Bokor Hill Station was built by the French as a resort for colonists to escape the heat, humidity, and general unhealthiness of Phonm Penh. Built in 1921, it took only nine months to complete the resort, but during construction, a total of 900 lives were lost.
The closest city to Bokor Hill is Kampot, still a good 20 miles away.
The central part of the resort was the grand Bokor Palace Hotel which opened in 1925. In later years, the area added the villa of the “Résident Supérieur”, a post office (now demolished), and a catholic church. It is an important cultural site, showing how the colonial settlers spent their free time.
Bokor Hill Station was built in the Preah Monivong National Park in Southern Cambodia. The park is named after King Sisowath Monivong, who often visited the area and eventually died there in 1941.
Bokor Hill Station was abandoned the first time by the French in the late 1940 during the First Indochina War, due to local insurrections by the Khmer Issarak. In 1962, a casino was built inside a new hotel near the lake. Some other buildings were added as well; an annex for the palace, the mayor’s office, and a strange mushroom concrete parasol.
In 1972, Bokor Hill Station was once again abandoned, as Khmer Rouge took over the area. In 1979, during the Vietnamese invasion, Khmer Rouge rooted themselves and held the area for months. Even in the early 1990s, Bokor Hill was still a stronghold for Khmer Rouge.
Most of the buildings are still standing, except for the post office. The Cambodian authorities maintain a ranger station on the site due to its strategic importance. The only historic building in use is a small temple.
During the rainy season, a beautiful waterfall can be found near the resort. About 6.2 miles on the way to Bokor Hill Station is the Black Palace. Abandoned some decades ago, it was a small summer palace of King Sihanouk.
Bokor Hill Station is currently owned by the government, but is under a 99-year lease to Sokimex Group, who will undertake the task of relaying the road and redeveloping the site, repairing the old hotel and casino along with adding new buildings; hotels, hospital, restaurants, golf clubs, etc. The project was announced on January 19th, 2008, the construction of the road and resort expected to take 30 months and cost $21 million USD.
In 2012, the Thansur Bokor Highland resort was opened. Subsequent re-development is estimated to cost $1 billion USD over the course of 15 years, after which a further application may be submitted to create a larger Bokor city, the plans for which are unknown.