At Phnom Bokor we did not encounter a single person. I felt as a traveller from "Stalker" movie.
Over the clouds, at Phnom Bokor
My old friend came to visit me, we worked together. With him came a couple of my countrymen and a young couple from Moscow. They met on the road. Well, as usual they began questioning what could be interesting to see around Sihanoukville?
I told them about Kampot, Kep and Phnom Bokor. The guys chose Bokor and asked me to be their guide. By the time I lived in Cambodia for almost a year, but I still never visited Bokor. Of course I heard much about this place, read about it, but never managed to get there. Once such a chance turned up, my answer was - "Sure!"
By car we got to Kampot. After a brief search we found a guesthouse on the central square. Then we moved to the city to find a taxi to Bokor in advance – we won’t have to rush about in search of the car in the morning. Near our guesthouse we noticed a sign "Taxi to Bokor”. The owner of this advertisement had an old Toyota Camry, which looked a bit suspicious of us. I had already heard that the road to Bokor was not the best, if at all could be called a road. As a rule all taxi drivers who carry tourists to Bokor have more powerful cars. But our new friend assured us that his car is able to cover the road. We decided to trust him. We immediately agreed the price - 20 dollars round trip, with the return on the next day.
We had early rise and a breakfast the next morning. Our driver was already waiting for us. The road from Kampot to the gate of the Bokor National Park took about twenty minutes. I do not know where to begin a description of the road... perhaps with the fact that the road it was 60 years ago. It ran a streamer, with abyss aside. The rise of the road was surrounded by wild jungle; huge trees were entirely wrapped in lianas. Three hours of unparalleled scenery. But the picture changed as soon as we came to the famous plateau Bokor.
On the way my guys begged for adventures.
So be it!
Then, lets go first to the Bokor waterfalls. There, in the wild forest, we’ll pass night, and at the morning we will walk to the Bokor main station. We send a taxi driver, agreed to meet at ruins of the Bokor casino the next day. In fact, "casino" is a former Bokor Palace Hotel, but for some unknown reasons this building is often called "casino".
You may get to the Bokor falls on foot or on motorcycles. You have to cross a couple of old wooden bridges left here since colonial times. The road from the fork to the waterfalls takes about two hours. This was my first waterfall I ever seen live. With two stages! The first stage height of about eight meters, the second one – a bit lower.
Wild bulbofillum orchid at Phnom Bokor
We entered the heart of tropical jungles: relict plants and moss of different colors and shapes, giant ferns, flowers and exotic butterflies! Waterfalls of Bokor are strange and unusual – they formed enormous gully below the water streams. Because of the reddish color of the water they looked like a surface of Mars.
Overnight, we decided to set up in tents on the upper platform of Bokor plateau. Old roofs have been thin, lean, but there was little choice because my tourists did not want to sleep in the jungle. After dinner we immediately went to sleep.
I woke up from the rain; water flowed straight into my hammock from the thin roof. Downpour only lasted 30 minutes, but for us it took three or four hours to dry our clothes near the fire. We went to sleep again only about two hours of the night.
Up at 6 a.m.; fast breakfast and we were ready for Bokor station walk.
First sight of Bokor, which we saw was an old Catholic church. The church was built of stone, in the classical style. It seemed time did not touch it, except shattered stained windows and red moss, which, in my opinion, perfectly decorated old walls. Because of moss church seemed to us red from afar. Unfortunately, inside the church, vandals have already worked: entire surface of the walls were scratched by visitors in the "Bob and Natasha from Berlin” style.
Old catholic church at Phnom Bokor
We decided to make a short stop little above the church, right on the edge of the plateau slope. Landscape cannot be described in words! Jungle, overflowing with all shades of green, merges in the distance with the blue ocean. There, on a slope, it is possible to look at the jungle from a bird's flight. And on the other side of the track we had a view of the abandoned Bokor city. From here the entire plateau was in full view.
We previously identified the ruins we would like to see, and found the path that would help us reach them. Looking around at last all this beauty, we moved further. We did not want to leave this place, but we needed to move on, so many interesting discoveries were waiting for us ahead.
On the way to the Bokor Palace Hotel I finally saw by my eyes what I so many have heard. Milky shroud instantly enveloped the building so well visible from a distance. We entered a total fog. This was just a low cloud. By the way, clouds in coastal Cambodia are always low. That gives a particular charm to the Cambodian landscapes, and especially sea sunsets. The height of the Bokor plateau is about 1000-1050 meters. That is enough to literally be inside the clouds. Clouds gave this place even more mysterious appearance. I felt like a traveler from the “Stalker” movie. Moreover, since the morning we did not encounter here a single person.
Finally we got to the end point of our trip - Bokor Palace Hotel. 4-storey building is almost not affected by time, except for the facade, which was also covered with orange moss.
We entered. It was easy to discern the former reception desk. Hotel’s hall with spacious terraces and balconies overlooks the edge of the cliff with an unforgettable view of the jungle, which extends down and dissolves in the sea in the distance.
We explored the building floor after floor. The view from the roof of the hotel was amazing: on the one hand it has a deserted village, on the other - huge expanses of jungle.
Just from the roof we saw our taxi driver. Perhaps he had long been waiting for us.
The descent from the plateau was as difficult as a rise, and it should be best finished before sundown. But nobody didn’t even noticed the descend adventure – my whole team slept like a log, not paying attention to the terrible shaking of the car. Tired and happy we got to Sihanoukville already at midnight.
Photographs of Phnom Bokor