply during the past year, following an increase in online exposure, with over a hundred people entering on some weekends.GT4

So at present the Ghost Tower seems to have been finally left for the ghosts to accommodate- but perhaps the future will offer opportunities for a return of the living…

 

Nokor

Not your usual urbex video, but exploring ruins nonetheless. This is the strange fusion temple complex of Banteay Prey Nokor in Cambodia that we visited late last year. Situated in countryside near the town of Kompong Cham, the original 11th century Mahayana Buddhist shrine has been added onto over the centuries and incorporated into a bewildering and sprawling complex of wat’s and stupa’s. Apart from a security guard and a couple of monks we had the place to ourselves. More to come from Cambodia soon…

Gunkanjima

One of us was lucky enough to visit legendary “Gunkanjima” a few years ago. Hashima Island, known locally as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)- is situated off the coast of Japan near Nagasaki. Mitsubishi purchased the island in 1890 and began the project of extracting coal from undersea mines. They built Japan’s first large concrete building (9 stories high) in 1916 to accommodate the burgeoning ranks of workers. Concrete was specifically used to protect against typhoon destruction. In 1959, the 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island’s population reached its peak of 5,259, with a population density of 835 people per hectare for the whole island. As petroleum replaced coal in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima’s mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closure of the mines in 1974, with the local workers/inhabitants having to vacate their island fortress immediately.

Gunkanjima is increasingly gaining international attention, not only for its modern regional heritage, but also for the undisturbed housing complex remnants representative of the period. In the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall, the island served as an inspiration for the lair of villain Raoul Silva, but filming did not take place on the island itself. One section was recreated at Pinewood Studios in England and the rest via CGI. In 2013, Google sent an employee to the island with a Street View backpack to capture its condition in panoramic 360-degree views and allow users to take a virtual walk across the island. Google also used its Business Photos technology to let users look inside the abandoned buildings, complete with old black-and-white TVs and discarded soda bottles.