Saturday, 24 February 2007

Lost grandeur at the Bokor Palace

Once a roaring casino during the French colonial era, driving up the torturous mountain track is a gamble today (see video). When offered the choice of a hum wee, a landcruiser or a Toyota Camry Sedan I elected for the cheapest option of the Camry. When tarmac turned to dirt and rocks I thought I had made a grave error. However, in the Camry my driver and I overtook dozens of 4WD and probably set a new record for ascent and descent (4 hours, 35 minutes and 52 seconds). Along the way up colonial homes lie in ruins, the region saw heavy fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese. At the top the battered Roman Catholic Church is simply a shell (see video), but the views towards the see - once the mist clears - are spectacular.

Lost grandeur wandering around through the rooms of the Bokor Palace you can imagine it would have been a pretty special place to play roulette up here. On a clear day you can see Thailand to the West and Vietnam to the East. Five star tourism has not quite returned yet, even though there are rumours that Sokha (who owns half of Cambodia) bought up the entire Bokor National Park. For now the residents of the Bokor Hill Top Station are local food stall holders catering to day trippers - both Khmer and foreigners.

This place is also known for the occasional UFO sighting!


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