Black Palace

“Black Palace” (Damnak Sla Khmao) was a little summer palace of King Sihanouk, abandoned sometime in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. It’s located on Bokor Hill Station in southern Cambodia. The “Palace” itself is not on a grand scale, but the overall spectacular location and many outer buildings must have been fairly impressive in its day.

The hill station was built as a resort by colonial French settlers as an escape from the heat, humidity and general insalubrity of Phnom Penh. Nine hundred lives were lost in the nine months during the construction of the resort in this remote mountain location.

The centrepiece of the resort was the grand Bokor Palace Hotel (which has never been a casino) inaugurated in 1925. See previous video- “Casino Rouge”. It was used as the location for the final showdown of the excellent Matt Dillon 2002 movie, “City Of Ghosts”.

Bokor Hill was abandoned first by the French in late 1940s, during the First Indochina War, because of local insurrections guided by the Khmer Issarak. It was only in 1962, for the reopening of the “Cité du Bokor”, that a casino was established in the new hotels near the lake, (Hotels Sangkum and Kiri). Some buildings were added at this time: an annex for the palace, the mayor’s office and a strange mushroomed concrete parasol.

The Bokor mountain was abandoned again in 1972, as Khmer Rouge took over the area. During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, Khmer Rouge entrenched themselves and held on tightly for months. In the 1990s Bokor Hill was still one of the last strongholds of Khmer Rouge.

Advertisements

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…