Arashiyama’s Autumn


Yesterday I made my second, or perhaps third, visit to Arashiyama in Kyoto with some Cambodian and Chinese students from Kobe University. I have never been there during autumn before. The ancient Kyoto city is very famous for not only some world-heritage temples but also the beautiful colored leaves during this season. There are many places to enjoy the colored leaves but decided to pick up Arashiyama.

Since it was Saturday with favorable weather, there was influx of sightseers from every corner as expected. Tenryu-ji temple, jojakko-ji temple, Niso-in temple and bamboo forest are just only some places of interest to mention. There are so many places and activities to enjoy in the area. I wish I had had enough time to see and photograph these renowned places in my own slow pace. From early December, the Arashiyama’s symbolic Togetsu Bridge and the forests in the mountains will be illuminated at night.

Arashiyama, Kyoto

Arashiyama, Kyoto

Arashiyama, Kyoto

Posted in Japan, Nature

Kobe Port Tower

Kobe Port Tower

Kobe Port Tower, the first pipe-structured building in the world was constructed in 1963 with observation deck offering 360-degree view of Kobe city. This symbolic tower’s unique shape came from the image of Japanese hand drum. The red tower is vividly illuminated by 7,000 LED lights at night at night.

Kobe Port Tower’s height is 108m, much lower than Tokyo Tower (333m) and Tokyo Sky Tree (634m) completed in 1958 and 2012 respectively.

Kobe Port Tower

Kobe Port Tower

Posted in Japan, Landmark

An Expedition to Maya Kanko Hotel

A View along the way on Maya Mount

I have done some online researches about urban exploration in Japan and knew about the existence of Maya Kanko Hotel, also shortly known as Mayakan, before I came here. But after a few days of my arrival in Kobe, I learned that the abandoned hotel is quite close to my dormitory. Well if it were not situated on the mountain, it would be a pleasant walk from my place.

After some extra online research, it became clear that the access to the hotel is not easy, and even legal. It became a prohibited area since the building has been deteriorated in recent years. It seems that now explorers used abandoned trekking roads to be away from the eyes of the nearby cable station staff. However, I decided to just have a look at the hotel as I don’t have any thing to do in particular and it would be a good exercise for me.

It took me about 30 minutes by foot to reach the Maya Mount base, from which cable car can bring you to the Rainbow Station. The hotel is a stone throw from the station. The cable runs everyday except Tuesday, the day I went there. After a wrong turn, I found out the entrance of the hiking roads. I did not have map or smart phone to access online map, so it was very helpful to find a map at the entrance. I snapped it and continue my journey. It took me more than one hour to reach the cable station. For a man rarely excising like me, it is a bit challenging. At the end, I did manage to have a glimpse of the roof of the hotel from the cable station, but I did not have a gut to go beyond the fence. For now, having any problem with police is the last thing I want.

Sign to Maya Cable Station

Underground of Abandoned Building on Maya Mount

Abandoned Building on Maya Mount

Posted in Japan

Night View From Kobe University

View of Rokko Island from Kobe University

Kobe, wedged in between coasts and mountains, is one of the three cities in Japan with the most beautiful night sceneries. Well, even Tokyo is not in the list. The three cities are Nagasaki, Hakodate and Kobe. The night views of Kobe from mountain summits, especially from Rokko Mountain’s, are breathtaking (I have not been there just yet, though).

I had visited Kobe a few times about a decade ago, but I did not have chance to enjoy its night sceneries from atop. In this early October, I moved to live in Kobe with my wife who is now studying at Kobe University. The day before yesterday I made my first visit to Kobe University, situated on mountainous area with decent view of the city, though it is not the best place with commanding views. I found some nearby tall buildings and trees distracting for panorama shot, so I decided to switch to telephoto lens for narrow views. Almost half of my shots were a bit blurry as it was so windy and my small made-in-china tripod was not steady enough.

Since I will be here for a long while, I surely will visit other spots for better views of the city someday. If the weather is good, Osaka also comes in sight from Kobe.

View from Kobe University at Night

Posted in Japan, Life in Japan

A Weekend Solo Walk in Phnom Penh

An Old Apartment near Central Market

Here are some photos from my solo walk a few weeks ago. I parked my vehicle at Phsa Thmei and started strolling around the area and then moved on to Phsa Kandal blocks that is packed with old Chinese shop-houses built between 1950s and 1970s. About two or three hours, I ended my walk at former central police station when a friend of mine phoned me. Here are photos from areas around Phsa Thmei and Phsa Kandal. I will share some photos from my revisit to the former police station later in a separated post.

An Old Apartment near Central Market

An Old Apartment near Central Market8

Posted in Architecture, Cambodia

Vann Molyvann’s House

Vann Molyvann's Residence

Like most architects, Vann Molyvann, wanted to design his own house. But he only managed to do so a decade after returning from his studies in France. The distinguishing feature of this unique design is the shell structure of the roof, which is an exercise in hyperbolic parabolic curves that required calculation from his brother-in-law, who was an engineer. The volume is almost cubic and divided into three levels, the open-plan living area on the second floor within the roof, the bedroom on the first floor and an office on the ground floor.

The main structure is reinforced concrete, with brick facing. The double-roof concrete shell is a regulated structure, water-proofed and covered with flat terracotta tiles on the outside and wood on the inside. The walls are finished with red facing brick. The interior is dominated by the sweep of the roof, which seems to float above the living room thanks to a horizontal band of glass around the perimeter. Vann Molyvann’s wife Trudy says the double roof is wide enough to walk between the two layers. As in many of Vann Molyvann’s buildings, Le Corbusier’s Modulor was used as a design tool. A 1.13 meter grid was used for the floor plans, the height of the balustrade is 83 centimeters (instead of the standard 100), and the height of the windows in the living room 226 centimeters. The roof inspired the Battambang Public Works Office designed in the late eighties by Sieng Sang Em, who was Vann Molyvann’s draughtsman in the sixties.

When Vann Molyvann built the house on what used to be a bigger plot, this part of Phnom Penh was countryside. With the construction of the Chinese Embassy, the municipal government built Mao Tse Toung Boulevard as a gesture of goodwill to China. By the seventies, the population exploded and most of the street was built up. Due to a lack of maintenance of the drainage system, the boulevard is now often flooded and recent work has been done to protect the entrance and ground floor.

Vann Molyvann's Residence

After Van Molyvann left Cambodia in 1971, the house was rented to building contractor Comin Khmer, which then sublet it to a Danish man. During the Pol Pot era it was abandoned. The Department of Urban Planning and Construction later used the building. By the time the couple returned to Cambodia in 1993, the furniture had gone but Trudy’s water skis were still there.

Source: Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture 1953-1970

Posted in Architecture, Cambodia

Sihanoukville Railways Station

I have a dream of visiting and photographing all existing main railway stations in Cambodia. It is not a very difficult task as long as I have time and some travelling money, since there are only two lines in Cambodia, one connecting Phnom Penh and Poipet at Thai border and another one linking the capital and Sihanoukeville. There are three important stations for the line to Sihanoukville located in Takeo, Kampot and Sihanoukville.

This is a post for Sihanoukville station that I re-visited last week. The station was designed by Georges Kondracki and completed in 1969. It ceased to function around 2005. By the time of my last visit there were a few workers guarding the station and construction materials. Rainwater was leaking through the concrete roof, yet the building was relatively in good shape. According to a guard, the station will be renovated soon.

Posted in Architecture, Cambodia, Urbex-Cambodia

100 Houses by Vann Molyvann

I was with my better half on motor along brumby dirty road paralleling railroad heading to Pochentong without any particular purpose in a Saturday’s evening. By chance I noticed the unique house roofs that told me they are of the 100 houses designed by Vann Molivann for National Bank staff in 1965, even though I have only seen them in photos.

The design of the roof inspired by military cap allows the air to circulate freely. The houses were also designed based on the concept of Khmer traditional houses, which are raised on columns. The 100 houses were built on 6.5 hectares of land and now privately owned.

I was surprised to see that many units are abandoned considering its location close to downtown and historical value. The following day, I asked my friends to explore the areas together. We checked the house No. 91 that were destroyed by fire a few weeks ago and abandoned house No. 18.

Posted in Architecture, Cambodia, Urbex-Cambodia

A Revisit to Former Central Police Station


Google cannot produce much result about the background of the former central police station located at a corner near central post office and former Monalis Hotel. The building was probably built sometimes between 1890s and 1910s. It was abandoned for the last decades and featured in the Hollywood film, City of Ghosts (2002). In 2011, the rear part of the compound was converted to volleyball court and some part of the zinc fence was removed. Before that it was used to as coal storage and it was a bit hard to access the building. Rumor has it that the building in now owned by Royal Group. Future of the French colonial building remains obscure.

I have been there for several times, yet I still don’t have the gut to climb up the broken wooden staircases to explore the upper floors of the building. By chance, I found a video clip uploaded in early 2012 by a foreign urban explorer who had been up to the roof of the building. Here is the link for the video.

Here is the link for some more photos from my previous visits.

Broken Staircase

Former Central Police Station

Posted in Cambodia, Urbex-Cambodia

Saint Michel Church

In the sixties, several French Catholic priests designed churches in the style of New Khmer Architecture. Among them was Father Ahadobery, a Basque born in 1931. A French missionary, he was reputed for his artistic talents, which he used to set up various art workshops. However good he was at painting and embossing copper plate, it took a big leap to design the Saint Michel Church. In doing so, he created the sort of graceful atmosphere that the pompous Phnom Penh Cathedral totally lacks.

Norodom Sihanouk is said to have donated the land to the church when the new town was being built, Vann Molyvann seems to have involved in the design. Named after the patron saint of sailors, the church is oriented east-west on a hill overlooking the port and is relatively simple. Two slopes of a steep red-tiled wooden roof rest on reinforced concrete walls partly made of interlaced brickwork. The structure resembles a boat and creates an interesting light inside. A simple bell hang from a porch facing the sea with a double-skin apparently symbolizing hands in prayer or sails of a boat. The choir faces east and small glazed windows are reminiscent of traditional stained glass. Yves Ramousse, who arrived in Cambodia in 1957 and was later bishop of Phnom Penh, recalls Ahadobery sketching the design and having it built by a clever Vietnamese builder.

The Khmer Rouge systematically destroyed all but two of the 73 churches that existed in Cambodia in 1975- the Saint Michel Church and a Carmelite chapel on the Chruoy Changvar peninsula in Phnom Penh. The Sihanoukville Church was used as a barn, but for some reason was never demolished. Nobody seems to know why, although it is said that its Khmer flavor may have saved it from the wrath of the Khmer Rouge.

The Church does not appear to have been consecrated officially. Today it is used by the small Vietnamese Catholic community of Sihanoukville. Father Ahadobery himself died in 1996.

Source: Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture 1953-1970

Posted in Architecture, Cambodia