Historic Bokor Casino in Cambodia

Jutting above the southern coastline of Cambodia on the Bokor plateau near the provincial town of Kampot, the old Bokor casino was a playground of the worldly elite in the 1950s. During the turmoil of the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge and the following decades of civil unrest, the structure was abandoned and left to decay.

In the early 2000s, simply getting to the ruin was an adventure. The steep and winding road up the plateau had crumbled to dirt and was accessible only with off road vehicles, commonly dirt bikes, or via a seriously steep hike through rough jungle terrain.

Those that braved the trip were rewarded with stunning views over the Gulf of Thailand and the misty solitude of the ruined and ghostly casino and surrounding structures, including a water tower shaped like a UFO. Some even reported seeing tigers, though there has not been a confirmed sighting in the Kampot region in decades.

With the rapid development of Cambodia since about 2010, the top of the Bokor plateau has become much easier to reach, a fact that has removed a lot of the mystique from the ruins. Nonetheless, a trip to the edge is still very much worthwhile.

Visitors today will not find an isolated ruin, but the massive Thansur Bokor Highland Resort, newly built from about 2011-2013. The road to the top of the plateau now bears a small entrance fee (like most things in Cambodia, variable, but typically a few dollars per vehicle), as the area is officially designated as Preah Monivong National Park. On the upside, the resort development also completely renovated the road, which is paved smooth. It is a fun ride by moto, and offers great views of Kampot and the coast and the opportunity to spot a wide variety of wildlife, including gibbons and a plethora of birds.

The ruined casino also still looks over the gulf, but at last report the resort owners were beginning to remodel it as well.