Phnom Penh to Kep, Kampot, Overnight on Bokor Mountain, at the Beach and back to Phnom Penh

The plan for this weekend is the following: I ride with Maraile to Kep (Kaeb) today, spend the night there and continue to Kampot, where we meet Lydia in the morning. The ladies will find a taxi and then we go visit Bokor National Park (Preah Monivong National Park) and the hill station on Bokor Mountain (Phnum Bouk Kou). We want to spend the night in the ranger station on top of the mountain, in the abandoned resort town, maybe visit the waterfall the next day before riding down again. After a short visit at the beach close to the National Park, Maraile and Lydia will continue to Kep and Rabbit Island while I will return home to Phnom Penh.

I start with Maraile only in the afternoon, since we just want to make it to Kep today and spend the night there. Since the rides on national roads are not particularly interesting I report the whole trip in one post. In fact I have been to Kampot and Bokor many times, first in September 2003 with Toby and Katrin, for the New Year Party on the mountain in 2004 (I, II) including visits to Kampot’s caves and Toek Chhou (Tek Chou), on the way from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, and most recently with my buddy Uwe (I, II, III)

02.09.2005

We have not even left Phnom Penh and barely reached the airport when it starts raining. We find shelter and wait for the rain to stop.

After about 20 minutes the rain gets weaker and we decide to continue. We do so only for a few minutes and it starts raining again. We stop at a restaurant and have coffee. We proceed when the rain is getting weaker again.

National Road is fairly narrow and rather busy at this time of the day. This changes when we reach the fork in the road from which Road 31 leads to Kep, while Road 3 goes directly to Kampot. We turn left towards Kep on a road that is one of the best of its kind in Cambodia, with only little traffic.

We keep going until Maraile realizes that she has just lost her phone. We turn around and backtrack for a few kilometers but cannot find it. We turn around and look again but again fail to find it. Then we meet this man at a local petrol station who is kind enough to call Maraile’s phone and to negotiate with the person who has found it. However, we fail to get back the phone today and decide to try again tomorrow.

The man on the phone is negotiating for us.

Once we reach Kep we first check those guesthouses that are a little further up the hill. However, they are surprisingly crowded and don’t have suitable accommodation. Finally we settle for the hotel right at the beach where I often spend the night when in Kep. We have a nice diner in a moderate but charming restaurant next to the hotel. The restaurant has a rich menu including somewhat fancy drinks.

Fried Squid fresh from the sea.

We leave the hotel early in the morning, postponing breakfast until we reach Kampot, which is only about 25 km from here.

Once we get to Kampot we find an excellent restaurant at the riverside, it is Indian or Sri Lankan, I believe. This is where we meet Lydia, who arrived here with a taxi in the morning.

Breakfast

After an opulent breakfast we head to the Blissful Guesthouse, the owner of which kindly organizes a Toyota Camry Taxi. Then we head to the national park, which is about 12 km from here, the ladies straight in the taxi and me with the motorbike and a detour to the gas station.

On the way to the national park. This road has been recently widened and evened out. It looks as if they are going to pave it.

Construction work is going on in a number of places.

Over there is the national park.

This road leads to the entrance gate.

I pay the entrance fee, enter the park and follow the broken road. I don’t get tired of riding up this fantastic road, even though I have done it a few times, the last one being only very few weeks ago. The Lonely Planet notes about this road:

“The French authorities decided to construct a road to Bokor in 1917; the project took several years to complete and many Cambodian indentured laborers perished in the process. With the completion of the road, a small community was established that included a grand colonial hotel, the Bokor Palace, inaugurated in 1925.”

I catch up with the taxi. The ladies seem to enjoy the ride

Down there is Kampot town.

Me on the motorbike.

Unsurprisingly the road continues to be in bad shape.

I meet the ladies again at this spot where the villas are, not very far anymore from the resort and casino. The brochure handed out at the entrance refers to this place as ‘Black Palace’ or ‘Sla Khmao’.

Over there is the casino.

This is a fork in the road a few kilometers further towards the casino. Right to the waterfalls, left to the resort, church, temple and casino (Hotel Bokor Palace).

We go straight to the ranger station to secure accommodation first. We get a basic room with three beds and reasonably warm blankets and some readymade noodle soup.

Ranger with child, upfront a big butterfly, next to a pack of cigarettes for comparison.

This butterfly is not very shy.

A group of Khmers from Phnom Penh arrives with a lot of supplies and starts organizing a picnic.

Later we go on a walk to visit the casino and enjoy the views.

Over there is Sihanoukville.

There are some more buildings east of the casino, among them what used to be annexes to the hotel, town hall, the governors office, royal villas and accommodation for royal guards and servants.

From up here one can recognize fisher boats leaving the mouth of the river at the bottom of the mountain.

Over there is Kol Trol Island. It is right in front of the Cambodian coast yet became part of Vietnamese territory after the French left. Much of the anger of Cambodians with the current border agreement with Vietnam is that it confirms the status of this island as belonging to Vietnam.

We go back to the ranger station where our fellow guests have organized a remarkably party complete with seafood and meat from the grill and lots of alcohol. We are kindly invited to join and this is what we do.

Still later we go to the casino again. It is Maraile’s birthday tomorrow and that is the place to be at midnight. It takes us some time to find the way to the very roof of the building, where we unpack some wine and even a birthday cake.

After some time we return to the ranger station and join the party again.

We start the next day early with birthday cake for breakfast. Then we walk around and to the casino again. The weather keeps changing quickly, sometimes clouds are drifting around and fog is hanging over the landscape.

It is sort of raining when we arrive at the casino, but the rain appears to be confined to only a small area at the top of the mountain.

That used to be a staircase. You don’t want to go down here.

We decide to skip the waterfall and visit the beach at the bottom of the mountain instead. After only a few minutes the sun emerges from the clouds and we get good weather and view.

Over there is Kampot. One can recognize the white part of the bridge.

While I am riding down that road by myself I become aware of a big black snake that emerges only few meters in front of me from the forest. In fact I cannot but cut it’s way across the road and when I pass the snake it keeps snaking alongside my motorbike for what seems to me is a long distance, even lifting its head to the level of my shoes. At this point I get slightly concerned and hurry up to outspeed the snake.

Once we arrive at the bottom of the mountain we follow the National Road 3 towards Sihanoukville for only a few kilometers and then turn left and get to the beach via a dirt road. There are a number of fishing boats, and some restaurants that serve guests in a number of simple pavilions in the shadow of palm trees at the beach. We order some food and go for a swim.

If you want to visit the following beach then you want to follow the dirt road through this gate which is on your left when you are coming from Kampot.

After a great meal we depart, Maraile and Lydia heading to Kampot and Kep while I ride back to Phnom Penh.

14 thoughts on “Phnom Penh to Kep, Kampot, Overnight on Bokor Mountain, at the Beach and back to Phnom Penh”

  1. Dear Stefan,

    It is so sad the see the Bokor casino in this sad shape. I remember in 1965-66 my father had took the whole family in an Opel car up to the Bolormountain,and Cambodians were not allowed to go inside the casino. And near to the beach of Kep there was another casino for which I had worked for its PP office as buyer in supplying all kinds of material that the Kep casino needed, but a few months later the casino was closed down by the authorities because of conflicts with the then corrupted government officers. So, I am a little the old memories of the sixty’s events in Cambodia. bye bye!
    Samnang 2006/04/12

  2. Samnang,

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Bokor Mountain. I would love to see and experience the place when it was still in operation. The casino’s state of disrepair is sad indeed yet it contributes to the fascinating, morbid fascination of the place. Bokor Mountain is a very special in my view. I think it has the potential to recover once again recover its lost greatness and one would hope that Cambodians themselves are allowed inside (although casino’s don’t seem to be a blessing for most of your impoverished countrymen).

    Take care,
    Stefan

  3. Hi there
    I have visited Bokor twice in the last year and I was amazed at the beauty and strangeness of the place.
    I heard that a Korean company was planning to build a resort o the site beginning April 06. I asked about this at the Ministry of Environment in PP and was given the run -around and could not get a conclusive answer.
    Do you know any more about this ?

    Butch

    Isle of Man. UK

  4. Hi Butch,

    its the first time I hear about plans to build a resort in this place. However, I imagine that this could be successful, given the beauty and strangeness of the place as you say.

    I am not surprised that MoE does not know more as this ministry seems to have little power and is frequently bypassed by other government agencies, unfortunately.

  5. Hi the best,

    I am interesting with what you had said about Phnom Bokor, I have never been there yet, but I heard alot of information about Bokor, I hope when I have time to come back to my country Cambodia, I will go to see what I miss at that time.

    Good luck,

    Sina

  6. Stefan,

    You’re very adventurous, I’m glad you’re enjoy what you’re doing. keep up your outdoor live.
    I’ve been in kom pot & kep but I didn’t know that the casino near by.
    if you were in kom pot or kep, you might have visited this hotel called: reuvendar, it’s beatiful setting on the heel side.
    good luck & keep on traveling.

    Casey

  7. Hi Casey,

    Many thanks for kind words. Hopefully you get a chance again to visit the casino on the mountain top, its one of my favorites in Cambodia.

    I have not been to or heard of the hotel reuvendar, but will follow up on your recommendation once I get a chance to visit again.

    Best,
    Stefan

  8. Hi Chris,

    the Bokor trip is a good one.

    One of the bikes was mine and the other borrowed from a friend. You can easily rent bikes at different places in Phnom Penh. I usually rent from Lucky Lucky at Monivong Blvd at 6-9$ but these bikes tend to be poorly maintained.

    The trip was recently discussed in the Khmer440 travel forum, a good place if you further questions.

    Enjoy!
    Stefan

  9. Thanks for the wounderful travel log. After reading it I am going there around the 1st of this February. Rather than riding a bike from PP can I rent one in Kampot? Is a 250 cc required or will a smaller 100-135cc be ok? Thanks again. Stuart Benson in Wilmington, NC, USA.

  10. stefan,
    Thanks for sharing your trip experience. I enjoy it very much as the old memory flashing back.
    My father was one of the government official in KEP. Then we lived in a goverment’s house near the edge of the hills during 1958-1964. My father took us up to the casino. I remembered that I was told to dress nice and tidy but ony to get to the balcony since I was too young to be allowed to get in but I remembered how the people seated and played inside especially the curve balcony of one of the building.
    One thing I could not forget was the cloud that surrounded the building like we were in heaven.

  11. Been up to the old Bokor town about a dozen times over the last 8 years, a great ride with a beautiful view once at the top. they even had a New Year’s over-night rave for a few years until a couple people got shot. Unfortunately the road is being rebuilt and they are not allowing anyone up there in the forseeable future. A Cambodian company has plans to build a big resort town and if it goes thier way, will completly ruin the area.

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