This relic of French Indochina is one of Phnom Penh’s most photographed buildings. It’s also a bit of a mystery. Built in the 1920’s when the capital was dubbed the “Pearl of Asia,” the mansion is one of Phnom Penh’s few surviving colonial buildings. 32 Sothearos Boulevard doesn’t have a name or a recorded history, and most people refer to it as something along the lines of “that old colonial building.” A perfect example of urban decay.
Decades of war, neglect, and decay have all taken their toll.
I had photographed the building a while back, and always wanted to go inside for a more in-depth exploration.
The rent-a-cop lounging at the entrance was more interested in watching the clouds than keeping me from poking around for a while. His indifference was a little disappointing as it took away the usual thrill of infiltrating an abandoned building. The German tourist I ran into inside also didn’t help.
All sorts of random stuff cluttered the first floor: tools, drying clothes, chairs, bags of cement, a microwave. The second floor was apparently the living quarters for the handful of construction workers that wandered about, oblivious to my presence.
Each room seemed to have a single chair in it.
Most abandoned buildings tend to attract graffiti, and this was no exception. Here’s an English lesson on verbs, written on a bathroom wall.
The FCC recently purchased the building, and renovation is almost underway to transform it into a 24-room faux-colonial luxury hotel complete with pool and French bistro. Construction is supposed to start mid-2008. Preservationists must love this, but I hoped it would be turned into something more people could enjoy. At least it won’t be torn down.
Rest of the Flickr set here