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Bokor National Park

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Established by the French as a hill station, Bokor had its heyday in the 1920s and has since been abandoned twice, during World War II and the Khmer Rouge period. It was established as a national park in 1993 and spans four Cambodian provinces and despite substantial illegal logging, remains home to elephants and perhaps tigers.

The entire Bokor region saw fierce fighting between the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge -- at one stage one side was holed up in the Catholic Church and the other in the casino -- all the while trying to shoot each other to pieces. Both buildings still bear the scars today.

Walking through the crumbling casino/hotel and other buildings dotted across the Bokor ridge is a little spooky, particularly if one of the frequent mists roll in, but it's easy to imagine what it must have been like once upon a time. When we visited we pulled up in front of the casino a mere 10 metres away, yet couldn't see it for the mist -- on clear days however the views are apparently spectacular.

At least one Vietnamese horror movie has been filmed on Bokor, along with the reasonably well-known Matt Dillon film City of Ghosts and we suspect more may be in the pipeline.

If time allows it's worth spending a night on Bokor, as even though the accommodation is only very basic (dorms), the food very limited (instant noodles) and the drink selection rather poor (warm beer), it is nevertheless an interesting and very beautiful place to visit. The two-tier Popokvil Waterfall is certainly worth a trip, though as it's 4-5km from the casino, it's best to have your own transport.

As of October 2008, the road to the top of Bokor -- which is under construction and has been mostly repaved by a private company -- is technically closed to the public. However, like anything in Cambodia, it's still possible if you're willing to pay a little extra to bribe the right people -- this was certainly the case during our last pass in August 2009.

The way to navigate the graft process is through a guesthouse or a travel agency in town. A one-day trip to the park, which will have you trekking half way up and riding a 4WD the rest, costs $35, including lunch. About $15 goes to bribing the company that owns the road while another $5 pays for the standard park entrance fee. For an overnight trip, expect to pay about $40. You'll walk the whole way, saving your guide on gasoline, hence the similar pricetag to the one-day trip. In low season, we managed to negotiate a one-day trip for $25, but don't expect these days to pay any less to see Bokor.

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Text and/or map last updated on 27th August, 2009.

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