It’s hot here.
We jump into the river and cool off, then five minutes later we’re hot again. Not sure about the rest of you, but when I’m hot my upper lip becomes beaded with sweat. And lately my upper lip has had permanent beads.
Bokor Mountain is located about 45 minutes from our house. It’s a hill station that, at the height of 1,000 metres, promises cooler temperatures. We went there today to escape the heat and visit local landmarks.
Bokor was first developed by the French in the early 20th century with a casino as the main attraction. The French abandoned Bokor in 1972 when the Khmer Rouge took over the area. Bokor Hill remained a Khmer Rouge stronghold until the early 1990s. Our tour guide’s father is a former combatant (supporting the Vietnamese) who had spent several years at Bokor.
Our first stop was the 30m statue of Lok Yeay Mao, pictured below. Built in the last decade, she is considered a protector spirit for travelers along the southern coastal provinces of Cambodia.
A local photographer caught my attention, taking pictures of tourists and printing them on a printer, powered by a car battery.
Further along the road, the old decrepit original casino stands close to an old church. The Khmer Rouge used the former as a prison and converted the latter into a kitchen. The buildings command a view of Cambodia’s coastline and the church served as an artillery position. Both structures are intact and abandoned. The public is free to roam through them; grim places that seem full of ghosts.
The Sokha Hotel Group, owned by its parent company, Sokimex, has a 99-year lease on a casino complex on Bokor Hill. It has built a sprawling casino and a resort boasting luxury bars, accommodation and entertainment but (on the day we visited) no guests.