Today I took a day excursion out to the Bokor Hill Station, established by the French in the 1920s as an escape from the heat and humidity of the town below. We took a mini bus up the to the Bokor national park and snaked our way up around the mountain via hairpin bends made all the more bearable by the new vista-spoiling/life-saving (it’s a tough call what matters more) road from the base to the summit of the mountain.
First stop was a series of building built for the king for his dry season get away. What was amazing was how small his own dwelling was – it was certainly no Balmoral. Just a modest hillside home with a few rooms. It was abandoned when the Khmer Rouge seized power and what remains now are the bare bones of the building.
The royal bathroom…
Much of the scenery has been spoilt by the construction of a massive casino and resort towards the top of the mountain, which was sold to developers on a 99 year lease a few years ago. That such a beautiful area should be blighted by bad architecture and sleazy passtimes is a real shame. There will even be a golf course here eventually.
For lunch, we found an amazing ledge leaning out over the jungle below – if we stood quietly we could hear the monkeys and their companions in the ground below going about their business. There was a ledge hanging out over the rest that our guide jumped out onto to show off – there was no way I was going to miss out, but I took a slightly more cautious approach. Readers will be interested to know I was one of only 3 people who made it across and was actually the first to make the leap. Here I am milimetres from sure death with the jungle and clouds behind me.
For me the most amazing thing was visiting the old casino right at the top of the mountain. This beautiful big old art deco building would have been the site for some decadence in its day, and it seems to hold these memories within its ageing walls. Beautiful floor tiles gave a hint of its former glory…
And the best bit was the huge balcony at the back of the building. As I walked out onto it with not another soul in sight, the sun hit the white floor and walls and in front of me all I could see was the clouds hanging over the valley below. I’m not sure this photo quite captures it, but as I walked out I felt I was walking towards the edge of the world.
Before we headed back, we stopped at a waterfall where I came across some women with beautiful garlands in their hair. I told them how beautiful they looked and asked if I could try one on. Much fussing followed and here I am with my new friend.
We finished off the day with a sunset boat trip along the river – it was a fantastic day, made even better by the fact of running ino my old friends Rebecca and Chris that I met in Koh Rong. Great people, a great day.