One of only two ASEAN Heritage Parks in Cambodia and situated less than 60 minutes from the centre of Kampot, Bokor National Park used to be a French colonial holiday destination. If you are visiting Cambodia’s Bokor National Park, Kampot and looking to head to Wat Samprov Pram. Here is everything you might need to know about going there.
Where Is It & How To Get There
Although Phnom Bokor sounds like it belongs to Angkor Wat, Kampot is actually located more than 500 km away on Cambodia’s southwest coast close to the border of Vietnam.
It offers a wealth of history which gives Cambodia its distinct culture alongside panoramic views, hiking and few other travellers. There is both a Buddhist temple built by King Monivong and a former Catholic Church built by French colonists within the park.
The government has laid out plans for the park to be fully developed for residents and tourism by 2035 so hurry and visit before it changes. It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area of Kampot.
How To Visit Phnom Bokor:
From Phnom Penh:
- The best idea would be to join a tour. I’ll show some below. It takes about 3 hours from PP to get directly to Bokor National Park.
- Alternatively, four of you could hire a taxi (roughly $65). Be aware that some taxi drivers also make deliveries along the way, so you should ask whether the taxi is direct. It’s a good idea to book the taxi in advance. Taxis are unlikely to have child car seats and some might not have working seat belts.
- Find a shared taxi by going to Psar Dang Kor in Phnom Penh and the price is roughly $5. There is no set time to leave, you must wait until the shared taxi is full. These shared taxis will leave you in Kampot.
- Travel by bus; Giant Ibis takes 3 hours and leaves twice a day. It has reclining chairs with seat belts and electrical charging points.
- 15-seater Minibus with Kampot Express takes roughly 3 hours.
- A weekend train travels on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, takes four to five hours and costs $6. The Phnom Penh station ticket office is open from 6 am to 12 pm on Saturdays and Sundays and from 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. The easiest way to purchase train tickets is in person at the station, from Sihanoukville, Takeo or Kampot.
- Hire a car. Click here to see how much it would cost to hire a car from Phnom Penh
From Kampot: Bokor Mountain is approximately 37km from Kampot.
- You could take a taxi between four people which would cost $20-30.
- Sharing a taxi would cost less.
- The cheapest way would be to hire a moped in Kampot. If you’re driving yourself to Bokor National Park you’ll need small change to pay the vehicle entrance fee (2.000 riel roughly $1). Remember to keep the receipt stub as you’ll need to provide this as evidence later.
- For the super adventurous, you can hike the walking trails! You must pre-book at the Ranger Station and sometimes they will guide you for a fee.
Should You Get A Tour?
In Kampot, you’ll find a number of tourist offices that offer tours to the main attractions around Kampot.
Most tours of the Preah Monivong National Park take you to Bokor Hill Station, Wat Sampov Pram and the Lok Yeay Mao Monument. Visiting Bokor Park takes around 5-6 hours and costs $8 per person where you’re transported by minivan in a small group.
A trip from Kampot to Bokor Hill is sometimes offered with a sunset cruise on the Kampot River.
This is obviously a much easier way to travel however you will have no control over how long you spend at each site. I have added some tours for you to consider pre-booking.
Independent Travel: How Much Does Entrance Cost
There is no entrance fee to access Bokor Park so it’s a cost-friendly activity for backpackers and budget travellers.
A Quick History Of Wat Sampov Pram, Bokor National Park in Kampot
A semi-popular tourist destination, the area has undergone significant change and despite its captivating history, Phnom Bokor has faced unfortunate circumstances.
Preah Monivong Bokor National Park is a former holiday destination in Cambodia, built during French colonial rule. In the 1920s, it was used as a retreat by French soldiers to escape the heat of the rainforest, a pre-air conditioning strategy long-established throughout the world (even Sudan). The Palace Hotel was completed in 1925 alongside a Catholic church and a post office (demolished) to show how Colonial settlers spent their free-time.
Bokor Hill was abandoned first by the French in the late 1940s, during the First Indochina War, because of local insurrections guided by the Khmer Issarak. Between 1962-72 a casino was built but that too was abandoned and subsequently, it served as the site for a significant confrontation between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese in 1979. It was held by the Khmer until the 1990s.
Since then the Hun Sen government sold Bokor National Park to the Sokimex Group resulting in the transformation of the once-beautiful 1920 French colonial hill station into a hub for large hotels and a casino. The development project for this site includes numerous amenities such as villas, golf courses, water parks and a cable car. although the area surrounding the hotel and casino currently resembles a construction site.
Bokor Mountain is 3,540 ft (1,079 m) high and whilst there are breathtaking views, the wind, cold and fog are prominent.
The year-round average temperature is roughly 25 degrees and the monsoon season runs from June to October. You can still visit Cambodia during the monsoon as it only rains for around 2 hours a day.
With the high chance of clouds, fog, wind and rain, I’d recommend taking a rain jacket and wearing multiple layers of warm clothes.
What To Expect
Located in the highlands of the Damrei Mountains, the park is known as Preah Monivog Bokor National Park and Phnom Bokor National Park. The highest peak in the park is Phnom Bokor which is also the second highest point in Cambodia.
‘Bokor’ a Khmer word meaning ‘hump of an ox’, which is what the mountains are said to resemble. It has a land mass of 1,581 km² and incorporates mountains, ruins and old French colonial settlements. Found here are an incredible array of wildlife, including the Asiatic black bear, pileated gibbon, pig-tailed macaque, slow loris and pangolin. Alongside several rare and endangered animal species, including the clouded leopard, sun bear, Asian elephant and banteng.
This is only one of two parks in Cambodia protected by the ASEAN Heritage Parks scheme.
Things To See: Exploring Wat Sampov Pram on Phnom Bokor
Le Bokor Palace
Opened in 1925 and with a colourful history, it re-opened in 2018 as a 6-star hotel and casino. You can stay at the Bokor Palace if you want to wake up in the mountains.
Bokor Hill Station
Built in 1921, The Bokor Hill Station refers to a collection of buildings built by settlers. There was a hotel, palace and functional buildings such as a post office, which has since been demolished. The majority of buildings here are abandoned but accessible to explore.
The church is still in its original designed state. Turn left past the church for an amazing viewpoint. In my opinion, the church is one of the highlights of Bokor Hill Station.
Damnak Sla Khmao: The Old Black Palace
This was the former summer Palace of King Sihanouk, who ruled between 1941 and 1955. Now fully abandoned the ruins have been taken over by nature. The Palace has a perfect viewpoint of the surrounding Bokor Hill and is home to hundreds of butterflies.
Wat Sampov Pram
Built by King Monivong and considered the highest Buddha pagoda in Cambodia, the name Wat Sampov Pram translates to “Temple of the Five Boats,”. This refers to the neighbouring enormous, flat rock formations that are 10 meters long and 10 meters high and that evoke images of boats.
It is particularly more ornate than other small wats, with dragon-tail ornaments extending into the roof. The area is often moist and foggy, so the walls of the wat are discoloured with age giving a mysterious vibe. Check out the breathtaking view of the jungle and sapphire sea from the small pagoda on the opposite side.
On a clear day, you will be rewarded with stunning views over the Gulf of Thailand and the Preah Monivong National Park. What’s even more spectacular the inverted clouds here where you might be above the clouds looking down!
Lok Yeay Mao
A giant statue of a Cambodian mythical heroine.
29 metres high, Lok Yeay Mao is a mythical heroine from Cambodian Buddhism and seen as being the protector of travellers and hunters.
The Popokvil waterfall is located a short and walkable distance from the Bokor Hill Station. During the dry season, the waterfall is reduced to a mere trickle but see how it rages during the monsoon season.
The Scenic Viewpoints Over The Gulf of Thailand
Various points in the park give way to great panoramic views over the Gulf of Thailand, if the rolling clouds have parted.
Festivals and Events At Bokor
The Damrei Mountains are sacred in Khmer culture meaning that Bokor National Park and Wat Sampov Pram are popular places to visit for Buddhist Festivals and holidays.
One of the most important of these holidays is Khmer New Year, Cambodia’s biggest annual celebration, which falls in around April each year. In Bokor National Park, many religious locals will visit the temple to receive blessings from the monks and leave offerings.
Pchum Ben is a 15-day long public holiday in September that celebrates Cambodians paying their respects to deceased relatives. Locals bring food offerings to temples and pagodas.
There is also a half marathon bike race help here over 2 days in October. Bike races range from 10-51km routes, while runs vary from a 3km fun race to a half marathon of 21km.
Other Tours in Kampot
Can I Stay IN The Park?
Le Bokor Palace Hotel is a unique place to stay where you’ll be right in the clouds of the national park. It offers a bird’s eye view of the ‘Opal Coast’ and surrounding grand mountain views.
The Thansur Bokor Highland Resort has an on-site casino as well as a pool and spa area. The hotel can be eerily quiet according to recent reviews which sounds incredibly fun to me.
Where Could You Stay In Kampot
Stay in this boutique hotel on the outskirts of Kampot. It boasts mountain views, a swimming pool and beautiful wood interiors for a small price.
Stay in these rustic wooden bungalows built over the river. Located in Cambodia’s Andung Khmer Village, 1.3 km from Kampot.
Stay at Rikitikitavi just 500 metres from Kampot Provincial Museum.
Alternatively, search for your own accommodation using the interactive map below.
Where To Go Next?
The beachside town of Kep is an accessible destination close to Bokor National Park. Just an hour and 15 minutes away, you could spend a few days wandering around its crab market and trying the famous seafood restaurants.
Heaven Gate is a 2-hour Hike From Bokor Hill, here you will find two enormous rocks said to symbolise a gate between Heaven and Earth. A sacred place to perform prayers, you’ll often find Monks here.
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See Our Other Posts From Cambodia Below
Click the link just below this to what else you could do in Cambodia.