Bokor Hill Station is about 35km from Kampot, this trip can be arranged via a local tour group or via a mototaxi. I took the later option for I have great aversion towards organised group tours, I can’t warm up to the idea of being told what to see and where to go, I would like to explore at my own pace and interest. A trip up to Bokor Hill Station via mototaxi is USD 30 and this rate is not too bad considering it’s a rate for the entire day and you could also have a stopover at Kampot without any additional cost. This is especially a good deal for me because I am staying in Kep which is about 25KM to Kampot. So considering the distance, it’s too good a deal to let go.
So, my journey started at 10am from Kep. The ascend up the mountain took us roughly 1.5hours. It’s quite a back breaking experience but it’s exhilaration very quickly took over once I am at the top.
Bokor Hill Station used to be a resort on the hill commissioned by the French colonists. Bokor Hill Station boosts resorts of casino, old church and a panoramic view of Kep and Kampot. This was also the place where the rich and famous came up to have their vacation. The temperature on this mountain is cooling and perfect for summer break.
The old Bokor Hill Casino has long been abandoned and rumoured to be haunted. I was lucky to be there after restoration work has been done on the abandoned building. Though I would still go if it’s the old old mossly covered building. That would add another dimension to my visit. Different facade different experience, no? No longer it looks dilapidated and covered with moss. It has since been cleaned up and repaired. Sorry guys, I didn’t see any ghosts floating around while there.
Though Oct is a low season to travel, throngs of tourists from the nearby Vietnam were everywhere. A local told me that the entire mountain has been sold to a conglomerate from Vietnam and since the sales of the mountain, a new casino has been built and a new Vietnamese temple has been built next to it as well. From the sound of it, these locals are not very pleased with this development citing a competition of economics opportunities amongst the locals and the Vietnamese. This mountain is still in process of development. I understood that they intend to build villas and bungalows on this mountain.
A plan has been laid out and drawn. There is no definite date as to when it will be fully built and running.
Along the way, there are many other attractions that you should pop in on.
Behind this church, there’s a small trail that leads up to the tiny top where you could see a 360 degree view of Kep and Kampot. Be caution though the trail up is not for the faintest of heart, the trail is rather challenging with lose stones slipping down if not properly attempted. Be sure to wear good running shoes if you have this plan to trek your way up there.
This is a 600 year old pagoda dated back to the days of ancient Hinduism in the earlier days of Khmer Kingdom. This pagoda is still functional and religious rituals are still being performed here. Many still come here to offer their prayers. This ground is also a house to many monks take great care of this place. The old facade of the building adds on the air of retro-ness into this place.
Though this pagoda is very much influenced by the mystics of Hinduism and Buddhism. I was puzzled to see Hangeul at the entrance of the pagoda. Locals don’t know enough to provide me much insights. If you have any insights or inputs about this, do ping me.
Old Decrepit Houses
This was a post office during the French colonial time. Since most of the French colonists or elites stayed on this mountain and made this mountain their base of operation, they set up a royal post office to serve them. This post office organised mails and was the centre of communication between France and these French colonists.
Many construction workers from Vietnamese whom worked on this mountain actually made these decrepit houses their sleeping ground. While these houses are not secured, so going in and out of these houses is not a problem.
Now, why do I pick this house to write about. Apparently I was told that this was the site where the Khmer Rouge had a peace meeting with the French government when they stomped into the scene in 1975 and hijacked the nation in an attempt to turn it into a socialist society. At this very table, the peace armistice took place. When the armistice talk failed, there was open fires and many were killed in this very room. 30 years have passed, but things seems to be standing still. Nothing changes. This house like all other houses has been abandoned.