There’s a fascination and intrigue about abandoned places. Is it the eerie silence, the desolate streets, the unexplained desertion or perhaps the myths and rumours that surround them? Underneath the dust and debris there is a story that captures our curiosity and imagination.
Southeast Asia has its share of such places. Here are our favourites:
Cambodia’s Scarred Hill Station
On the top of Bokor Hill in southern Cambodia stand the crumbling ruins of a once-bustling hotel, glamorous casino, Catholic Church and various royal residences. The resort was constructed in the 1920s for wealthy French colonialists and Cambodia’s elite to escape the heat and enjoy the sweeping views across the country, sea and beyond. Many say the resort was doomed from the start as rumours claim that over 1,000 men died due to intense labour in the nine months that it took to build the resort. However in 1972 the wild parties and gambling came to an abrupt end when the Khmer Rouge took over the area. Bokor Hill became a major battle ground and the Khmer Rouge kept it as a stronghold well into the 1990s.
The abandoned buildings in this eerie ghost town still remain, however the bullet-strewn walls are a stark reminder of the bloody battles that took place there.
Update: Since writing this blog, the ruined hotel has been renovated and reopened as the luxurious Le Bokor Palace. The ruins of the old Catholic Church and other French colonial buildings still remain.
India’s Ghost Town
Bangarh Fort is said to be the most haunted place in India! The abandoned ancient city of Bangarh can be found on the border of the Sariska Reserve in the Aravali range of hills in Rajasthan. It was built in the 17th century and consists of temples, palaces and multiple gates covering a large area of land at the foot of a mountain. However it was completely abandoned in 1783, with locals moving their village elsewhere.
Despite its beauty, the abandoned town has a dark side with rumours of curses and black magic. The ruins can be explored during the day, however no one is allowed to enter the fort premises once the sun goes down.
Whether the town is haunted or not, it certainly is hauntingly beautiful and we reckon it definitely deserves a visit – but only during daylight!
Vietnam’s Freaky Fun Park
Most definitely not on the usual tourist trail is Vietnam’s surreal and strange waterpark. The Ho Thuy Tien Waterpark, just outside Hue, cost a staggering three million dollars to build. It opened in 2004 but due to unknown reasons shut its imposing gates within just a few years.
In the centre of the deserted and derelict park a lonely, three-storey, rusty dragon looks forlornly down over waterless slides, an empty ampitheatre, broken attractions and pools of murky water. The buildings are covered in rust, peeling paint and graffiti. Weeds and vines have wound their way around the cracked slides. The park once boasted aquariums full of exotic fish and pools of crocodiles. To add to the creepy vibe, in the early days after the sudden closure, there were even rumours of hungry crocodiles freely roaming the park!
Bangkok’s Airplane Graveyard
Ever wondered where planes go to die? It seems some choose to retire on a piece of wasteland between car repair shops and apartment buildings near the centre of Bangkok.
This unlikely graveyard is the final resting place of several passenger jets. One is a huge double decker plane, while another is said to be the Orient Thai jetliner that crashed at Phuket International Airport in 2007. Resembling huge carcasses, the planes have been stripped of their interiors and now lie dormant at the mercy of the elements. Several homeless families have made the graveyard their home, living in small sheds and sometimes even inside the derelict airplanes.
Myanmar’s Neglected Capital
Although not technically deserted, Naypyitaw has very few traces of human life, earning it the nickname ‘The Ghost Town’.
Naypyidaw was constructed in secret by the Myanmar Junta in the early 2000s as the new capital of Myanmar. This vast city is about four times the size of London with 20-lane highways, grandiose boulevards, shopping malls, monumental parliament buildings, golden stupas and golf courses. The only thing missing is the people!
But look on the bright side – there are no traffic jams, the electricity is more reliable than the rest of the country and there’s no chance of your hotel room being overbooked!
India’s Short-lived Capital
The magnificent fortified city of Fatephur Sikri is located in India, about 40 kilometres from Agra. The city was built by the emperor Akbar and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1578 when it was abandoned.
The well-preserved city sits on a rocky ridge. Within its six-kilometre city wall is a cornucopia of elaborately carved structures built from beautiful red sandstone. These include one of the largest mosques in India, three palaces and other early Mughal structures, exhibiting both Muslim and Hindu architectural influences. This abandoned town still attracts many visitors due to the atmospheric beauty of its palaces and courtrooms.