Ruins of a French Colonial Ghost Town

By

12th Dec, 2012

The luxury French resort of a different variety …

Photo source: Flick User An Agent
 

Like a giant tombstone at the top of a hill prevailing over the dense tropical Cambodian jungle, here lies the remains of French colonial history. Yet another testimony to Europe’s once sinister use of imperialist power, Bokor Hill Station still stands to tell the tale.

Bokor Hill Station - Casino

Photo source: Flickr user Sven Blom
 

As the French military swept through Cambodia during the high noon of European imperialism, the sweltering heat and unfamiliar environment began to take its toll on the troops. A solution was needed, and fast. Over a nine month period, nearly a thousand  people, mostly forced Cambodian laborers, died during the construction of a luxury resort town for the French colonists.

Bokor Hill Station

Photo source: Flickr user Damien
 

Bokor Hill Station was completed in 1925 and began welcoming the French and their royal Cambodian puppets into its lavishly decorated hallways and opulent apartments.

Bokor Palace

Photo source: Flickr user Dust Mason
 

Untitled

Source: Flickr user Ruben i
 

Away from the heat of the jungle and the squalor of the cities, the town boasted a grand art-deco hotel, casino, a church, a post office and several boutiques.

Former Royal Residence, Dâmrei Mountains

Source: Flickr user PigalleCIMG1544
Source: Flickr user Jan One
 
Bokor Hill Station
 Source: Flickr user Spaceppl
 

The climate haven continued to be enjoyed by the French ruling class for another fifteen years, largely funded by the heavy taxes they imposed on the Cambodian people. In return for a French “protectorate” over their country, which they didn’t even ask for (their King did), Cambodians were paying the highest taxes per capita among the French colonies in Indochina. French colonial brutalities were included in the package.

Palace Hotel & Casino, Station Climatique du Bokor, Dâmrei Mountains

Source: Flickr user Pigalle
 

By the early 1940s, as the First Indochine War broke out, the French had outstayed their welcome and violent uprisings by the anti-French movement for independence, Khmer Issarak, drove the colonists back to Paris, abandoning their luxury resort.

Past times

Source: Flickr user Steve McPhillips
 

When the brutal conflict ended in 1953 and the country became a constitutional monarchy, the wealthy Cambodians moved back in and the station had a brief renaissance during the 50s and 60s without their imperialist hosts. But the holiday wouldn’t last long. The Khmer Rouge, the communist organization remembered primarily for its policy of social engineering and autogenocide, was to be Bokor Hill Station’s last tenant.

Source: Mis Trapadallas
 

In 1972, the Khmer Rouge had taken over the region, torturing and executing their supposed “enemies”; their own people. Included on the Khmer Rouge target list was anyone with connections to the former government or with foreign governments. Needless to say, the Cambodians residents of Bokor Hill during the 1960s can probably be counted among the 2-3 million people estimated to have perished at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

Bokor Hill Station

Bokor Hill Station became a fortress of war. As the cold-war era conflicts in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia raged on, the grand colonial resort town crumbled into disrepair. It is said the Khmer Rouge was still using Bokor Hill as a secret stronghold up until the early 1990s.

Source: Flickr user BonBonGirl
 

Today, the gutted hilltop centerpiece of the ghost town cuts an eerie figure in the middle of Cambodia’s lush Phnum Bokor National Park. More than forty kilometers from civilization, the only road that still leads to Bokor Hill has been all but obliterated from neglect– a bumpy 3,500 foot uphill ride for off-beat explorers.

Anexo del Bokor Palace Hotel.

Source: Flickr user Chineando
 

All the buildings are still standing except for the old post office. Charred and lifeless on the outside, evidence of French interior elegance is still peeling away on the inside.

French Windows

Source: Flick user Karsoe
 

Rumored plans are said to be in place for a private investment group to redevelop Bokor Hill within the next 15 years, complete with a new casino and a golf course above the southern jungles of Cambodia.

Hotel, Bokor Hill Station

 Source: Flickr user Spaceppl

A ghostly reminder of the country’s dark and devastating history, some argue it should be preserved as a symbol of things that should never be repeated. The future of Bokor Hill remains unclear. If it does once again lure foreigners with a taste for the exotic to its hilltop haven, here’s hoping they’ll arrive with more respect than the invading foreigners it welcomed in 1925.

Hotel from distance

Source: Flickr user Utom Jording

:::

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

.

 

You Might Also Like

Comments

More in Desirable DigsDon't Be A TouristInspiration VaultNostalgiaOff-Beat & Little KnownTime travel

Hot Off the Press

Editor's Picks

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Picture Perfect LA

You should probably know that I'm a California virgin and so this was my first visit to the city of Angels. When you arrive in such an iconic city, it can be a little overwhelming to know where to st...

Trending 241
SONY DSC

10 of the Most Fantastical Burning Man Creations

This week, an otherworldly gathering in the desert is taking place in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. A celebration of life, earth and all the incredible things we're capable of building and...

Trending 12,221
johnies

Hollywood Ghost Diner

I've been on the lookout for a truly authentic 1950s diner since I arrived in California. I finally found it, driving down Wilshire Boulevard and screeching to a halt as soon as I locked eyes o...

Trending 8,088
featureclub

My LA Boogie Nights Bar

After 24 hours in the city of Angels, I had yet to find the perfect LA hangout I was looking for. I have this romantic vision of Angelinos hanging out on seventies lawn chairs in their backyards wi...

Trending 4,283
phantomlake

Unmasking the Parisian Phantom of the Opera

What if I told you there is a lake under the Paris Opera House, just like in The Phantom of the Opera? Down, down, down, deep underneath the Garnier Opera in a dingy room with a square-shaped hol...

Trending 20,514
mecaniquefeature

The San Francisco Antique Playground

This might sound odd, but I'm not really a museum buff. I generally find that if something is behind a barrier or kept in a glass box where I can't pick it up or touch it, I won't linger very long i...

Trending 5,042