Ice house for a hot climate

Ice house for a hot climate

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The bizarre sight of an igloo house near Siem Reap.

Althoug  preserving mental tranquillity in Cambodia often requires abandoning the comforts of probability, spotting an igloo on National Road 6 on the outskirts of Siem Reap is still something of a surprise.

The white hemisphere sits, in shining incongruity, on the right hand side of the road to Phnom Penh, just 20 kilometres from Siem Reap.

But on closer examination, the igloo proves to be a house, with a bright red door and three small, rectangular windows.   

Mounted on top of a square wooden platform, the dome that’s a home is actually made from moulded carbon-fibre sheets that slip over one another like fish scales and then screw down to form a perfect half sphere about six metres in diameter.   

A group of four people very kindly showed me around the structure, highly bemused as to why the barang was there. Only one, Srey Loan, actually lives there. She and her husband are the caretakers of the unusual home, which she says was built by a Korean businessman who works for a company that is planning to build a hotel in the area.  

The front door, if a hemisphere can have a front, and the windows are all double-glazed. There are three small windows, plus a 1.2-metre-high window at the side, providing a perfect morning view of the fields to the southeast.  

“At kdao,” said one man (which means “not hot”), pointing inside.

The inside walls are lined with a moulded material that looks a little like Styrofoam, but it is chalky. The walls feel nice and cool to the touch, as does the textured cement floor.

Srey Loan tends the 100-odd young frangipani and betel trees that are planted between the house and Route Six and, with her husband Mr Seila, has been looking after the site for one year.

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