The story of Bokor National Park is a fascinating but sad one. Wandering through the crumbling, chilling remnants of the 1920s French colonial hill station, often swathed in thick fog, was once a huge tourist attraction, until, in 2007 Hun Sen’s government effectively sold the mountain in its entirety to the Sokimex Group (owner of the Sokha Resorts and Sokimex Oil among others) for $100m. The Chinese conglomerate now owns a 99-year lease and has begun an extravagant development project that will see the refurbishment of the dilapidated hill station (which was also the scene of a dramatic showdown between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese in 1979) and the construction of hotels (they’ve finished one already, as well as a neighbouring casino), numerous villas, golf courses, a cable car and water parks. Plans extend to the coast, where a major port is being built with a view to landing cruise ships before helicoptering guests to the plateau.
A new 32km toll road carving a thick ribbon of tarmac into the steep hillside has been finished and development across the mountain is gaining pace (though is usually easy to avoid). To explore the mountain’s old relics and two waterfalls, you could hire a moto (the road is too steep for tuk-tuks) or better still, go with a local tour operator. However, depending on the developer’s rate of progress and their attitude towards them, tours may soon be a thing of the past.