From the land of pepper, plum wine, and wild boars
Trip Start Jan 16, 2006
27Trip End May 21, 2006
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I decided to take a day trip up to the Bokor hill station which at one time had a population of 10,000 when the French were still here. I joined a group of foreigners from other guest houses in town, accompanied by a local guide, and we headed up the steep and extremely rough road in an SUV
Bokor is on top of the Elephant Mountains at 1,070 meters (not sure what that is in feet but it's high) with Kampot a few miles to the south. It looks out over the sea and in the distance you can see Phu Quoc island, which is a part of Vietnam. Due to its location, it's often foggy or enshrouded with clouds. The French built it in the 1920s to escape the heat below and it must have been spectacular in its heyday. Complete with several hotels, a casino, a church, houses, and shops, it now is just a shell of what it once was. After the French cleared out in the 1960s, it was completely uninhabited until the Khmer Rouge took it over as a strategic defense post and prison. The main hotel is reputed to be haunted with the ghosts of Khmer Rouge victims who were thrown over the cliff from the hotel's terrace. It must have been spectacular in its day; now it's downright creepy.
After an extremely painful ride in the SUV, we got out and walked the rest of the way through an abandoned tea plantation to the top. Like a lot of things in Cambodia, Bokor is also about to be resurrected
There are no known photos of Bokor in the old days, just some scenes from King Sihanouk's films. The King was an actor and made seven films, some of them filmed at Bokor. His films always won top prize at Cambodia's film festivals. Wonder why.
The Bokor trip ended with a brief stop at a local swimming hole and rapids before we boarded a boat down the river back to Kampot.
The next day I tried to figure out how to get to Vietnam without having to hire a taxi by myself or go back to Phnom Penh. I had overheard a couple on my Bokor trip talking about going to Vietnam next but as I was under the impression that share taxis were readily available in Kampot, I didn't think to ask them if they wanted to go together. As so few people cross into Vietnam at Chau Doc, there are no share taxis from Kampot, but the good thing about Kampot being so small, is that I ran into Dan and Amy at an internet cafe. They weren't going to Vietnam until Friday, but rather than go on my own, I decided to wait another day in Kampot. In the end, I spent more time in Cambodia than I had planned, lulled by the country's relaxed pace and sunshine.