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 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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
Images of the exterior of Christchurch Cathedral from a couple of months ago. The Cathedral was badly damaged in the February 22nd 2011 earthquake (and other aftershocks) that devastated New Zealand’s third largest city. It’s a surreal experience, the centre around Cathedral Square is mostly unrecognizable, apart from the iconic Christchurch Cathedral.
The Anglican Cathedral was built between 1864 and 1904 in the centre of the city, surrounded by Cathedral Square. It became the cathedral seat of the Bishop of Christchurch in the New Zealand tikanga of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
Repeated earthquakes have damaged the building (mostly the spire) in the course of its history: in 1881, 1888, 1901, 1922, and September 2010. The February 2011 Christchurch earthquake destroyed the spire and part of the tower, and severely damaged the structure of the remaining building. The remainder of the tower was demolished in March 2012. The west wall suffered collapses in the June 2011 earthquake and the December 2011 quake due to a steel structure – intended to stabilize the rose window – pushing it in.
The Anglican Church has decided to demolish the building and replace it with a new structure – a decision which has become controversial in post-quake Christchurch. Various groups have opposed the Church’s intentions, with actions including taking a case to court. As of January 2015 the judgements have mostly been in favour of the Church, with one more judgement pending. No demolition has occurred since the removal of the tower in early 2012.
There has been opposition to demolition, with heritage groups including the UNESCO World Heritage Centre opposing the action. A local character, the Wizard of New Zealand, made protests calling for the cathedral to be saved. Kit Miyamoto, an American-based structural engineer and expert in earthquake rebuilding, inspected the cathedral after the September 2010 quake. He cited his experience in stating that restoring and strengthening of the building was both “feasible and affordable”.
In April 2012, a group of engineers from the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering launched a petition seeking support of 100 colleagues to stop the demolition. They claimed that legal action was also a possibility. In the same month the Restore Christchurch Cathedral Group was formed and sought signatures for a petition to save the cathedral.
Inside an abandoned former catholic girls school/farm/’rehabilitation unit’ we visited in mid 2013. Founded by a French sisterhood in 1953 -“the girls who came into the care of the sisters often had problems that could not be resolved in their normal environment and needed the loving care of others to restore their sense of self-worth.” The first residents stayed at the ’13’-room Manor built by its previous owner; and over the years the Catholic order embarked on a building program that included a 25-girl dormitory, two-story working/training block, visitor accommodation and sports facility. The last building was an expanded convent for the growing number of sisters at the facility. At it’s peak there were apparently up to 50 nuns in the house, and at least 70 girls. The farm/school/borstal/convent finally closed down in the early 1980’s.