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Offending Khmers at Bokor Hill Station
The 24th of December was spent doing a Bokor Mountain tour outside Kampot town. The only way to get up there right now is on a tour, or on major Khmer public holidays when the road is opened. They are still blasting out parts of the new road and so you can’t drive all of [...]
Sunday March 13 2011
The 24th of December was spent doing a Bokor Mountain tour outside Kampot town. The only way to get up there right now is on a tour, or on major Khmer public holidays when the road is opened. They are still blasting out parts of the new road and so you can’t drive all of the way up, which means an hour and a half hiking through the forest or two if you are stuck with an unfit older person in your group like I was, thankfully the forest is a cool reprieve from the sun. Unfortunately there was none of the picturesque cloudy fog around, it was a scorcher.
The appeal of Bokor is of course mostly the old French hill station left in ruins there, mainly the casino and its recent history as one of the Khmer Rouge’s last strongholds. There are a few building up there but the most prominent are the Casino and Catholic church. ‘Tiger’ was our guide and a real nice guy. He told the group about the Bokor history and the new development going on and the recent demolition of the old post office. This of course brings up the question, why? Why demolish one of Cambodia’s top tourist attractions? It was suggested that the other buildings will be demolished also but it’s still not clear if this is the case. The post office was in a very bad state of repair, probably the worst of all the buildings and it was not safe, is disrepair a reason to demolish a historically significant site? Why not demolish those Angkor temples overgrown and falling apart? (Let’s be honest, that’s not quite the same) Not to mention that this is supposedly a national park. Some of these questions were put to Tiger by a few in the group. It seemed to me he was offended. To us the demolition of this place and construction of a big fancy casino seems ludicrous, Khmer development is often gaudy and the construction on Bokor looks something akin to a Las Vegas casino which is no surprise in a country that sees a Hummer as the preferred way of expressing your wealth through a vehicle. I figured that Tiger sees things differently, to him a small broken down French town isn’t of any great importance, a big casino and hotel no matter where its located will provide good paying jobs in a country that needs them, maybe even for his own family.
The simple answer is this, we spent $20 per person to see Bokor. I have no inclination to visit when the development is complete but those who will are going to be spending significantly more than $20 and will stay for more than a day trip. Not to mention, while the site currently holds some historical significance the new development is basically just a modern version of what was already there, slightly hypocritical?