Linking in to the slim remains of Siem Reap town’s urban cultural heritage, a new initiative is being launched that aims to connect anyone wandering the streets with a smartphone to a new website , Les Circuits du Patrimoine, featuring maps detailing buildings of cultural and historical interest, guided walks and information on the town’s most popular cultural occasions.
The website, available in Khmer, French and English, says that it aims to extend discovery of the “numerous cultural jewels of the Angkor region [where] Beside the temples representing its archaeological past, the town boasts an affluent and varied heritage … including a well preserved urban heritage.”
Smartphone owners can link to the site through a series of QR Codes that will be posted at various locations around the town and along the riverside.
QR Codes are the square black and white bar codes that can be read by phones and other devices.
At the moment the site features only one guided walk, but it will feature walks centred around the towns’ historic quarter, the canals and the pagodas in due course, according to Tep Vattho, the director of the Department of Urban Development at the Apsara Authority.
The project partners are now seeking funding to implement this.
The website has another aim beyond enhancing visitor experience, and that is preservation of the very architectural features that tourists, and locals would be interested in because they enhance the town’s historical integrity, atmosphere and overall attractiveness.
One of the central features of the website is a Preservation Area Map that highlights buildings which should be conserved and restored – including the Old Market and all of the buildings around it that haven’t been destroyed yet.
Buildings are further categorized according to those which should be restituted, those which have already been restituted and should therefore be preserved, buildings that require improvement or replacement, and open areas.
The Apsara Authority hopes that the website will be a part of the effort to preserve what remains of Siem Reap’s architecture.
“We hope that this site can help the urban heritage to be protected,” said Madame Tep. “To protect the heritage we need a lot of money in order to raise people’s awareness of the value of restoring and preserving their heritage.”
It is a distinctly sad irony that the map should be published so hotly on the heels of the demolition of the school building in the centre of Siem Reap in order to make way for shop houses.
The building, constructed in the 1930s, was one of the oldest in town, and is earmarked in the Preservation Map as a building that should be conserved or restored.
The Apsara Authority with the support of the French development agency, L’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the International Association of Francophone Mayoralties created the project.