The dark past of Bokor Hill Station could not further from your mind when you visit sleepy Kampot. Kampot is now a firm fixture on the bamboo tourist trail as at the quintessential stoner town, buts past has been turbulent to say the least.
The infamous Battle of Kampot was essentially the straw that broke the back of the Lon Nol government. When Kampot fell it let a gateway to Phnom Penh and the establishment of Democratic Kampuchea and everything else that was to fall on the country.
But it all started i a place called Bokor Hill.
The original Bokor Hill Resort
Bokor Hill Station opened in 1925 after almost nine months of intense labour. It is estimated that up to 1000 people died during construction, something that probably did not help the French with what was to follow.
At its centre sat the Palace Hotel and Casino, which was often booked out by Europe’s elute. Surrounding this were numerous houses, post forces and even a church. This was France in Cambodia.
The French had selected the area as the mountainous terrain meant that is was cooler than regular Cambodia. This made it a perfect retreat for resting servicemen, but also a great place to perform guerrilla warfare.
Enter the Khmer Isaarak
The Khmer Issarak fought a guerrilla war against the French, which would eventually lead to independence and the French leaving. In may ways the Khmer Issarak were the forerunners of the Khmer Rouge, although many different factions existed.
To read about the Khmer Issarak click here .
What was to follow was a brief heyday for the area. The Khmer elite replaced the French elite and a casino was built in 1962 by the Sihanouk government. But things were not normal in Cambodia and things were about to change.
Enter the Khmer Rouge
Sihanouk was deposed in 1970, from where he became an ally of the Khmer Rouge. In 1972 the Khmer Rouge moved into Bokor Hill. They were to stay in some way shape, or form until the early 90’s.
Bokor Hill made an excellent place to enter Kampot, which led to the Battle of Kampot and thus the road to Phnom Penh.
When the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge out of government they still controlled large swaths of the country. Booker Hill was one of those places, with there being intense fighting between Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge in the area. The Vietnamese were never fully able to vanquish them from the area.
The Khmer Rouge were finally driven from the area in the early 90’s as they beat a hasty retreat to their last stronghold of Anlong Veng.
To read about Along Veng click here .
Bokor Hill today
As peace slowly took over the country people again started to explore Bokor Hill. Amazingly and despite all the fighting there are many buildings still standing and this is haven for dark tourism and urban exploration.
To read more about dark tourism click here
To read more about Urban Exploration click here .
New Buildings on Bokor Hill
In 2008 the government of Cambodia decided to lease out the area in order for it to be developed. This was not so controversial with Cambdoians, but led to uproar in the local hippy communities.
In actual fact the government have doe a great job of preserving the new, whilst keeping the old intact.
There is not so much related to the Khmer Rouge left in the area, but the whole place is like a perfect time capsule for the last 100 years of Khmer history.