Sally Watson

 

When planning my travel to Cambodia, I wasn’t sure about including the coastal town of Kep. But my FOMO got the better of me and I decided to spend two nights there. I’m so glad I did.

Aside from enjoying some unique local sights, I discovered exotic, beautiful accommodation. A place where doing nothing was an absolute delight and leaving, was a really hard thing to do.

The fishing village of Kep is about a three-hour drive by private transfer from Phnom Penh or two hours from Sihanoukville (cheaper, but possibly slower, by bus, usually via Kampot). If you are looking for a peaceful and quiet place on the Cambodian coastline, away from the chaos of the big cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and the party vibe of Sihanoukville, this could be the place for you. Kep doesn’t have the best beaches in Cambodia but the bay is certainly pleasant.

Facing the Gulf of Thailand and the Vietnamese Island of Phu Quoc, Kep has been traditionally known as a crab-fishing village but it is now earning a reputation as a seafood tourist destination.

For the adventurous, lovers of seafood, you will be in heaven at the crab market.

 

 

The French colonised the village of Kep in the early 1900s, and by the 1960s it was a hot spot holiday destination for royalty and successful and wealthy Cambodians and French. It also attracted artists and musicians. The area is known for its villas, created during the 50s to 70s, in French design, adapted to the Asian conditions. Today many are crumbling and stand in overgrown jungle as relics of a bygone era. The area, like most of Cambodia, took a hit during the Khmer Rouge reign and during the war with Vietnam. In some respects, parts appear to be still recovering.

 

There are signs of progress, development and restoration taking place in Kep, and the town is now a pretty trendy and accessible weekend away from Phnom Penh. Increasingly this village is being added to Cambodian itineraries as a stop along the coast as people travel north or south between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.

In some resorts, you get the feeling that heart, soul and hard work is culminating in a variety of incredible accommodation experiences. In all honesty, it was in Kep that I stayed in one of the most memorable places I have ever been, the Veranda Natural Resort.

The entire property has been lovingly created, and to a great extent hand made by the owner, Map. A humble genius with an eye for beautiful detail, he has integrated the property with the environment using stone and wood. The restaurant offers some of the best food I ate in Cambodia and even has a patisserie and coffee shop with the only “real” coffee I had in Cambodia. The dining area is designed as an open space, like much of the resort and offers exceptional views over luscious jungle to the sea and islands beyond. Sunset cocktails are a must! There are two pools, both spectacularly inviting. It’s a place you could easily take a break from a busy schedule and just take time out, whilst being well looked after.

 

Kep is also a launching pad for Rabbit Island (Koh Tonsay). This island is a pleasant day trip and you could incorporate a visit there after the crab market. Conditions are pretty basic on the island so unless you want to get really back to nature, with a lot of backpackers and easy going travellers, you are probably best staying in accommodation on the mainland.

 

There are a few restaurants around Kep but one of the best dining and drinking venues is the Knai Bang Chatt Sailing Club. Situated on the water, with appealing décor and a good menu and wines, it is worth dropping into while in town.

 

Kep might operate at a slower speed than other destinations in Cambodia and is not as well known but this means fewer tourists, more local authenticity and ultimately more relaxation.

Another destination on the Cambodian circuit that is bound to change in coming years, so go there now while it is still a well-kept secret.

Tips:

  • A local side trip from Kep could include Kampot, a really interesting historical old French town, famous for pepper, set on the Kampong River. It’s only a thirty-minute tuk-tuk or moped ride away from Kep, or you can stop off here as you arrive or depart from Kep by bus or car.
  • Bokor National Park is another day trip from Kep, and is most easily done by private transfer. Here there are walks and waterfalls to visit. At the top of the mountain there is a lovely Buddhist temple in the forest. Unfortunately the Sokha group, which primarily owns “Angkor Wat” has built a huge casino and duplexes, which extend right up to the sacred site. It’s worth a visit to get a realistic grasp on the issues this country faces in terms of development versus environment.
  • At the time of my travel, an ATM cash machine had only recently been installed in town, so just in case, it’s wise to have some cash on you for your visit.

Sally Watson is an Australian Journalist and media exec who loves to travel, discover new places and share stories on her blog Wing Woman Adventures.

Instagram: @wingwomanadventures; Twitter: @wingwomanADV,

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.