Bokor - An untouched destination in Cambodia Holidays
Posted By : Threeland Travel / Cambodia Travel Guide
Bokor Mountain is located in Kampot province, about 10km from the center of Kampot city in Cambodia to the southwest. This mountain is associated with many legendary stories of great magician, martial arts masters.
Bokor Mountain remains one of the main tourist sights around Kampot. Formerly a French colonial hill station resort and site of a royal summer vacation home, modern Bokor has made itself much easier to access and has more “attractions.” While many claim that Bokor has lost all appeal to tourists, just scratching the surface one can see a picture of past and present Cambodia.
As with many historic areas around Cambodia, Bokor Mountain and many of the old buildings on it have been restored rather than preserved, and rights to develop the land nearby have been sold to foreign business owners. However, the new road means that visiting Bokor is possible not only during the public holidays, but year-round.
Lying 32km outside of Kampot town, the region’s key geological feature is Bokor Mountain, a misty plateau 1,100 metres above sea level with it’s own microclimate up in the cooler clouds.
This microclimate led the French colonialists to develop a small resort town atop the mountain in the 1920s as an escape from the heat and humidity at ground level. Bokor Hill Station as it was known flourished and brought more attention to the Kampot region – and it’s spectacular black peppercorns. As wealthy French tourists and dignitaries visited the region and the small town atop the mountain, stories went back to Europe of the fine cuisine and this had a large part to play in the promotion of Kampot pepper back in the fine restaurants of Paris. The French built a hotel, casino, church, post office, and other necessities like a water tower – which still stands to this day, not far off a century later. With Norodom Sihanouk on the throne as king of Cambodia in 1941, beautiful palaces and residences were built on Bokor’s slopes, most notably the Black Palace halfway to the top, which remains intact to this day.
The French abandoned Bokor in the 1940’s during the First Indochine War and Bokor was left abandoned and was reclaimed by the jungle throughout World War II, and during and after war broke out in Vietnam. When the country was taken by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, Bokor Mountain’s jungle hillsides provided ideal cover for their fighters, and an anti-aircraft gun was stationed at the highest point of Bokor, overlooking the old church. The church itself bears scars of war and the old buildings provided makeshift shelter and bunkers during the conflict. The area around Bokor and the Kampot remained a stronghold for the Khmer Rouge and a presence existed until the mid to late 1990’s.
Even after it became safe to travel around, Bokor was now pretty inaccessible – with no clear way up it took a while for people to establish a rough route back up, for years only by foot or dirtbike. Despite this, the top of the mountain was reportedly host to a new years eve rave or two in the early 2000s. Life temporarily came back to the mountaintop resort during filming for City of Ghosts, released in 2002, with Matt Dillon venturing up the trail to the top.
In 2009 or so construction started on a new hotel and casino atop the mountain, and commenced cutting a new road through the jungle. Only a couple of years later, Bokor Mountain was easily accessible by car – an easy hour from Kampot right to the top, and the once remote waterfalls now feature a car park and restaurant.
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