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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Bokor Hill Station was a French resort located on top of a mountain just outside of Kompot, Cambodia. It, like seemingly everything else in Cambodia, was used as a prison by the Khmer Rouge. I purchased a one day tour from my guesthouse and was joined by 8 other travelers. During high season, they typically have more than 100 people going up the mountain each day. Bokor Hill is located on a national park that was sold to a Chinese firm a few years ago. The new road to the top is still under construction and there are two halves with an unpaved gap in the middle. A Frenchman on a motorbike injured himself on the unpaved portion of the road and tourists are no longer allowed to drive (or be driven in the ranger’s truck) on the gap. Instead, we got to dismount and do a trek that took about 90 minutes at a painfully slow pace. The trek was scenic and jungly. Elephants, tigers, monkeys, and all sorts of other creatures inhabit the forest there, but not in the area we went through. We got back on the ranger’s 4×4 and continued the journey up the mountain. Just before we reached BHS, we passed by the resort being built by the Chinese firm. The laborers were Chinese and it was very manual labor. The temperature at the top of the mountain had to be 15 degrees (F) cooler than at the base. It was very pleasant after weeks of heat and humidity. The old hotel/casino was the main building of the BHS compound and offered beautiful views of the ocean and countryside. There were also smaller buildings, a watchtower, and a Catholic church. It was cool, yet eerie walking around the compound. Our guide gave us the history of Cambodia from the beginning of time up to the present day and spent considerable time talking about all of the bombs that Nixon dropped on Cambodia. I made sure to let him know I was from Canada, eh. The insurance liability apparently only applies on the way up the mountain as we were allowed to be driven all of the way back down to the base. It was sad to see more short term thinking by the Cambodian government. They granted a 99 year lease on the national park to the same Chinese company that has a similar lease on the Angkor ruins. When you look at the mountain from Kampot, you can see a giant brown scar resulting from deforestation used to construct the new road and resort complex. Despite this very recent development, Bokor Hill Station was still incredible and is definitely worth checking out.

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