Today Mike and I met up with a tour group and headed to Bokor Mountain. We had originally hoped to take motorcycles up to the top but were told that this was not possible (we would find out later that was not true) To explain a little about this area the French basically built two resort areas in Cambodia: Bokor and Sihanoukville when they occupied the country in the early 20th century. Sihanoukville is a beach resort town about 2 hours away while Bokor is a mountain retreat.
When originally built, the Bokor resort consisted of a hotel and a casino that were featured prominently in the Korean movie R-Point and the American movie City of Ghosts. When the French left Cambodia, The Cambodian royal family eventually took over and added facilities including a police station, place for courtesans, and essentially turned it into a small town on a mountain. It stayed that way for about 10 years until the Japanese arrived and made it a military fortress. At this point it became very difficult for anyone to go to Bokor Mountain without military credentials. After the Japanese were defeated, the next major occupants were the Khmer Rouge, the perpetrators of the infamous killing fields. Using it as their base of operations in the area, it was here that one of the last major battles of the Khmer vs. Vietnamese occurred in their failed invasion of Vietnam. As a downside of this, the mountain became notorious for land mines so tourists were advised to stay away.
Over the last 20 years the mountain has seen a radical transformation. When first reopened to the public, you had to bribe the Park Guard/Ranger on duty and then attempt to traverse up something roughly called a “road”.
The Old Bridge
Recently, this area has been the sight of major investment that has led to both some tacky and useful additions. On the tacky side they added a hideous statue honoring a deity in addition to an ugly yellow hotel meant to be a 5 star destination. The ultimate plan for the area is to turn it into something called Sky town that is basically suburbia in the clouds. To accomplish this goal, the investors have paid for a completely new road and removed the need for bribing the guard and even placed a sign that says “entrance fee no longer necessary”.
Views from the Road Up
King’s mountain “Palace”
Mike Tries to be the lion king
Panorama Shot from the Statue
I Really Liked this Shot
Rallying My People *ask my Mom*
The new hotel
The ride up the mountain is one of the most beautiful I have experienced and my only regret is that it was not on a motorcycle. Going up you were treated to amazing vistas of both the bay and Kampot city. It was also cool while going up seeing the fog set in that had featured heavily in movie depictions of the area.
The two main buildings that the Bokor “ruins” are known for are the church and the casino. The church has been left largely untouched so you can still see a lot of the bullet holes from when the Khmer and Vietnamese squared off here.
Mike Contemplating The Future
The bullet holes
Casino in the Fog
A Failled USAID Project
There was not much park training going on
Mike and I decided to take a long way to visit the casino and passed through some more of the town’s old facilities that were now occupied by squatters. We met this cute kid that I had to take a picture with and who wanted to talk to us. After a little mountaineering/trail creation we arrived at the casino. Unfortunately it was not what I was expecting as a lot of the original paint had already been scrapped off for remodeling. The plan is to turn that building into something of a visitor’s center which seems a little premature considering there’s nothing else really there now.
View from the slums
With the Kid
Example of What the casino looked like before the road and remodeling
The Casino In the Middle of Being Worked on
View From Suicide Pint
The views from the casino more than made up for its lack of original artwork. The area behind it was known as a suicide point because rich men would gamble away their savings, then jump to their death instead of facing the possibility of being a pauper. Today though it’s just nice to look out and we were fortunate to catch a break in the fog to get some great photos.
Break in the fog
Mike and I next decided to head into the casino itself. That earned us some surprised looks from the workers, however as I expected they were not paid enough to care. After knocking off the original casino from my bucket list we headed to a different pagoda on the mountain.
View from the Top Overlooking suicde Point
Looking out from the Casino
This pagoda was apparently the Cambodian royal’s response to the church built on the other side of the mountain. Having been in Asia for so long I’ve become semi temple/pagoda out and would not mind not seeing another average temple for a while. We then headed to a waterfall that was actually enjoyable. We were told that later in the summer you can go swimming in it, however when we were there the water level was still too low. Upon finishing the waterfall visit it was time to return to Kampot.
We soon arrived back in town and decided to rent motorcycles instead of taking a sunset cruise as it was starting to rain lightly. Unlike Phuket where despite getting hurt I had enjoyed cruising around, in Kampot I didn’t, as there was nothing to see. On the way back from one of the slums we decided to take a shortcut across a rickety bridge. Taking that bridge would be my downfall of sorts as the bike hit something on the bridge and caused the brake pedal to cut my calf, yes it was weird. I went to the local doctor who seemed just as confused as I was how the only place I was hurt was on my calf. This instance proves why my family jokingly considers me a master of self-destruction. Seeing as it was starting to get dark and Kampot has very little in way of lights, we decided to call it a night after getting dinner and discovering both a delicious and gross dessert place. On downside we bought “cheesecake” which was literally cheese on top of a semi sweet base. I did not try it after smelling it and seeing Mike’s reaction. On the Bright-side I got a lovely pineapple crumble I wish I could make. Tomorrow we will return to Phnom Penh and hopefully see some of the remnants of the Khmer Rouge.