If you’re visiting Kampot, Bokor Mountain is a must-visit.
Originally built as a French colonial hill station, it was later abandoned (twice) and is now slowly being renovated as a tourist destination with new hotels and casinos.
For now, though, the area is worth a visit for the old, eerie, abandoned buildings that can be found dotted around the top of the mountain.
I don’t know about you, but I find this much more interesting than wandering around fancy hotels. And much cheaper, too!
The road up the mountain is the best road I’ve seen in Cambodia; perfectly paved with not a pothole in sight and lovely views.
Note: this article was written after a visit in July 2018. Some changes may have been made to the Bokor Hill Station since then.
How to get there
It is possible to get a taxi, tuk tuk or minivan tour to Bokor Mountain, but I highly recommend hiring a scooter.
You can rent scooters in many places around Kampot for less than $5 USD per day!
It’s a cheaper, more enjoyable, more relaxed way to spend your day. And did I mention how great the road is?
If you do decide to go for this mode of transport, make sure you fill up your fuel tank before you leave Kampot!
The journey from town is roughly 37km one way and there are very few (if any) places to fill up once you leave the main road.
Head out of Kampot on National Road 3 in the direction of Sihanoukville until you see the gateway for Bokor National Park on your right.
Turn onto this road and simply follow it all the way up!
There are many sharp corners, so drive carefully and stick to the speed limit.
Things to see on Bokor Mountain
Once you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll be in the Bokor Hill Station area.
There are many attractions dotted around so you can pick and choose what you want to see.
We had a map but we still didn’t manage to see everything!
Lok Yeay Mao & the Black Palace
This giant statue of Lok Yeay Mao, the protector of travellers and hunters, is actually located a little bit before the Bokor Hill Station area.
At 29 metres tall, it’s impossible to miss her! The views from here over the coast are incredible on a good day.
Make sure you respect the site and the locals who come to pray here.
Directly opposite the statue is the site of the old Black Palace, owned by King Norodom Sihanouk.
Only a few brick remains survive today.
Continue up the road after the statue and you will come to a roundabout.
You can either turn right here or keep going straight.
We turned right and headed for the Mountain Lake, which was once used by holiday-makers but now looks deserted.
Old swan boats and pedalos sit scuffed and rusting at the water’s edge, giving the area a slightly eerie atmosphere.
At this point in our trip the clouds started rolling in, and we were soon to realise that this would give the whole area quite a surreal feel!
If you continue down the main road after the lake, you will come to Popokvil waterfalls.
We, however, decided to head back towards the roundabout in search of other sights.
Thansur Sokha Hotel
If you take the other road at the roundabout, you will soon find yourself in front of a very large new hotel and casino: Thansur Sokha.
Painted yellow and with a huge (empty) parking area out the front, this building is very imposing and a little strange.
Most of the windows on the upper levels were covered up when we visited, and the few that were uncovered showed large empty spaces within.
A long, wide staircase with a dry water feature in the middle runs up to the entrance.
Despite the strange atmosphere of the building, we decided to have a look inside – and were very surprised!
The lobby was very nicely decorated with chandeliers and lots of greenery.
There was a small central staircase heading down to a cafe area, with a restaurant to one side.
Two staircases on each side led up to the next level and the casino entrance.
Despite the lack of vehicles in the car park, there were quite a few people in the cafe area and a glance into the casino showed that there were many more inside.
The casino entrance was on the right-hand side when you ascended to the upper level, but the rest of the floor was completely open and empty. Perhaps an empty conference space?
We didn’t do much more exploring; we just headed back out to the silent, empty car park.
By this time the clouds had descended and we found ourselves standing in fog.
Note: We visited in July 2018, which is the low season. This may be the reason for the deserted car park and dry water feature. Check out the hotel’s website for up to date info.
Wat Sampov Pram / 5 Boats Pagoda
After leaving the hotel, we took the road that leads round behind it and comes out by Wat Sampov Pram.
Situated on the cliff edge at 1000m above sea level, this is Cambodia’s highest Buddhist pagoda.
As such, on a clear day the views from here are said to be stunning.
Unfortunately for us, the clouds had well and truly settled on the mountain by this point, but we were able to catch a glimpse through the occasional gap in the fog.
The Wat itself is a lovely collection of statues, rock formations and temples.
It is named for the five large rocks surrounding it, which vaguely resemble boats.
It was quite enjoyable to wander around this site in the fog, not knowing what we were going to see until something would suddenly appear in front of us.
Old Catholic Church
Built as part of the original hill station for the French colonists, this church is a beautiful and strange sight if you’ve become used to seeing Cambodia’s temples.
To get there, follow the road from the temple back to the hotel and turn right.
Rising up out of the clouds and coated in orange lichen, there was a real sense of mystery around this place.
Venturing inside the church, we found it to be empty except for a stone alter, a couple of crosses and images of Jesus Christ.
And a whole lot of graffiti.
We had a look into the back rooms before deciding that the combination of the abandoned church and the heavy fog was too creepy for us!
Look out for the little path that leads up the hill on the left to a lookout point.
Le Bokor Palace
This was what I had heard the most about before our visit.
I’d heard and read about the abandoned hotel with its wonderful views and I was looking forward to exploring its empty rooms and corridors.
However, when we arrived it was freshly painted in white and light pink with a security guard standing outside and a new, tidy car park.
It turns out that the building was renovated in 2018, not long before our visit, and is now a functioning hotel again!
We didn’t venture inside as it looked too fancy for us. I didn’t even get a photo!
However, we carried on down the road to where it ends and found some abandoned buildings to explore.
And that was the end of our Bokor Mountain adventure.
The clouds seemed like they had settled in for good and we still had around 40 kms to travel back to Kampot.
There are a few things we missed, such as the Popokvil Waterfall and the 100 Rice Fields.
It really is worth taking a full day to make the journey up the mountain and to explore all of its wonders.
Be aware that the weather on the mountain can change at any time, even if it’s hot and sunny in Kampot, so take some warm/waterproof layers.
And enjoy exploring!
Would you wander round the old buildings of Bokor Mountain? Have you been before? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- Angkor Wat: why you should ditch the tuk-tuk tour
- Chiang Mai to Pai: a stunning scooter road trip
- Hong Kong: escaping the chaos
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