I get up by 7:30 and have breakfast at 8 am. I meet Gabriel, a 22 years old American guy and a couple from France. We spend the noon talking in the guesthouses restaurant on the roof again. And we enjoy the sight of the surrounding mountains. Later the French people leave and I hang out with Gabe for some time. Both of us want to go to Bokor Mountain to joint the party. Ye we are both not sure how we want to get there and how we can spend the night. Gabe manages to persuade me to take him on my bike. So we assume we won’t be able to sleep at night anyway. So we leave our sleeping bags and stuff in the guesthouse. And we reserve a room for the next day.
People and guide books alike suggest that the road up the mountain is difficult to ride. Most people go by truck. So I am not very comfortable with traveling with two persons on the bike. Moreover, it is usually much more fun to do the bumpy stretches alone.
It is already 1:30 pm when we go to the market. We buy some food and water and have lunch. We leave at about 2:30 pm to Bokor, which is just about 35 km from here. The first part is paved road and easy traveling. We cross the river and follow National Road 3 through the picturesque landscape, following the coastline on one and the mountain range on the other side of the road. Then we turn right and get onto a rough, unpaved road up the mountain. After we pay $5 each to enter Bokor National Park. The road is mostly unpaved and sandy, covered with small and medium sized stones which make it a bumpy ride. I cannot pay much attention to the environment. We pass mostly through dense forest, while climbing up the road with many turns. While we get higher we recognize the beautiful surroundings, the coastline with a number of mountainous islands and the wooded mountain range along the mainland. Many birds make the forest a noisy place. Generally, it seems the road was improved on its worst stretches, making it relatively easy to ride. There is significant traffic in both directions, mostly motos and trucks. I use the horn a lot in the turns. Sometimes we get stuck in the dust behind slowly traveling trucks, frequently with soldiers on its back.
With Gabe in the market.
On the way up to Bokor Mountain.
After a one hour ride we reach a small, abandoned pagoda like building, with a number of people with moto bikes hanging out. We have a break, too and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Later I meet Vuth and Dara, who just arrive from a multiple day moto cross trip with a Frenchman. As there is some time left before it gets dark we decide to visit the waterfall first, which is another 30 minutes from here. We hang out for some time and then ride to the old Casino on the top of the mountain, where the party is going to take place.
This is at the waterfall.
There is not much water at this time of the year.
Dara, the French guy, and Vuth
Kind of tired.
Sunset is over by the time we reach the top of the mountain. There are a number of buildings up here, including the abandoned casino, a church and a pagoda.
We have to pay another $5 each entrance fee before we are allowed to enter the compound of the casino. There are maybe some 200 people, with many dirt bikes around and some trucks and tents. People are still arriving and hang out in many places. I park the moto and walk around for a bit to take pictures in the remaining day light.
There are some clouds but lower than the summit of the mountain. The sun has set down and the last light colors those clouds.
The old casino and its abandoned look offer an odd contrast to the natural beauty of the surroundings. People hang out all over the place, inside, on the terraces and in the grass. There is loud music and the DJs are setting up their equipment. A huge fire burns in the old fireplace.
This is at the backside of the casino. People came on all sorts of vehicles but mostly on dirt bikes and trucks. Some people where smart enough to bring their tents. I learnt that it is the third time this party is taking place and a number of people are here for the second or third time. I get to talk to a number of people and most of them turn out to be of French or American extraction. Those people are young and a majority of them rather tourists than expatriates. I would estimate about one third of the crowd is Khmer, among them many teenagers and men who seem to be here for business rather than enjoyment.
People are still arriving and their headlights can be seen from far away.
After I explore the site I meet Gabe again. We come across two girls who turn out to be American, like he, and 22 years old as well. Jamey and Tamey are twins. They hang out at a small wall which separates the garden from the cliff. Entertainingly there are two holes in the ground, one about 80 cm deep and the other as deep as two meters. Those holes cannot be recognized when coming from the other side. So while people pass by a considerable number of them falls into those holes, which really is a funny thing to see. Of course we warn them but most are unwilling or unable to listen to us.
People come and go, we are having drinks and talk, time goes by and taken together I find myself quite comfortable. However, it is getting colder and a strong wind is blowing constantly. The climate up here is significantly different from the lowlands.
Still later we go and dance, walk up to the terrace and explore building and surroundings. We are inside when the New Year starts but there is no countdown or anything that would indicate the significance of the moment. Only music.
A few fires are burning around the building, with groups of people sitting around them. Later we find ourselves sitting with a number of people around one of those fires. We have no choice but to get closely together due to the cold. There are all sorts of people from Canada, Ireland, Britain, France and so on. Generally I am surprised about the seemingly high level of education among people attending such events. There are doctors and scientists and many students. Jamey and Tamey, for example, study and teach at Berkeley in California.
Given those temperatures there really are not many options other than sitting around the fire. I was lucky enough to bring my windbreaker as well as two long sleeves. Others where less fortunate and some people are here with just t-shirts, shorts and sandals.
When we sense the first sign of sun rise we leave the casino and find us a rock a few hundred meters away, from where we can observe the beginning of the first day of the New Year. Only slowly it is getting brighter. Than the sun appears. It is rising rapidly, changing the appearance of the mountain with it and warming us.
The first sun rise of the New Year. This is how the future looks like.
We walk back to the casino. Music is still on and many people start packing their stuff together already. We hang out for another hour or so, getting warmer and having some coffee.
Than I leave, again with Gabe on the back of my bike, to Kampot. Again and not surprisingly there is significant traffic on the road. Riding down this mountain is much easier than riding up and I enjoy it. Finally we get stuck behind two huge trucks whose drivers are unwilling to let us pass. Only at the bottom of the mountain we can pass them and travel back on the paved road to Kampot.