Monday, December 8, 2008
Catholic church that stands on a small rise overlooking all the other derelict buildings and was the site of pitched battles between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces in 1979, with the Khmer Rouge fighters holding the church and the small hill on which it stands and their opponents, the hotel. I visited the church eight years ago and it still looks the same today, aside from some newish paintwork inside, along the altar wall. I recall a drawing of a Khmer Rouge soldier on my last visit. On this one, the wall had been whitewashed and new graffiti had been liberally applied in its place, with the stone altar also having been repaired, presumably for a service or two that had been conducted in the intervening years. The exterior of the church is coated in the same orange-red lichen that is found on many of the summit's buildings and in all, the building still looks in pretty good nick. I don't know when the church was built but the construction of Bokor as a hill station by the French in the 1920s caused a lot of disquiet at the time as the project cost an enormous slice of government revenues as well as a few thousand lives, in the building of the 30km road to the summit. With gambling illegal for Cambodians, it was the Chinese and French who made serious use of the casino at Bokor and one in Kep, though of course, being so far removed from Phnom Penh, gambling by the Khmer elite was also commonplace.