Bokor Hill Station
Bokor Hill Station Tours to Bokor are perhaps the most popular out of Kampot. The Bokor Hill Station on Phnom Bokor (Bokor Mountain) is a mountaintop collection of buildings (hotel, casino, church, royal residence, etc.), constructed by French authorities in the early 1920s as a complement to the already popular Kep resort area.
Established by the French as a hill station in 1925, Bokor has since been abandoned twice, during World War II and the Khmer Rouge period. The area including Bokor ‘mountain’ was established as a national park in 1993 with its 1,500 square kilometres spanning four Cambodian provinces. Despite substantial illegal logging, it’s still home to gibbons, hornbills, civets and sunbears. Recent development of a new casino, hotel and hangar-like convention centre may have affected the ghostly ambiance of the hill station, but included building a wonderful curving road to the top of the hill, making Bokor much easier to access.
The entire Bokor region saw fierce fighting between the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge — at one stage one side was holed up in the Catholic church and the other in the casino — all the while trying to shoot each other to pieces. Both buildings still bear the scars today. Further back, stories abound of bankrupt gamblers choosing between confession at the church and oblivion over the edge of the casino terrace.
Some buildings have disappeared or been repurposed during the new complex development, but walking through the crumbling casino/hotel and other buildings dotted across the Bokor ridge is still a little spooky, particularly if one of the frequent mists roll in. Views from the top of the casino across the sea to Phu Quoc island are spectacular (so long as that mist keeps away). Smaller, overgrown villas provide a more intimate insight into life-that-was on the hill, and you’ll also find these days a concrete mushroom sunshade and post office.
If time allows it’s worth spending a night on Bokor; accommodation options have been upgraded from the dorm beds of the rangers’ station to the attractions of the Thansur Bokor Hotel. The hill is an interesting and very beautiful place to visit, and the best weather and views are often early in the morning, before day visitors arrive.
Things To Do Bokor Mountain Hill Station
The two-tier Popokvil (‘swirling clouds’) Waterfall is worth a trip to see, especially in rainy season, though as it’s about four or five kilometres from the casino, it’s best to have your own transport. The easiest way to get to Bokor is on a motorbike, either self-driving or hiring a motodop — the swooping curves and breathtaking vistas are a reward for riders. The upwards journey can take an hour and a half and be sure to check your fuel tank before you set off — petrol can be difficult to find and comes at a premium at the small village near the waterfall. Only determined cyclists should attempt the climb; mountain bikes are available to hire in Kampot town. Private taxis can also be arranged through guesthouses and tour desks or you could take Kampot’s Tic Tuk, a fun tuk tuk-car hybrid.
Don’t miss a stop at the Black Palace, two-thirds of the way up. The surprisingly modest former holiday residence of King Sihanouk is covered in startlingly orange lichen. It’s close by the new and very large Buddha statue, and the cafe for refreshments before the top. Options at the summit are limited to drinks stalls by the old casino, the hotel restaurant and snacks by the waterfall.
Visitors must pay an entrance fee of 2,000 riel for motorbikes and 10,000 riel for a car, at the entrance to the park. The climate at the top can be surprisingly cool, especially when misty so you may want to pack some sleeves.
Getting up to bokor national park
From Kampot, take the road towards route 4 about 8 kilometers. On the right side, you will see a largeplaque welcoming you to Bokor National Park. Just up the road is the Bokor ranger station. There is no fee to go up the mountain.You can take a motorcycle or car up to the top. If you don’t have your own bike, big dirt bikes can be rented in Kampot for less than $12/day and 100cc motos for $4 – $5. Gas is $1.25 a liter. The drive up is now smooth and quite nice. You may want to bring some warm clothes as the temperatures, especially at night are much cooler, and there is often fog or rain at the top.
You can also get a ride in a pickup truck (either inside or in the back) for a day trip, including lunch for $18 to $25. Most tours leave from downtown Kampot.
Walking is sometimes an option, but plan for a few day trip, with lots of gear. You’ll need to check at the ranger station at the bottom of the mountain, to see if they’ll let you walk. If you get far off the beaten path, beware of wild animals (and illegal poachers). You can hire the rangers to give you a tour, and the price is whatever they can charge. $10+ per day. There are walking trails on top from a couple hour walk to a full day. There are some sights to see on the way up, such as the waterfalls, and the old King’s “staff” accommodations, so you might want to take a few rest breaks along the way. You should also bring something to eat and drink, which is really helpful if your vehicle breaks down.
Most people stay in hotels in Kampot, Cambodia, and take the day tour up the mountain. That’s changing quite a bit now, with the new Resort at the top. You can also take the trip from Kep, Cambodia, but it’s about 50 minutes more travel time, round trip.
Caves near Kampot At Bokor Hill Station
The caves of Phnom Chhnork
– Cave # 2 The entrance is about 300 meters from Cave # 1 in the same limestone outcropping. Very little in the way of formations, but quite deep, requiring climbing over piles of rock and through small openings. Small shrine.
The caves of Phnom
Also known as the White Elephant Cave located next to a colorful pagoda. The stairs up the side of the outcropping provide a beautiful view of the countryside, especially during the wet season. The cave contains a shrine at the base of a limestone formation alleged to resemble a white elephant.
Kep Beach A single, kilometer long crescent of sand near the tip of the Kep peninsula. Dining platforms and seafood vendors line the road behind the beach. Busy on weekends but often deserted during the week. The road through Kep traces the coastline to the beach and then circles back on itself. Cars and vans must pay admission to drive the loop (2500R-5000R). Motorcycles and pedestrians are free. Be aware that the loop is an one way street and the police do occasionally enforce the law, levying fines against violators in bokor.
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