Bokor Hill Station, much like other places in Asia, first gained prominence as a summer retreat for colonial settlers seeking to escape the summer heat that they were unaccustomed to. In case of Cambodia, it was the French who built a summer resort in the southern Cambodian mountain range of Damrel in the 20th century. After the French settled the first population atop the famous Bokor mountain, the resort was abandoned several times before becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
The principle attraction is the collection of beautiful French colonial buildings that made up the core of the French resort at the beginning of the century, specifically the Le Bokor Palace Hotel and Casino and the Old Catholic Church. Besides these, there is the Damnak Sla Khmao, the Black Palace, that was one of the residential palaces of King Sihanouk, and several hiking trails around the Bokor National Park and the Popokvil Waterfalls. Read on to know more about everything you need to know about visiting the Bokor Hill station, including what there is to see, how to get in and out of the place and where to stay at the place.
History Of Bokor Hill Station
The hill station was first built as a French retreat away from the capital city of Phnom Penh, the principal colonial residence of Le Bokor Palace opening in 1925 along with a throng of French villas, a post office and a church. The settlement was abandoned by the French in the 1940s during a local rebellion, and it was not until 1962 that Bokor Hill was resettled. However, in a matter of a few years, several new hotels came up near the lake, and casinos were added (including the old French palace), making the place an attractive holiday destination for local and international tourists.
Today, although the hill station is abandoned, the French colonials still stand in all their glory. With the proliferation of new hotels and casinos in and around the Bokor National Park, the hill station has gained in popularity. Starting in 2008, the group Sikomex has leased the area around the Bokor Hill Station for a period of 99 years, speeding up construction of new hotels, golf courses and road links to Kampot and Phnom Penh.
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Best Time To Visit Bokor Hill Station
Situated at a height of 3438 feet, it is not hard to figure out why the French built their summer retreat here. While temperatures soar in the north during the summer months of May and June, average temperatures in Bokor stay around 25 degrees. However, due to the heavy rains expected during the monsoons, the best time to visit the Hill station and the surrounding park (from where you can spot the Gulf of Thailand on clear days) would be the December-April period, when there is no rain and temperatures stay in the comfortable mid twenties range. If you are looking for a brief day trip, you can take a walk around the charming part of the old French town.
How To Reach Bokor Hill Station
The nearest major town near Bokor Hill Station in Cambodia is Kampot. From Kampot, it now takes just under and hour to reach the Bokor Hill Station, the turn off on the national highway being 8 kilometres. From Sihanoukville, it is a 95 kilometres drive via the National Route No.3. Day tours to the old colonial part of Bokor can be booked in Kampot itself for as little as INR 350 per person, and you will find a handful of travel agents who can arrange the trip for you. You can also book trekking and hiking tours to the Bokor National Park in Kampot, albeit for a higher price.
From Phnom Penh, you can directly reach Bokor Hill Station via AC buses departing for Thansur Bokor Highland Resort. Buses depart in the morning and evening from Sangkat Chey Chumneas Khan Daun Penh in Phnom Penh, and cost INR 700 per person. Buses to Thansur Bokor Highland Resort also leave from the Kampot bus stand in the morning and evening.
The road from Kampot to the Bokor Hill Station in Cambodia is good enough for motorbikes, and you can rent bikes out of places in Kampot if you want to drive yourself to the hill station. There is an INR 40 entry charges for motorbikes entering the Bokor National Park.
Things To Do In Bokor Hill Station
Bokor Hill Station in Kampot Cambodia is a must-visit place if you are travelling through Cambodia, and with rapid restoration and development happening in and around the hill station, the place is not hard to reach and stay in.
1. Damnak Sla Khmao
Also called Black Palace, the royal residence was completed in 1936 for King Sihanouk. Built out of bricks and black wood, the palace is situated in a hauntingly beautiful part of the Bokor Valley. Although standing in ruins, the palace and its surroundings offer beautiful views of the mountains and the valley and make for a good day trip for visitors to the Bokor Hill Station in 2019.
2. Le Bokor Palace and Casino
The principal French colonial building that was built almost a century ago. A fine example of French architecture at the beginning of the twentieth century, the palace has now been turned into a 6 star hotel and casino after extensive restoration. With a slew of old French villas and the Old Catholic Church surrounding the building complex, the Le Bokor Palace is a place to spend a day walking around and taking in the view.
3. Popokvil Waterfalls
The national park that surrounds the hill station is a great place for outdoor excursions, and several hiking trails run up to the Popokvil Waterfalls, which are located several kilometres from the Bokor lake. Monsoons are the best time to visit the waterfalls, when mists of clouds swirl around the top of the falls. In fact, Popokvil in Khmer literally means swirling clouds. Typical hiking trails range 2 to 8 hours, and Bokor Hill Station tours can be arranged from the recreation counter at the Thansur Bokor Highlands Resort for as little as INR 600 per person. You will also find bicycles to hire from here, if you want a cycling tour of the park that surrounds the colonial resort.
4. Wat Samprove Pam
Literally the Five Boats Wat, the beautiful temple monument was commissioned by King Monivong in the 1920s, in honour of a local legend. Today, the site is popular with tourists not only for the Khmer temple but also for the stunning views of the canyon and sea from behind the temple complex.
5. 100 Rice Fields Sacred Meditation Area
A secluded area within the dense tropical forests that surround the Bokor Hill Station in Kampot, Cambodia, this is a field of rocks that look like typical paddy fields with dikes to separate them. While offering stunning shots for your camera, you can also sit down to meditate here and take in all the serenity and calmness of the place.
6. Lok Yeay Mao Monument
A gigantic 29 metres high, the monument honours an ancient heroine from the myth of Cambodian Buddhism, venerated in fishing communities around Kampot and Kao. Facing the coast, the deity is supposed to protect travellers, hunters as well as fishermen. The monument itself makes for some exquisite sites against the deep blue mountains and dense forests that run in the background.
Where To Stay?
There is only operational hotel at the Bokor Hill Station, the Thansur Bokor Highlands Resort, which is located around 1 kilometres from the Catholic Church. The hotel includes a casino, a couple of restaurants, and typical charges for one night range between INR 3000 and INR 4000. Most visitors stay at the nearby town of Kampot, which is only 1 hour away from the Bokor Hill Station. Besides Kampot, major towns around Bokor Hill Station include Kep(1 hour away) and Sihanoukville(2 hours away).
The almost untouched national park that surrounds the hill station is a great place for outdoor activities, and rangers can be hired if you wish to venture deep into the park. With the perfect weather, breathtaking natural sites and a concentration of lovely French colonial and Khmer buildings and monuments, visitors have their hands full when travelling through Bokor Hill Station in 2019. Book with Travel Triangle today to plan the most amazing trip to Cambodia!
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