Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the French were in Cambodia. They came late, and didn’t stay long, so they did not leave a lot behind. But they were here long enough to build a resort in the Elephant Mountains near the city of Kampot. Bokor Hill Station was to be a place to escape the heat and humidity of the lowlands.
They started in the 20’s, and hundreds died during construction. They built a hotel, shops, post office, royal residences, and a church. Only twenty years later they abandoned their resort as they lost the First Indochina War in Vietnam and local insurrections began. In the 70’s the Khmer Rouge moved in. When the Vietnamese invaded, the place became a battleground.
Now that the wars are long over, interest in the site has increased, and money has poured in. A new road has been completed. A gigantic resort and casino have been built. Many more buildings are being constructed. New temples, many in strange, eclectic styles, are being made.
Yet the abandoned French buildings remain. They are now a big draw for selfie-stick wielding Cambodian tourists. The strange combination of old and new buildings, weird temples, and nice views make for an interesting day trip from Kampot or Kep. And best of all, with your own motorbike, it only costs $0.50!