To Bokor in the back of a pick-up truck with an international group
Today a visit to Bokor hill station is on our program. At half-past seven, they pick us up. We drive to another guesthouse where we eventually leave with 12 people to Bokor, with 1 car and a 4WD. My travel partner and I take a seat at the back of the pick-up trip. Out of precaution, I take a painkiller. Once past the check-in of the Bokor National Reserve, the road deteriorates visibly. Still, thanks to a few cushions, it is not too bad. The people that join on this tour form a real international group; Americans, Canadians, Dutch, a French couple, and a Spaniard. Comfortable people, most of them anyway, so we make contact reasonably quickly.
Waiting in the burning sun while the drivers fix the engine
The road is indeed in a terrible condition, but less dusty than in Ban Lung. After a good hour, we reach the Popokvil waterfall. It really does not represent much, there is hardly any water. When we want to leave, it happens, the engine of our 4WD stops running. Ultimately, it takes 2 hours for our drivers to get the engine back working via an alternative petrol transit system. Waiting in the sun, at the hottest part of the day, I get burned pretty severe. One of the drivers reports that they will take us to the (former) casino, where another 4WD will pick us up later. Wishful thinking, of course. Eventually, we stop again at 1 kilometer from Bokor hill station. We will bridge that on foot. A little later, our driver reports that the engine is fixed. In his dreams, it turns out then.
Bokor hill station is a desolated, spooky place
Meanwhile, we visit the hill station; a church, a casino, and a hotel, the Bokor Palace, which has been abandoned since the 1970s. This desolate, sheltered place has many times been compared to the spooky hotel in Stanley Kubrick`s classic movie, The Shining, and there is really something to that. Earlier, we also visited an old country retreat of former King Sihanouk. To find out how it all looked in its heyday, we will have to check the movies King Sihanouk made in the 1970s to the honor and glory of his wife.
Leaving the hill station at sunset
When we want to return to Kampot, our engine fails another time, causing another hour of waiting. Around 5 PM, we can finally leave, the hour we would typically have arrived back in Kampot. Fortunately, the engine now manages to reach our final destination. I notice that many people are not feeling too comfortable, and rightly so because the descent into the dark is not really without risks. Bokor hill station is situated in a malaria area, one more reason to be back in town before darkness falls. All in all, the descent is not so bad, only the last half hour we really drive in the dark.
Arranging our return to Phnom Penh
Back in Kampot, my travel companion wants to socialize with the girls who accompanied us today. So he decides to eat something at the guesthouse that organized this tour to Bokor hill station. I return to our hostel, where I drink a beer and meet our guide from yesterday to discuss our trip to Phnom Penh tomorrow. Phnom Chisor is located on a different highway, so it will be rather difficult to visit that place tomorrow. The Phnom Chhnork temple is one of the alternatives to visit, so I make a deal with this guy to be our guide. He will accompany us up to and including Chhnork, explain on-site and then return to Kampot on his own. We finish my bottle of Angkor beer together, after which he brings me back on his motorbike to where my friend is hanging out.
Enjoying a Sri Lankan dinner
However, I am unlucky as they have already run out of food at the place. So I head to a nearby Sri Lankan restaurant. Here I can still order something to eat; I order fried fish with rice, again delicious food. I start talking to the owner, a Sri Lankan, who has been in Cambodia for 6 years. He owns a large resto in Sihanoukville, and for 2 years also a smaller version here in Kampot. He is also interested in Kratie and asks me how things are going with tourism over there. I answer that everything there focuses on the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. As the resto is getting empty, and I don’t want to be the only guest, I pay the bill and walk back to my guesthouse on foot.