Located just about 37 km west of the sleepy town of Kampot, Bokor mountain is filled with hidden images and messages waiting for both local and international tourists to discover.
The resort on the summit of Kampot’s 1,079 m mountain was built during the French colonial period as a city escape for foreign residents. Now a tourist attraction, the local government improved transportation to the site with a renovated road that finished in 2011, so Bokor’s beauty can be easily accessible by cars or motorbikes.
For tourists seeking adventure, driving up the mountain by motorbike is ideal and highly recommended. One would be amazed with the fresh air, cold temperature, birdsong and beauty of the wildlife and forests along the winding road.
Motorbikes can be rented for $5 a day from any of the travel agents in town, and with just three liters of gasoline in the tank, visitors can travel there and back again.
Bokor Hill Station was initially developed as a luxury resort for the colonial resident in the early 1920s atop Bokor Mountain, which is now located in the province’s Preah Monivong National Park.
The resort, which includes of hotel, casino, church and royal residence, was abandoned a few times throughout history, during the First Indochina War against the French in the 1940s, and again as the Khmer Rouge descended upon the station in 1972. The structures have withstood decades, with only small fractures affecting the colonial facades. Traveling between different buildings on the mountain makes one feel as if they are going through the cities of Kampot or Battambang—both famously known for their French architecture—but surrounded by trees, a nice atmosphere and cold temperatures, making it a must-see for visitors.
As the buildings age, several artists have used their walls as a canvas. Visitors can spot several styles of artwork throughout the abandoned French buildings, as well as words and phrases in Khmer and English.
In a country where the vast majority of people practice Buddhism, some might be surprised to stumble upon an old Catholic church, mounted with a wooden cross. The empty church holds no service and has little graffiti to find inside, but the old pulpit now holds icons from three different faiths.
What might surprise those who have never visited the mountain is the old, weathered buildings hold beautiful graffiti images painted in recent years. The graffiti depicts from young to older people and imaginative creatures. The resulting atmosphere renders an amazing mixture of old colonial architecture and modern arts, unique to Cambodia and much of the region.