Ghost Town

Trip Start Jan 10, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kampot Guesthouse

Flag of Cambodia  , Kâmpôt,
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Enjoying a nice hike to the Ghost town of Bokor Hill Station is the only thing that one can do in Kampot. Nothing ever happens in the town. It has five (I counted them) French colonial houses that are worth any attention and probably two OK maybe three Cafes where you can kill the time having a nice drink and the free internet that comes with it. It's not the river although there is a bit of a laugh going through a civil engineer's mind looking at the Frankensteinian bridge that spans it, each of the 3 spans are from a different time and from a different bridge, each of a different design... It's hilarious but you got to give it to the people... they made it work! it might not be pretty... but it does the job, good on you Kampot!! Good on you! It's not the downtown... there is no downtown... :)... It's in the hills above. There's a promise of a small town left into the hands of time and mother nature.

Left early in the morning in a jeep with a guide and four other people towards the base of the hill which we will climb for 3 hours. Occasionally steep but generally quite doable it was a lot of fun going up with great company and an interesting guide with civil war stories in which he was the main character (the man lived in the jungle for 3 years surviving by whatever the nature provided, he fought along side the Vietnamese against the Khmer Rouge). A pickup truck collected us when we got to the road and the next half an hour was a constant hard bounce against the wooden benches. Fun fun fun!!! not for my butt cheeks it wasn't :)

Long time ago, last century, Bokor Hill Station was a resort for the French and the Cambodian elite, a place where the privileged could escape the torrid Cambodian summer, retiring in the cool, misty hills above the sea and spend the time socializing at the "Casino" and praying for luck at roulette in the Catholic church near by. The loss of the colony, the Khmer Rouge and the civil war transformed the resort into ruins that are slowly but surely eaten up by the jungle. It is a weird feeling getting up there and walking inside of the huge "Casino" now completely  dilapidated imagining the evening gowns and the tuxedos, the champagne glasses... the glitz ...  a lost world... There's the church where some birds took residence and are scaring the crap out of the occasional tourist that walks in unaware, there's also a humongous concrete water tower that looks like an UFO and strikes a strange cord with the rest of the place. There are some other buildings all in ruins scattered over the small plateau and all together makes for a great movie set (actually the movie "The City of Ghosts" was filmed on location here). Leaning down over the broken walls behind the Casino you can see the huge drop, the jungle and the sea and you realize you are in the clouds, literary, of course if you hadn't figured it out by then from the cold wind and crisp air...

Efforts are being made now by the private company that controls the area to enlarge the road up to the plateau and there is actually a huge construction site, away from the ghost town where a huge hotel is being built... A new life might flow through the veins of this god forgotten place after all, is it good? Is it bad? Is the new forming Cambodian elite going to retreat in the mountains as their predecessors? How good, or bad will it be for the people of Kampot? Time will tell I guess.

Needless to say the hike down was great, much easier than the way up, duh! There was a lot of laughter and chatting and good time and the night ended fantastic with a nice dinner and amazing company. During dinner I had the feeling that I understand the music, the words, it was something familiar yet very strange... unexpected in that space and time... it was Romanian Gypsy music... in Kampot? Cambodia? yup! there was a compilation that some french tourist gave it to the bar tender and he liked it and played it that night... who would have thought?!
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peter on

again an interesting travelstory Tony: continue!! We like it and greetings from Cecilia and Peter from a now summery Quebec

Sandrine on

Thank you for sharing, and writing what your eyes and mind see. I am curious to know how a church could be used as a casino. Mind you, we can expect anything and everything with the French...

Radu Ursu on

Servus Toni, imi plac pozeleastea din Kampot, suna a compot, dar e un loc interesant.
Ce faci ai ajuns acasa in Vancouver?
Eu sunt in golful Mexic, fac croaziere din Texas.

numai bine si pe curand

dizzy lizzy on

freaky, creepy! if an abandoned church/ casino in the middle of nowhere doesn't get the creative juices flowing... are you a fiction writer? time to start!

in case I haven't said before, love the layout of your blog, w/ the pics & links included. it's fabulous! definitely makes me feel very lazy w/ my, not-near-as-interesting, own journal.

marks on

Not a very accurate picture of Kampot but its just as well the review so no negative (of such a great place) since it will help defere future travelers there.

True it doesnt have wild discoes or a huge bar scene for backpacking Australians and their ilk but it does have nice people, very good food, a great river, Cham villages and temples nearby, tuk-tuks to caves and makets and peacefulness.

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