The Black Palace
On the way up Bokor Hill about 10km away from the Hill station itself is the Black Palace, which should really be called 'The Kings Party Place'!! The king would come here on weekends with a few select friends to party on down. The main building was once heavily inlaid with highly varnished dark wood - hence the name The Black Palace, it really isn't that big with a few small room of the big main entertaining halls with its great view from the balcony.
Nearby there are two more buildings one a kitchen and dining hall where all the rich folk would trundle on down to have huge meals in the dining hall which still retains some of the very expensive imported Italian marble floor. The other building was the Concubine House!! Which housed two ladies to entertain the King if he got bored with his guests!!
According to our guide it was still used after the French left Cambodia in 1953, when it fell into disrepair is unclear but in the late 1980's and early 1990's Bokor Hill was used by the a Khmer Rouge and on top of the hill where the French had constructed a small town became of the last refuges of the communist Khmer Rouge.
Being only 10km away on the same hill as The Bokor Hill station I suppose I could have included the Black Palace ... but I liked the story behind it so much I really thought it deserved its own write-up
At the top of a huge hill measuring 1080 metres in Southern Cambodia stands a now deserted town built in 1922 and finished in 1925. It was designed to be a retreat for the colonial French from the heat and humidity of Phnom Penh after it was discovered to be an ideal location in 1917.
The centrepiece of the resort was the Bokor Palace Hotel and Casino also on the top of the hill was a police station, hospital (now a ranger station), post office and exchange centre, a town hall, school, a smaller hotel called The Kiri, a water tower and even Royal apartments and a church on the side of a nearby slope.
The guides and drivers tell tales of how debauched the area was in French times. I heard stories of prostitutes being brought up the hill for entertainment and how those who had lost everything gambling would run around with guns demanding their money back, or even worse those in despair and too ashamed to go home would solve all their problems by taking a leap of the side of the cliff!
When fierce fighting broke out in the late 1940’s with the Vietnamese who were trying to gain independence over the French, the hillside resort was abandoned. After Cambodia gained independence the resort once again saw use as a break away from city life. It was finally abandoned as a holiday destination in the early 1970’s when Khmer Rouge forces overran the area. They were driven out by the Vietnamese in 1979 after fierce fighting which actually saw the Khmer Rouge seeking final refuge within the walls of the Catholic Church – quite ironic really!
The buildings were just left until 1993 when the area surrounding it was turned into National Park. Visits to Bokor hill are only normally possible in the dry season only due to the amount of water that pours down the hillside in the rainy seasons (and ruins any attempt at a decent road). It is quite difficult to get to as it is 32km up a VERY bumpy road which is only accessible to trail bikes, 4x4s and up rated vehicles ….. And the very brave!