Still, what an amazing country Cambodia. It is so rich in architectural and natural monuments that sometimes it seems that if there were some world organization that gave money simply for the abundance of attractions per square kilometer of territory, Cambodia would be perhaps the richest country in the world. Unfortunately, these dreams will never come true, but still this small Asian kingdom is developing. The city of Kep, like a mirror, reflects its fate, full of ups and downs. And today, after decades of neglect, Kep is being revived, attracting more and more tourists to its coast, looking for the beauty of tropical nature and the charm of ancient colonial architecture. Check maternityetchic for customs regulations and visa requirements of Cambodia.
In 1908, representatives of the French aristocracy began to settle in Kep – Cambodia at that time was an overseas colony of France. The town was famous for its wonderful beaches, gourmet seafood restaurants, and, as a result, expensive real estate. Unfortunately, after the exhausting wars and genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime, almost nothing remains of the former luxury. Only rare abandoned villas remind of the once prosperous Colonial Riviera.
Unlike neighboring Sihanoukville, Kep was unable to return to normal life for several decades. But in recent years the situation has changed. The local elite, officials and young Cambodians, who did not experience the most difficult 80-90s, began to come here. Today, life here is becoming more expensive at a tremendous speed, houses are growing on the site of forests, and paths are turning into asphalt roads. Therefore, if you want to remember Kep as a quiet and modest town, you should visit it right now.
How to get there
Kep is located 25 km from Kampot, 49 km from the Vietnamese border town of Ha Tien and 172 km from Phnom Penh.
You can get from Phnom Penh to Kep by bus or taxi. The largest Cambodian carriers send several buses every day on the Phnom Penh-Kampot route with an obligatory stop in Kep. Taxi from the capital will cost 40-50 USD.
Buses arrive at a stop next to the beaches. It is easy to get to the city center by motor rickshaws (tuk-tuks), of which there are a myriad.
The most affordable housing is concentrated in the market area on the way to the national park. It offers simple but comfortable bungalows, as well as rooms in guesthouses and small hotels. The price for an overnight stay, depending on the level of comfort and the accommodating owner, ranges from 10-20 to 30-50 USD. From here the beach is only 15-30 minutes walk. You can also get to the sea by tuk-tuk for 1-2 USD.
There is also a sufficient number of accommodation near the city beach, but it is better to book it in advance, especially if the trip falls on weekends or public holidays.
Entertainment and attractions
Kep is a small and clean town, ideal for leisurely walks. From here you can quickly get to the nearest islands, including the popular Koh Tonsai (aka Rabbit Island). You can buy a transfer there at local travel agencies and any hotel (cost: 8-10 USD).
On Koh Tonsai, many guest houses have small restaurants serving fresh seafood.
Accommodation on the island is offered almost for nothing: a modest bungalow will cost 7-10 USD.
As for the Kep beaches, they differ from the hyped Sihanoukville ones. Kep has coarser sand with an abundance of pebbles. And it’s difficult to admire the sunsets here because of the opposite islands.
Speaking of Kep, one cannot fail to mention its famous blue crabs. These crustaceans are offered in absolutely all city restaurants and cafes. But the Kepa market is considered an ideal place for tasting them. Here you can buy freshly caught blue crabs very cheaply and cook them right there for just 0.5 USD. And the fish market itself is a very colorful place.
Palace of King Sihanouk
On one of the Kep hills stands the palace of King Sihanouk. This unusual building was built relatively recently, in the early 90s. After years of tedious intrigue, Sihanouk decided to spend the rest of his life in peace and quiet. True, due to health problems, he never settled in his new home. Today the palace does not look the best, but still its high status attracts curious tourists.
Kep National Park
A few kilometers from Kep is the national park of the same name. This is a great place to admire tropical nature and wild animals. Excursions are conducted in the park, including in Russian. You can spend the night on the territory of the national park – there are small neat bungalows here.
It is worth visiting the pepper plantations located near the reserve to see how the famous Kampot pepper is grown and harvested.