Erskine college built in 1905 is due for demolition this year and any day now the demolition crews will move in. Urbex Central decided to take one more visit back before it is gone forever, come say goodbye to one of Wellington’s most famous abandoned, ‘haunted’ whatever you want to call it, buildings.
“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.
Having had this closed down and dilapidated cement works on the radar for a couple of years, the urbexcentral crew alongside wildboyzue (UK) finally got to take a visit!
As we drove the long drive to this location, we had mixed feelings of defeat and curiosity from earlier exploration attempts but we were determined to finally do something epic this road trip.
Now, with our target in sight we quickly worked out the best way to photograph the place and we were soon basking in an oasis of abandonment, from coming across remnants of a past busy workplace, to huge machinery and infrastructure, including a decommissioned coal run power plant!
This large (by NZ standards) purpose built former tertiary institute expired at around the same time this Kodak Ektar 64T film did. And just like this 35mm expired film, it is apparently getting another lease of life. There are new owners and supposedly new occupants- but the only life we saw were some homies running their dogs (who tried to have a go at us); an alleged owner who asked what we were taking photos of (selfies of course) & told us to leave; and an elderly security guard who said- just leave. One of UC have a particular connection to this place, having kind of studied (sic) here when it was still a place of education- not stagnation.
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.
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…
Exploring a century old shipwreck near Wellington recently…
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.
Getting all religious at an historic abandoned chapel recently…
A video from a couple of years ago- wandering around the creepy ruins of an abandoned cool-stores facility in Taranaki. Happy Halloween folks 😉
Filmed in late 2011- this was the final days of the old Hawera Hospital (1925-2012). Demolition was already well underway on the South Taranaki Hospital, with at least half the complex already gone. A compact digital camera was rigged onto the hot-shoe of a DSLR to capture on video the state the place and what was being photographed- plenty of shaky camera footage ensued. Abandoned in 2002, the hospital’s state of decline over the next decade was dramatic and completely unnecessary. It wasn’t a pretty explore- a bleak and hazardous environment, the complete opposite of what a hospital is supposed to be about- inhospitable.
Rural legend says this house was transported to its spectacular hilltop location sometime in the 1980’s. Allegedly the farmer who owned the property, had intended to renovate the house and make it the family home. Apparently though soon after the building was in place, the couple separated and the man was left to bring up the children on his own. Then, because he couldn’t afford to spend any more time and money on the house, it duly deteriorated and is still standing like a folly decades later. Check out our videos here and here.
This former quarantine station was first opened in 1872 for people arriving New Zealand with contagious diseases. The facilities were refurbished and extended in 1918-19 and were maintained in readiness until World War II (1939-45) but were little used. The accommodation blocks were used in both World War I and World War II to house interned “enemy aliens”. For over 100 years, beginning in the early 1880s, it also served as an animal quarantine station. Animals arriving in New Zealand from other countries were quarantined on the island for 30–60 days to check they were free of disease. Blood samples were taken regularly and tested. Each animal was also treated for internal and external parasites.
In 1971 this particular facility, a maximum security animal quarantine station was completed. Until then, New Zealand had only ever imported livestock from Britain, Australia and Canada. The idea of a maximum security animal station was to enable scientists and geneticists to study new exotic breeds from outside of these ‘safe’ countries. When the station received its first shipment of animals in March 1972, it was the most sophisticated facility of its kind in the world. This allowed for the importation of a more diverse range of exotic animals such as elk, red deer, alpaca and llama, and capacity to hold more of the traditional imported livestock. In 1985 a scheme was introduced to import ova and embryos of cattle, sheep, and goats for implantation into New Zealand livestock. This inadvertently lessened the need for quarantine stations. It meant that existing livestock lines could be diversified rather than relying on importing. The quarantine station was closed in 1995.
We explored this former Italian restaurant two years ago, just prior to demolition. Remiro Bresolin, a flamboyant pioneer of Italian cuisine in New Zealand and legend of Wellington’s social scene, took drab Wellington and gave it a splash of Italian colour. For nearly 30 years his Il Casino restaurant was a capital icon and a mecca for food lovers everywhere. The restaurant closed just prior to his death in 2007 and in it’s place now stands another inner city apartment block.
This former conference and accommodation complex- closed due to being “earthquake prone”- is still very, very vacant…
At the fringe of this neglected community garden area, there was a strange, landscaped new-age prayer circle thing. It wasn’t peaceful, inspirational, meditative etc… just a bit weird, kitsch, humorous, tacky and kinda creepy. The amphitheatre, inspired by something called the Vortrovia Vision, is apparently called an “Amphenium”. Wow, if it’s got a cool name like that it’s got to be pretty impressive, right? Wrong!
More quotes from the beautifully presented(sic) informational details onsite: “This local/universal, sacred/secular, aesthetic/functional built & landscaped environment, called the “Amphenium,“will serve some of the following purposes; a spiritual-cultural arts centre, a solar power generator & multi functional performance venue, a kinetic work of art and tourist attraction, a 24/7 online multi-media experience, a showcase for new environmentally friendly technology, a planetarium, a site for celebrating seasonal and astronomical events (eg. solstices/equinoxes), a sculpted park featuring medicinal flora & works of art reflecting spiritual, mythical, astrological & cosmological themes: the wellspring generator, portal to & birthplace of a sustainable new world. Access to the apex of the dome would be catered for by an egg shaped capsule. As it ascends it will revolve & open up like a flower into 8 horizontal segments.” Hmm- that’s one helluva multi-functional venue… the UFO landing dock was missing though 😉
It’s not everyday you see someone walking along the street wearing a full NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suit– but today was one of those days. We turned the car around and followed the shuffling figure, thinking they must have just been let out for the day. As we got out of the car and approached, gesturing with the camera and asking if we could take photos, he said in a muffled voice “okay”. As it turned out he was a student from the local high school and must have been about 16 or 17. There had been some sort of costume day at school, and being a military buff he had decided to wear the full chem-suit to school. He explained (without taking the mask off) that he had purchased the suit/mask etc in Russia and that his family was from there and Ukraine (Odessa). Then he waddled off up the hill towards home…
A re-posted video of Petone College from early 2013. This former high school- abandoned, vandalized and the victim of numerous arson attacks- has finally been euthanized to make way for a retirement village. Escuela Mala loosely translates as “bad school” in Spanish.
One of our old haunts has finally been demolished. Hutt Valley High School (formerly Petone Technical College) was closed in 1998, but partially used up until 2002. The site had been heavily vandalized over the years and targeted on a number of occasions by arsonists- most recently this past January. This last fire was the nail in the coffin for the former school. The remaining buildings were demolished last month to make way for (ironically) a retirement village.