Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Waiting patiently at the gate to get into the Bokor National Park. Tim's the smug one wearing the cap.The road to Bokor must be my most boring-ever post on this blog, unless you beg to differ. I have a stack of photos from my recent trip to the south coast to post so I'll kick off with my visit to Bokor Mountain, some 40kms from Kampot. Tim and I hooked up with one of the only two companies granted the concession to take travellers up by the road option - there's a trekking option which we weren't interested in. For the road option, we went with Sok Lim Tours and it costs between $35-40 depending on your bargaining skills. We got it for $30 each, but it's still a rip-off! The Toyota wagon had 11 tourists on board, a driver and a guide. Nine of us held on tightly on the back of the pick-up for one of the most uncomfortable rides of my life, and I've had a few in Cambodia over the years. The road is being repaired, renovated, call it what you will but so far the Sokha Group, who have taken over the mountain as their own private playground for the forseeable future, have done lots of preparatory work but practically none of the 30-odd kms up the mountain is anywhere near finished. I reckon it'll be years before it is. They've widened the road in places and it bodes well for the future, but that's a long way off and today, its a bumpy, rutted, pot-holed mess. Overnight rain and wet cloying mud weren't a help either. Anyway, here's some photos but it was impossible to take a reasonable picture during the really rough stuff, so apologies for that. After an hour of torture, we stopped and the guide informed us that we would then hike for another hour to avoid the worst of the road. He must be kidding, but no. So we began our wallk, uphill, along a trail through the forest. Besides the wildlife and a small bubbling stream I was not impressed. To me it was wasting time when I could be on top of the plateau poking around the burnt-out shells of buildings - I had been on top of Bokor once before, eight years ago and was in a hurry to get back there, not to walk through a forest! We emerged to walk the final 500 metres to the Black Tiger Palace complex of buildings, which was the haunt of the Royal family and which sits on the edge of the mountainside with gorgeous views to enjoy. More of that later. Here's a few pictures. Pretty boring stuff.