High on top of one of Cambodia’s mountains lies a strange assortment of buildings. A mix of derelict French colonial buildings, religious monuments and some supremely ugly new developments. This is Bokor Hill Station, a world that changes with the weather.
A perfect ribbon of tarmac that winds its way up the mountainside from the valley floor is your first clue that this is a different world. Even highways in Cambodia aren’t this smooth! As you climb, wonderful views come round each corner, looking out to coast over the vast salt producing fields.
Arriving at the summit plateau is like the start of a surreal theme park, long abandoned by its last owners. A giant, colourful Buddha statue dominates the skyline. At its base, statues of each animal from the Chinese calendar stand proudly, ready for blessings. It feels cool up here, almost half the temperature in the valley, a strange change to the furnace we had become accustomed to.
Nearby there is a derelict building, high grass starting to crowd the outside. Within its walls are layers of graffiti and crumbling masonry. But this decaying building has a regal history. Once upon a time it was the summer retreat for King Sihanouk, commanding views out over his kingdom. There’s a beauty in this old relic, “The Black Palace”. Faded colours and faded glory.
Continuing on our trip we come across cascading waterfalls, abandoned churches, temples shrouded in mist and an abandoned casino. The weather begins to play its part in the drama of the day, bringing atmospheric mist and sudden rain showers as if on cue. All of this just adds to the experience, like we are visiting some sort of Truman Show-esque set. Sure perfect sunshine is great for holiday snaps, but nothing beats some misty, murky weather for a bit of added spice. Maybe its just part of growing up in Scotland.
Our companions on this mountain top adventure, Jeff and Jess, joined us that evening in town. Together we watched a dazzling sunset over the river and dined by its banks. We couldn’t have asked for two nicer people to have spent the day with and talked the night away…finally admitting defeat when we realised the restaurant staff had all but closed up!