Thursday, November 20, 2008

Faded charm of Kep

This once-elegant villa had its own swimming pool and servants quarters, now squatters reside in the property
Kep-sur-Mer was established in 1908 as the playground of the rich and famous of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge years of the late '70s put a stop to all that. Up to that, the French and Cambodian elite preferred its balmy shoreline and gorgeous orange sunsets to the heat and bustle of the city. Some villas even boasted swimming pools, but the vast majority now lie in complete disrepair, a shadow of their former colonial or modernist Khmer New Wave style glory. It's believed there were some 1,200 villas in Kep and the surrounding area that fell foul to the Khmer Rouge mantra to destroy everything that didn't meet their warped ideals. What the KR didn't wreck, then looting and neglect have completed the job. The best of the properties hug the side of small hills that dot the coastline, including the Royal Palace of the former King, although Sihanouk allegedly never stayed there. Other houses are pock-marked with bullet holes with their shaded tree-fringed steps leading to concrete skeleton relics of the good times. Overlooking the beach, the Hotel de Kep is being renovated, again, whilst the expensive villas of the Knai Bang Chatt resort were originally designed by a student of the country's favourite architect Vann Molyvann. Don't be surprised if more of the villas are turned into luxury accommodation for rent. Soon the faded ghostly charm of quiet Kep will disappear forever.
This hilltop villa lies in ruins
The sea-view from the balcony window of the hilltop villa is obscured by the trees
A ruined stone villa will soon be covered by vegetation
This villa is located next to my guesthouse, Kep Seaside
Cattle find a home in a ruined villa
Interesting patterned stonework on this ghostly ruin near our guesthouse; nothing remains intact inside the house
This re-invented boutique place to stay has added elements to its original construction; not yet open for business

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