Travel Inspiration on the Bokor National Park Tour, Cambodia
Around the corner from our Air Bnb in Kampot, they were offering tours of Bokor National Park that included an English Speaking guide, lunch, and a sunset cruise along the river for $10/person!
Bokor Mountain is about an hour away from Kampot with a rich colonial history. This is one of the most popular tours in Kampot as it goes through some wonderful attractions on the mountain which are essentially ghost towns of the past.
We first began the tour at the Former King’s Residence. This home was the summer residence of King Sihanouk.
Being only his summer residence, the home was average in size but had a nice living room and a good sized back yard.
Further down the road there was another cottage which was said to be used for the housekeepers or even concubines.
This cottage has some really interesting graffiti work throughout its walls.
On the way out, we made a quick picture stop at the Grandma Mao statue also known at Yeay Mao or Lok Yeay Mao. Legend has it that she was the widow of a powerful warrior who fended off the invading Thai army.
The most famous building at Bokor Hill is the Bokor Palace Hotel & Casino. Built in the 1940s by the French as a retreat hotel because the weather was cooler, it was revived by the Khmer in the 50s and 60s. Today it stands abandoned and stripped of anything valuable and only the structure and cement lay intact.
Walking through an abandoned hotel felt eerie as you can see a lot has been stripped from looters or decayed through time.
As we made our way throughout the hotel and went from room to room we can’t help but imagine that this hotel must have been insanely beautiful and luxurious in its hay day. Not to mention standing alone in the middle of a hill with not much around it made it a pretty grand sight. The many rooms and balconies was pretty fun to walk through and explore.
The backside of the palace had some spectacular panoramic views of the landscape of Bokor Hill.
The next stop of the tour lead us to another abandoned building, a Catholic church that looked like it could have been standing in a European town somewhere. When the French arrived in the 1940s, they also brought with them their religion. The French officers needed a place to practice their religion so this small church was erected to accomplish that.
The church was humble in size and I’d imagine you can’t fit more than 200 people for a mass. The exterior looked pretty run down and the darkness of the bricks looked like could have perhaps been burned at one point.
It seems like some of the locals who are Catholic are still maintaining the church as the inside looked to still have an Altar with some statues of Saints.
The side of the church also had a garage which I’d assume was used to park the hearst?
We continued our tour to a small local temple. While walking around, we saw a group of people with some professional looking camera equipment, filming blogger style. We later saw that same guy in a few commercials while in Malaysia and Singapore, to promote Cambodia tourism.
The last stop before our lunch break was at Popokville Waterfall and Resort. Unfortunately for us, we arrived in Kampot during the dry season so there was no waterfall to see. Some people did however make the trek to attempt to see it. We were pretty tired and decided to just take our lunches. We also saw some locals arriving at the resort with their packed lunch. It looked much more delicious than what we’d be having. They were holding sacks of crab!
Our lunch was not as great as theirs but not a bad one considering we only paid $10 for the tour!
We had vegetable fried rice and they even gave us a coupon to redeem a cup of fresh sugar cane drink.
While on our tour, we got to chatting with some of the other people on the tour with us and meet Jerry and Lori, a retired couple from Hawaii. After disclosing we’re from Los Angeles, Jerry tells us he grew up in Los Angeles too. He says, “have you heard of a city called Rosemead?” Minh and I look at each other shocked because that city is in the heart of the neighborhood we both grew up in (San Gabriel Valley)! What are the odds of meeting someone half way around the world from the same hometown?
During lunch time we got a chance to chat more with Jerry and Lori. Lori is Khmer and has family in Cambodia, so they’re in town to visit and check out the Sea Festival. They ask us what brings us to Kampot and Cambodia in general and we tell them how we’re just exploring around. Jerry tells us they were in Vietnam before Cambodia and we share we’re also planning to head there next. He naturally asks us how long we’re traveling for. Usually, we’re hesitant to disclose right away that we’re traveling long-term, as most people just automatically assume you’re rich to be able to take the time off to travel for a year (which is not the case – check out our FAQs to see how we managed to take our RTW trip), but given that Jerry and Lori are retired and seem to be doing extensive travel themselves, we tell him we’re actually on a RTW trip. Jerry’s face immediately lit up and he tells us that he and his wife have been traveling the world for the past 9 years and thinks it’s great that we’re doing our trip! Jerry and Lori themselves have a home base in Hawaii and Mexico, and take off to travel for several months at a time. We also learn he has a YouTube channel aimed at helping other retirees maximize their retirement for travel.
Check out Jerry & Lori’s YouTube Channel below, Jerry Brown Travels
After lunch, the tour bus dropped us back off at our hotel so we could take a break before the sunset cruise. We hung out around town for a bit before the cruise and boarded right at 4PM.
We picked up a few more people who were staying along some of the cool riverside resorts.
A large group on the cruise definitely epitomized the young backpacker traveler you see all over South East Asia, as they all did flips and jumps off the boat into the river, in between climbing back up and pounding a bunch of beer and peer pressuring the rest of the group to do the same.
Once the sun went down, the cruise headed over to catch a glimpse of fireflies along the river. The boat pulled up to a section of shrubs and the tour organizers told us to take a look at the fireflies in the shrubs. It took a while for our eyes to adjust, but after concentrating on the shrubs, we could see faint twinkles of light coming from the bushes. We all joked that there was someone hiding in the bushes turning the dial up and down on the Christmas lights, because that’s exactly what it looked like.
We weren’t able to take any pictures of the fire flies since it was pitch dark during the time. You’ll have to see it with your own eyes to experience these wonderful creatures in the night.
For the brief minute the boat was stopped to watch the fireflies, Tiff got bitten up by a bunch of mosquitoes. Word of advice, make sure to wear bug spray if going on the sunset cruise, as heat + sunset + water = mosquito feasting areas.
During the cruise, we also got to chat more with Jerry and Lori about their travels. Jerry shared some great travel stories from around the world, which included when he backpacked solo around the world for a few years in his 20s, took a roadtrip in an RV around the US with Lori several years ago, and recently found a retirement community in Mexico. Guess it just goes to show that the wanderlust never really goes away! Up until this point, we thought our RTW trip was our “big” life travel experience, but after meeting Jerry and Lori and hearing their stories, our travel inspiration has reached a whole new level of travel we never knew existed. Jerry and Lori, it was great meeting the both of you, and wish you all the best on all your travels – your story is so inspiring and has motivated us to continue to work towards expanding and achieving our travel experiences. Hopefully our paths will cross again one day!
Overall it was one of the more memorable nights of our trip in Cambodia. Bokor Hill has such an interesting and rich history which you wouldn’t expect from a small riverside town in Cambodia. We highly recommend this tour especially for its affordable price and we definitely enjoyed our conversations with Jerry and Lori which has inspired us that traveling can be a life long adventure and it can be done if you make it a priority.