Posted by: travelrat | August 26, 2012

Guest Post: Kep

Crab fishermen’s shacks at Kep

Words and Pictures by Kian Rackley

The temples of Angkor and Phnom Penh are Cambodia’s big guns. In the first three months of this year over 640,000 people made the trip to Angkor Wat. But as I, and many others will tell you: there’s so much more to Cambodia than temples. See  http://www.travelindochina.co.uk/destinations/cambodia-travel

Great holidays in Cambodia are more than the temples and cities, to see the real Cambodia you need time and a bit of know-how. So, here’s your guide to one of Cambodia’s hidden gems – Kep, 

This little seaside town is located 150km drive from Phnom Penh and a 2 hour drive from Cambodia’s premier beach resort at Sihanoukville. However, don’t let the prospect of long (ish) drives put you off. En route you’ll see some magnificent scenery with endless rice paddies, remote villages, stunning coastal scenery and during rainy season (the odd road closure or minor flooding aside) richly verdant scenery draped in mist!

Kep was essentially a French invention with the one-time colonial rulers naming it Kep-sur-mer (Kep on the sea). The resort town was first conceived as a retreat for French officials and well-heeled citizens looking to escape the heat of Phnom Penh and, as I always presume, fulfil that European of desires for beach holidays.

Following Cambodia’s independence and as the French colonial forces and many of its citizens began to leave through the 1950’s the Khmer elite took the town as their own, and through the 1960’s Kep experienced a small development boom. However, as the Khmer Rouge took hold of Cambodia through the 1970’s & 1980’s the town witnessed heavy fighting between government forces and those loyal to the murderous regime led by Pol Pot.

Mostly owing to its remote location, unlike many areas of Cambodia Kep has been slow to recover from the horrors of the last century. However, you don’t go to Kep to sightsee and tick off paragraphs in your Lonely Planet. Kep is all about ambiance, history and relaxation.

This small town’s streets have been setup in a small grid system with many roads dotted with deserted French villas that would not look out of place in Marseille or Nice. Once covered in immaculate plaster the veneer of the villas has been replaced by a light green lichen and the once immaculate gardens are dotted with sugar palms and fruit trees, as nature begins to reclaim. Some of the villas have now been restored and many more look to be going that way in the coming years. Still, there are plenty for you to explore along Kep’s often deserted coastline. The architectural jewel in Kep is the perfectly-preserved cliff-top mansion once occupied by King Norodom Sihanouk.

In Kep town you can look forward to some incredible freshly caught seafood, hill treks, epic coastal scenery and isolated sandy beaches like no other. One of my favourite moments from travelling in Cambodia watching the Crab Fishermen ply their trade as the sunset over Kep’s warm water with a cold drink in hand. I was also a big fan of the local Pepper Plantations, for the simple reasons not many people visit them and you can get some seriously unique tasting sessions in!

From Kep:

Just 30 minutes up the road is the small town of Kampot (many travellers stay here and make the trip over to Kep – around 30 mins), Bokor Hill Station, the surrounding Pepper and many a slow boat cruises along the coast.

Accommodation:

There are no big name hotels in Kep and it can be a little more expensive owing to its lack of development. Many travellers stay in neighbouring Kampot but there are some solid accommodation options in Kep town itself. Just give it a Google.

Crab fishing at Kep

Kian is part of the team at Travel Indochina and has travelled extensively throughout Asia. Next on this list is India and he recently returned from Vietnam. Top Asia travel tip: find one of those plastic street-side chairs; order a beer then, sit, watch and listen! Check out Kian’s Google + profile at  https://plus.google.com/u/0/102095467852096726197/#102095467852096726197/posts 

 

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