The old French resort at Bokor Hill sits at an altitude of 1080 metres on the southern tip of the Cambodian Elephant mountains about 40km from the coastal town of Kampot. Built in the 1920s as a getaway from the capital Phnom Penh and the surrounding hot plains, it was frequented by the French colonialists and Cambodian elite. It was anticipated that the attraction would complement the seaside resort at Kep that had been established further up the coast.
Bokor Hill was abandoned first by the French in the late 1940s during the first Indochina war, then again in 1972 by Cambodians as Khmer Rouge seized the area. During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, Khmer Rouge entrenched themselves on the mountain and held on tightly for months. Up until the early 90s the area was still a no go area, land mines, poachers and bandits still being a danger.
Today, though dilapidated, most of the old buildings still stand. The once centre piece colonial Grand Palace Hotel stands proud overlooking Kampot bay and the surrounding hills of Bokor national park.The site is owned by the government but is under a 99 year lease to the richest man in Cambodia, Mr Sok Kong (Sokimex Sokha company). The Sokha conglomerate is currently redeveloping the area into an elaborate resort and city that has been referred to as a "City in the Clouds" that is said to be completed in 13 years.
Development has been progressing steadily since the opening of the new road early 2012 that was once a 32km bone jarring ride through the jungle. Now probably the best quality road in the country can be driven in less than an hour, wide enough to accommodate luxury double decker gambling bus tours.