Kirirom is located in the south part of the Kingdom of Cambodia, about 120 kilometers from the capital city, Phnom Penh. While tourism had largely been a French colonial activity shared with Cambodian royal family, independent in 1953 brought mass tourism and urbanization to the country. Kirirom was developed with resorts not only for state officials and guests but also for Cambodians. In the 60s, Kirirom developed holiday chalets for civil servants, central bank staffs and employees of state-owned enterprises. During the sixties, it was named Tioulongville after the military figure Nhiek Tioulong, who was also known as “General Tractor” for his road-building and civil engineering skills.
Kirirom was not damaged during the war of the Khmer Rouge regime. Gradually, Tioulongville dived in a long sleep. The nature took back and the beautiful houses disappeared. Some of them were hidden into the tropical vegetation as the temples of Angkor. Entering into all those old villas, it is undertaking a huge and special archeological journey to the ancient times. As Angkor ruins! It brings us a lot of information to approach the past modernity of architecture and reveal the lost Golden Age of Cambodia before the fall. I often used to do trekking in the deep pine forest at Kirirom before working on this project. I have noticed that there are many abandoned old villas which spreading across the forest. In 2015, I decided to go back to document those villas. It is different from old villas in Kep that most of the villas got someone living there to take care them even they are not the owners. I asked the people who are presently living in Kirirom: “Why people don’t live in the old villas?” And the answer from almost all of them is that because they are afraid of spirits.
I listened to an old song “Samros Borey Tioulong” which sang by Houy Meas, it brings me a relaxing and romantic moment in the deep pine forests. I also watched an old movie, which produced by the King Father Norodom Sihanouk “La Joie de Vivre”, taken at Tioulongville in Kirirom, it shows how those luxury villas were very elegant.
Looking at all these old villas, I still admire how people in the 60s spent time in nature.
Kirirom – Kampong Speu, 2015 – 2016