The modernist villas of Cambodia’s elite and colonial authorities lie in ruins on the coastal town of Kep.

Dozens of “ghost villas” dot the landscape, slowly being consumed by nature.

Some of the former luxury residences are worthy of restoration. Others are inaccessible, covered in graffiti or have been reduced to rubble.

Many of the dilapidated properties date back to the mid-20th century and mix modern French design with Khmer architectural tradition.

Sharp angles, grand, sweeping balconies, sculpted stairs and decorative latticework were typical features of the stately villas.

The colonial retreat of Kep was founded by the French in 1908, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

Known as the “Cambodian Riviera,” the glamour, opulence and laid-back atmosphere of the coastal town attracted ambassadors, officials and even royalty seeking respite from the heat of Phnom Penh.

In the 1970s, the town fell victim to the war in Vietnam. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge ransacked Kep and destroyed what remained of the bourgeoisie. Anyone left behind was killed, and their villas were looted and burned down.

Today, some properties – such as Villa Romonea or Knai Bang Chatt – have been restored and are open to guests.

Other decaying remnants lie abandoned facing a new threat: the encroaching jungle.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.