A collection of crumbling buildings thickly covered in red lichen and green moss, sat on top the abandoned hill station of Bokor. In its heyday, Bokor hill station was a secluded French colonial retreat with a casino, hotel, police station, library, post office and church. It was wrestled away in late 1940s by Vietnamese and Khmer Issarak (Free Khmer) forces who was fighting for independence against the French. In early 1970s, Khmer Rouge forces took over the area and use the hill station as a base for operations. Vietnamese forces again took over the hill station in late 1970s when they invaded, or if you prefer, liberated Cambodia.
Sitting on top the 1000m Phnom Bokor, Bokor hill station is constantly enveloped by passing drifts of mist. One moment you were admiring the colonial architectural design of Bokor hotel, but in the next moment, all that remained was a ghostly silhouette of the building. There is such an eerie feel to the place that many visitors have likened the Bokor hotel to be a scene out of The Shining. It is not surprising that horror and violent films such as Korean-made R-Point have found their way to Bokor hill station. For reasons you may imagine, a sign on the casino’s lobby warns “Do not sleep here”.
Battle-scarred Bokor hill station may remain in ruins today, but still see regular visits from both foreign travellers and local Cambodians. Visitors pay US$5 for admission to Preah Monivong National park, or commonly known as Bokor National Park. With most of the animals being nocturnal in nature and living in the more remote parks of the park, the main attractions in Bokor National Park are the abandoned Bokor hill station and Popokvil waterfalls.
The road up Bokor National Park winds through thick jungle and unpaved roads. Lonely Planet Cambodia recommends a motorcycle or a 4WD for the trip. As you may have guessed, my choice of transport is a motorcycle. The fact that I am still garbed in the same gears when I was doing my Northwest Vietnam Sapa Loop does not matter, this will be my second motorcycle adventure vacation.
The Bokor Hill Station (South Cambodia) trip report is divided into six parts:
Disclaimer: This trip was taken in June 2006. The information is provided ‘as is’ with no warranties and confers no rights. Please feel free to post a comment.