Bokor Hill Station was originally a source of much local tension between the French and local Cambodians. After the First World War, construction began on the French ‘pleasure palace’ as a refuge and recreation area, apparently using local tax money and labor from nearby Kampot.
As well as local money being used in the lavish project, many workers are said to have died during the building work on the entertainment complex, which comprised a grand hotel, casino, tennis courts and gardens growing European fruits and vegetables.
The French abandoned the ‘pleasure palace’ in the 1940s, only for the Khmer Rouge to take over the complex in the 70s. After years of abandonment since the late 70s, Bokor Hill Station stood as an eerie relic – a ghost town.
Nowadays there’s a new owner, and the Cambodian government have seen fit to restore the network of buildings to their former glory (with the addition of a golf course) and have already opened a new casino.
Whether it is a sign of progress for Cambodia or not is yet to be seen. Casinos make money, that’s the bottom line – but I fear it won’t be the locals who ‘win’ from the re-development.