Monday, December 20, 2010

Bokor Post Office

This was a strange-looking stilted structure; it had an arched concrete roof, with a sort of false angular eave built above it with brick. A footbridge connected it with the nearby road. There was extensive damage to the rear of it, there had been a lot of fighting on the plateau in 1979, and this building was the most obviously war-damaged. Many stories tell of a battle between Vietnamese/Salvation Front soldiers fighting Pol Pot troops who had taken refuge in the church. The post office was directly in the firing line, and most of the back wall was knocked out by a mortar round.
There are conflicting reports on the damage to all the buildings on the plateau, which have all been stripped completely bare, with channels cut out to scavenge copper electrical conduits and almost all woodwork gone. As per usual, this gets blamed on the “Khmer Rouge,” as is almost anything that looks old and broken. Although the combined Vietnamese and Salvation Front managed to wrest the plateau from Pol Pot’s forces in 1979, in later years the Kampot area became a hot-bed for resistance forces and Bokor changed hands many times.
One ex-resistance fighter who lived in the area from the late 1970s till recent times claimed in an interview that the hill-station was preserved in good condition during the Pol Pot regime, and it was only later that Vietnamese troops who were stationed there scavenged everything. Blaming the other side is par for the course but it doesn’t really matter, war tends to destroy everything anyway, whether by direct damage or the poverty and desperation that inevitably follows.
In the early 1970s, as the area became caught up in the war, and B52 strikes were pounding coastal parts of Kampot, the resort was abandoned again. The manager of the Bokor Palace Hotel had enough foresight to see what was about to happen, and took the entire contents of the hotel’s wine cellar down the hill to nearby Kep, where he hid it. He returned from exile more than twenty years later, in 1993, and recovered the untouched wine from the stash-place, and managed to sell some for a good price.
Anyway, back to the post office. It was recently demolished, along with a few other buildings up on the hill. The developers claimed that it was in a very dangerous state, which seems reasonable enough as it was one of the more wrecked structures. The Bokor Palace Hotel/Casino itself is due to be refurbished, good news as there was an initial period when it wasn’t clear whether it would be kept or not.


rjhintz said...

Great photos. Are any of these on Panoramio with fairly accurate geo-locations?

phnompenhpast said...

No, I hadn't heard of it, but checking the site for Bokor reveals nothing but a satellite image of a jungle.

phnompenhpast said...

The color pictures were all taken in 2005-2006, but the last picture has a frame-grab from Norodom Sihanouk's 1968 movie "Rose du Bokor."

St0ne said...

I was up there a few days after you posted this, the guide was saying that all the buildings would be eventually demolished. Any word in writing from Sokha group on what will happen?

phnompenhpast said...

I'm pretty sure they'll keep a few buildings, the Bokor Palace Hotel is going to be refurbished, maybe they'll keep the church and water tower. Many of the buildings, like the other hotel near the ranger station, aren't really of much significance anyway.

Megan Brownrigg said...

I'd love to know a little more about Bokor's history, this is fascinating...I'm currently interning at the Phnom Penh Post and would really appreciate any info you might have about Bokor...would you mind helping me out?