One of Kampot province’s main tourist attractions, Bokor National Park covers 610 sq miles (1,581 sq km) of prima- ry rain forest, grasslands, and deciduous forest. Although illegal logging has decimated large tracts of the park’s south- ern section, Bokor remains home to the Indian elephant, tiger, leopard, pangolin, Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear, pilleated gibbon, slow loris, and pig-tailed macaque. Fortunate visitors may also chance upon any of the 300 bird species that inhabit the park, such as the grey-headed fish eagle and the spot-bellied eagle owl.
Besides a variety of birds and animals, Bokor’s attractions include the atmospheric Bokor Hill Station, which featured in the 2002 Matt Damon movie City of Ghosts. Located atop the 3,543-ft (1,080-m) high Phnom Bokor, the station is an abandoned French summer post from the 1920s and includes the remains of a once-magnificent four-story hotel and casino. The crumbling remains of this building are now covered in extraordinary burned-orange lichen, giving the complex an ethereal air. On clear days, there are stunning views over Kampot to the Gulf of Thailand, although this is a rarity as the summit is usually blanketed in mist. Close by lie the ruins of an old Catholic Church, which has withstood years of warfare and occupation by the Khmer Rouge. Although the church’s interior is now gutted, the stonework is encrusted with the same orange lichen.
Yet another intriguing spot is the Bokor Palace, also known as the Black Palace, located 6 miles (10 km) east of the Bokor Hill Station. Once the royal residence of King Sihanouk, its wasted shell is a reminder of the palace’s former grandeur – the marble floors, tiled bathrooms, and fireplaces are still intact.
Bokor National Park’s unearthly isolation is set to change with a new casino resort being developed by the Sokha group; the access road to the park is often restricted by the company. Most organized tours to the park also include a visit to the pretty Popokvil Waterfalls, 3 miles (5 km) northeast of the hill station. This two-tiered water- fall, separated by a shallow pool, which can be paddled through, is usually not deep enough to swim in. However, it is a peaceful spot engulfed by swirling mist and cool air.