Combining luxury or environmental comfort with taste is something of an impossible challenge among Cambodia's affluent nouveau riche, especially, the ruling clans. 'Taste' is about balance, subtlety, consensus, compromise, etc. as well as a willingness to learn from others and explore new ideas and models. Houses and mansions of the country's well to do and powerful are deliberately designed to intimidate and flaunt their prestige and wealth in the most overt, grotesque fashion and without taking good taste into account. In some way, the private lives of this philistine elite is in perfect alignment with the barbarism and violence of their politics; an irrefutable social statement of their obsession with personalised power and all the excesses of their ill-culture and lifestyle. Just like the existing form of absolute authoritarian rule that demands the subjugation of public will to one man's wishes and whims, their personal and private spheres are built at expense of environmental degradation, mass forced evictions, national treason, lying and cheating and so forth. The more they pursue this path of self-aggrandizement the more offence they cause to the majority population, and hence the greater the incentive for them to bottle that offence with threat and use of violence.
VKirirom Pine is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. Just a three-hour drive from the city, the sprawling Japanese-inspired resort is proving popular for weekend getaways. Photo supplied
A forest state of mind
Thu, 4 August 2016 ppp
Deep in the lush forest of Kirirom mountain lays a resort that is slowly building itself into its own community.
The resort, VKirirom Pine Resort, is a development project launched in February 2014 by A2A Town Cambodia.
Takeshi Izuka, Cambodian president of the A2A Town, said the project is inspired by his hometown in Japan.
“Our first concept is to follow the Japanese style, so this is the land. And when people want to have a second home, they have a small area to build a house around the forest,” he said.
President Takeshi Izuka. Photo supplied
“I see many projects in Phnom Penh that are not well thought out. They build house after house. We provide an environment lifestyle experience,” he said.
Initially, the developer secured a 70-year contract with the government, but the president said it has recently changed to 50 years.
VKirirom, a 3-hour drive south-west of Phnom Penh, provides holiday houses for those who wish to kick back and inhale the fresh, green air on the weekends. About 10 houses have been sub-leased from A2A thus far; around half are locals.
The holiday house designs are categorised into Type A and Type R. Type A is a 600 square metre land with a building space of up to 120 square metres, and costs around $90,000. This compares to the Type R design which has a building space of 36 square metres on a 180-square-metre land. It costs roughly $30,000.
Izuka said the concept of the holiday houses is to build the house in a small space while leaving enough surrounding trees so that people would not be able to see the neighbouring house.
For those looking to indulge, the luxury tent option is the way to go. Photo supplied
Although the total land area for the project is 2,000 hectares, only 600 hectares are being developed in its first phase of zone one. Once completed, it will be a mixed development that includes residential and resort complexes, entertainment centres and even a university.
Phase one of the project is expected to be finished in five years, while the schedule for the next phase is uncertain.
The holiday house is a zero-emission house with electricity from solar panels and water supply collected from rainwater during the rainy season to use throughout the year.
“The trend is green, grass, urbanisation,” Izuka said.
Aside from holiday houses, phase one will include a creative forest, which they dubbed the “biggest auditorium in Asia”. It will include an amphitheatre, a green shopping area, a commercial and business area, event square, and a hospital in the forest.
The pipe room is a unique accommodation offering. Photo supplied
“If only one person stays in the forest, they can’t stay long. But if they stay with friends and can meet new people, they’ll be happy to stay in the forest. But how do they meet each other without cutting down trees? That’s the unique point,” he added, comparing it to the game Pokemon Go.
“People meet each other on Kirirom mountain. Some are students, some old, some Cambodian, some foreigners, some rich, some poor. Many people will come with the same purpose and share their experience.”
VKirirom Pine Resort is self-sustained, both in terms of natural resources and human resources.
Frustrated by the lack of adequate human resources in Phnom Penh, Izuka cooperated with his investors to build Kirirom Institute of Technology atop the mountain.
His dream is that the university would become a boarding school for elite locals and foreigners in the future.
A Khmer cottage in VKirirom. Photo supplied
As of now, the university is free of charge, and 50 students have enrolled in its IT engineering major. The catch is that the students, once graduated, have to work at the resort for four years. Those who wish to leave after graduation would have to pay a “small penalty” according to Izuka.
The university is planning to offer an architecture design course so that students can design the holiday houses for the buyers.
Izuka envisions VKirirom to attract repeated visitors and become the new tourist destination right after Angkor Wat by offering a combination of eco-tourism, agro-tourism, social tourism, adventure tourism, art and painting.
While construction is ongoing, the area is still open to anyone who is interested in glamorous camping, or ‘glamping’.