Bokor Hill Station

Today we visited the Bokor Hill Station – an elegant retreat built by the French in the 1920s to enjoy the cooler climate and beautiful views at 1000 meters above sea level. It was inaccessible to the public until 1998 when the area was finally secured against bandits!

For $10 each we got a full day tour which started out with a ride in the back of a pickup truck to the hill station. It was a 30km ride to the top on a road that you can just barely call a road. The Khmer Rouge deliberately destroyed the road in the 70s and they did a superb job of it. Eight of us were packed into the back of the pickup truck. There were two benches running along each side, four to a bench, and we all clung for dear life to a metal bar running down the center of the pickup bed. The road was so incredibly bumpy and bad that it felt almost like an amusement park ride, or one of those ‘virtual reality’ tours at Universal Studios where you sit in a fake car, watch a big movie screen, and get jerked all over the place in your seat. We’d regularly go over such huge bumps that the pickup truck felt like it was about to flip over sideways, and all the people on the low side involuntarily screamed and then looked at each other fearfully. We also got whipped in the face by vines and branches a few times. At one point we came to a downed tree blocking the narrow path. We crept along past the tree, looked down, and realized we were inches from a sheer drop to the bottom of the cliff. Later our tour guide told us that people regularly came to this hill in order to jump off and commit suicide – especially during the Khmer Rouge period! Just two years ago a man drove his moped off the side of the cliff because ‘he had a broken heart’.

At the top we saw the King’s former vacation residence, his concubines’ house, a Catholic church, and the French retreat. The buildings were old and crumbly but still beautiful. It seemed wrong to be allowed to traipse around anywhere we wanted in these beautiful old buildings. In the US this place would be completely locked down due to potential lawsuits from someone slipping and falling into the antique pit toilet. There was graffiti all over the walls, stupid things like “Harold and Tom from Yorkshire, 2006”. The views were spectacular!

Front of the main building:

View from the top:

Standing on the rooftop deck enjoying the cool breeze:

Maybe this was an open air restaurant:

Walking through the deserted halls:

Next we did a short trek through the jungle, during which our guide sang a few Backstreet Boys songs and talked non-stop about all the leeches that might be out and about waiting to crawl into our nooks and crannies. I spent the whole time trying to minimize wet leaves from brushing me, and made it out with no leeches.

After all this we had to ride 1.5 hours back down the hill, which wasn’t nearly as fun the 2nd time around. To wrap up the day we got a short tour in a longtail boat down the river, ending up back in Kampot.

Water taxi on the river. All the schoolkids loaded their bikes on for the trip home:

Fisherman on the river:

Close to sunset on the river:

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