Bokor Hill Station
Bokor Hill Station (in Khmer: កស្ថានីយភ្នំបូកគោ Kosthany Phnom Bokor) is a French ghost town in Preah Monivong National Park, southern Cambodia. Construction started in 1921 on Dâmrei Mountains, about 20 km as the crow flies (42 km by the road) west of Kampot. It was used as the location for the final showdown of the movie City of Ghosts (2002) and the 2004 film R-Point. To the northeast is Povokvil Waterfalls.
The Damrei Mountains (Tà Lơn in Vietnamese) has long been venerated as a sacred sanctuary by both Khmer and Vietnamese people. During 19th and 20th centuries, many Vietnamese mystics and ascetics such as Cử Đa, Ngô Văn Chiêu and Huỳnh Phú Sổ have been living around the area.
The town was built as a resort by colonial French settlers to offer an escape from the heat, humidity and general insalubrity of Phnom Penh. Nine hundred lives were lost in nine months during the construction of the resort in this remote mountain location.
The centrepiece of the resort was the grand Bokor Palace Hotel (which has never been a casino) inaugurated in 1925. It as been complemented by the villa of the "Résident Supérieur", a post office (now demolished), a catholic church. It is also an important cultural site, showing how the colonial settlers spent their free time.
Bokor Hill was abandoned first by the French in late 1940s, during the First Indochina War, because of local insurrections guided by the Khmer Issarak.
It's only in 1962, for the reopening of the "Cité du Bokor", that a casino has been established in the new hotels near the lake, (Hotels Sangkum and Kiri). Some buildings has been added at this time : an annex for the palace, the mayor office and a strange mushroomed concrete parasol.
The Bokor mountain is abandoned again in 1972, as Khmer Rouge took over the area. During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, Khmer Rouge entrenched themselves and held on tightly for months. In the early 1990s Bokor Hill was still one of the last strongholds of Khmer Rouge.
The best way to reach Bokor is by hiring a motorbike from the nearby town of Kampot and riding there yourself. Heading west from Kampot on National Highway 3, around 8km out look for signs for Bokor Hill Station on the right. Sign in at the checkpoint and follow the road to the peak
From here reaching the top of Bokor Hill previously required a 32 km grind from sea-level to the top of the 3540 ft peak on an old road that took 1.5 hours to complete. However, as at December 2011, construction was essentially completed on the new sealed road from National Highway 3 up to the hill station. The road is special in its use of battered slopes and drainage systems in an attempt to prevent landslides. Construction was also well under way on a number of buildings in the hill station area, with the area being partially signed and popular with Cambodian and foreign tourists.
To the left as you pass the checkpoint at Bokor Gateway there is an ostrich farm.
Now abandoned, with the exception of the old post office, most of the buildings are still standing. The strategic importance of the location is underlined by the fact that the Cambodian authorities maintain a ranger station on the site. The only other historic building currently in use on the site is a small temple. There is also a waterfall which tends to be dry in high season and in full flow during rainy season. About 10 km before on the way for Bokor Hill Station there is the Black Palace (Veang Khmao). It was a little summer palace of King Sihanouk, abandoned some decades ago.
The site is owned by the government but is now under 99–year lease to the Sokimex Group who are undertaking to relay the road and redevelop the site, repairing the old hotel and casino along with new buildings (hotels, hospital, restaurants, golf clubs etc.). The project was announced on Jan 19th 2008, construction of the road and resort was expected to take 30 months at a cost of $21 million USD. The Thansur Bokor Highland Resort hotel opened in 2012. The subsequent re-development is budgeted at $1 billion USD over the next 15 years after which a further application may be submitted to create a larger Bokor city, the plans for which are unknown.