From the early 20th century through the 1960s, Kep was Cambodia’s premier beach town drawing weekend tourists to its picturesque shores and sporting the ocean side villas of the privileged class. Despite well-known as the thriving resort town for French and Cambodian elite, Kep’s inherent natural charms are not chipped away and come to the fore as the enticing splendors of a hidden-away destination. Besides narrow and almost golden sandy beaches, the mountainous scenery is astounding, but visitors come to appreciate the area’s subtle charms such as the crumbling timelessness of the dismal colonial buildings.
Sights of ordinary locals diligently working on the salt terrains or affable fishermen trawling for fish are normal occurrences. Forget fine dining service and a palette of well-presented dishes, local food lovers may stroll down to the beach to cheerfully degust or even feel tucked into seafood delicacies. Should an escape from the high-end resort’s boundary be in demand, take a soft trek at Kep National Park where wildlife enthusiasts may capture elusive creatures and discover a stunning backdrop of exuberant fauna and flora.
If the inland Kep Town does not provide enough castaway experience, hop onto a wooden boat and drift a few miles to a little known island, Rabbit Island, to get soaked in the sensational countryside scenery. Gracefully contouring the island’s edges, the secluded pristine beaches embellished with rustic bungalows offer getaway travelers a contemplative relaxing experience. The nature’s breath fusing with the rhythm of gentle waves dissipates the obsession of the frantic busy life. Have a blissful promenade around the coastline to scour empty shells and colorful pebbles. Otherwise, take a nap on swinging hammock to literally have a laid-back travel escape before witnessing the sun setting and gradually disappearing behind the horizon. These are the most breathtaking moments one may ever experience.
BEST TIME TO GO
Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However, those plans to travel extensively by road should be avoided the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable. The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius; the minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. December and January are the coolest months, whereas the hottest is April.
General information about the provincial climate:
- Cool season: November- March (20-26c)
- Hot season: March- May (29c -34c)
- Rainy season: May – October (22-30c, with humidity up to 90%.)
HOW TO GET THERE
From Kampot: The road is paved, smooth and well sign posted. 25km, 30-45 minute trip. Bus $2. For a motorcycle taxi ($2 – $3) or tuk-tuk (around $6) be prepared to bargain like a local or pay a bit more. Package day tours between the two towns often include a visit to nearby destinations such as Koh Tonsay, the caves between Kampot and Kep, and a pepper plantation.
From Phnom Penh: The road is paved, smooth and well sign posted. Around 4 hours by bus. Several bus companies serve Kep ($5 – $6) and offer various departure times from 7am through to 3pm. 168 Phnom Penh Sorya bus company runs from the bus station near Phnom Penh’s central market. Hua Lian is based near Olympic Stadium (Street 182, Oknha Tep Phan). Capitol Tours run from their offices in Phnom Penh. Hiring your own taxi should cost around $40-50 (2.5 to 3 hours).
From Sihanoukville: Minibuses take around 2 hours and cost around US$7 (shop around, prices vary). Departures are in the morning.
From Ha Tien, Vietnam: Motorbike taxis take 45 min and should cost 100,000+ dong (~US$5). Bargain hard and in dollars, it’ll work out cheaper than in dong. It is a 45min journey.
THINGS TO SEE & DO IN KEP
During the French colonial period, Kep was a popular holiday destination for the French as a getaway from the city. Many houses and buildings built during the period remain standing today in Kep and especially at the foot of Kep Mountain. Some of these houses are, however, crumbling in despair.
The beach is a single, kilometre long crescent of sand near the tip of the Kep peninsula. Dining platforms and seafood vendors line the road behind the beach. They are always busy on weekends but often deserted during weekdays. The road through Kep traces the coastline to the beach and then circles back upon itself. Beware that the loop is a one way street and that the police do occasionally enforce the law by levying fines against violators.
Rabbit Island is a small beachy island about 20-30 minutes from Kep by local boats. Make a day trip to the island by leaving in the morning and returning to Kep in the afternoon, or simply stay the night. Lazy, secluded white sand beaches, coconut trees and relatively clear, warm waters await tourists. The 6km or 2 hours trail around the island leads to a few more deserted beaches and some friendly local fishermen cottages. Those more adventurous may wish to hike and explore the hilltop for an American anti aircraft gun bunker, a relic of the Vietnam War.
KEP NATIONAL PARK
Kep National Park is the smallest of the seven National Parks of Cambodia. Overlooking the gulf of Thailand, it offers several spectacular views of the islands of Cambodia, Kompong Track limestone cliffs, Angkoul beach, Preah Sihanouk area, Bokor Mountain where the mystique Casino Palace can be seen, the Vietnamese islands and Ha Tien peninsula. The park includes: Kep Tauch; Kep Thom; Krasaing Mountains; and 2 major islands namely, “Koh Tonsay” and “Koh Po”. It is a great place to experience a hike to the famous sunset rock and Nun’s Centre on Kep Mountain. Trekking is the most common activity which lasts approximately to 2-3 hrs as participants walk about the mountain. In addition, guests may possibly catch a glimpse of monkeys, squirrels, birds of prey, and many beautiful types of butterflies.
Acknowledged by national and international agriculture experts, Kep and of course Kampot pepper produce the very best pepper ever planted due to their rich geological condition. The pepper itself earns great honour globally for its unique texture and aroma which is second to none. The fertile soil enables the province not only to grow special pepper but also along with other great products, one of which includes durian.
Salt fields of Kep Municipality, mainly in Angkoul Village is amongst the most noticeable places producing salt for Cambodia. With traditional methodologies used by the local residents to produce salt, the salt fields of the Angkoul Village are very attractive at calling tourists’ attention. However, some tourists may not be interested due to lack of skilful tour guides, and poorly developed business and marketing plans and inadequate tourism promotion.
The sailing club which is opened to the public is the newest form of enchantment to this charming City of Kep on the southern coast of Cambodia. Sailing Club belongs to Knai Bang Chatt and is located next to the resort. Moreover, two old fishermen’s houses were turned into a cocktail bar and sea-food restaurant. It can host up to 50 people for a sit down dinner. A pier and a dock built into the water makes it ideal to swim or to watch the sunset. Most of all, one may go sailing, surfing, water skiing or kayaking. The Hobie Catamaran 13′ and 16′ feet, canoes and windsurfs are available for hire. Depending on the wind, a chance to sail out to the sea can be a breathless experience.
If you would like to shop some food, especially seafood you should head for the daily market next to the water’s edge. This is currently the only place you can find the basic needs for you household. Local shops deal the local daily consumer products, like fish, fruits, vegetables, meats and some packed products. If you need something special, e.g. medicine you’ll have to go to Kampot. To take something special from this place along, buy the famous pepper.
WHAT TO EAT
Kep’s most popular tourist activity is having a fresh seafood picnic on the waterfront. The road opposite Kep Beach is lined with picnic platforms. Just rent a mat or find an empty platform and the vendors will present you fresh, sometimes still alive crabs, prawns, squid and fish from which you can choose. Be clear about how much food you want and the cost before they begin to prepare your meal. All of the other restaurants/bars in Kep are connected to the guesthouses.
The Crab Market:
The Crab Market in Kep is a perfect place to get all your seafood. There are plenty of small cosy restaurants which line the shore where you can eat and drink while watching the fishermen bring in their catch. Best time to pop in is for the magnificent sunset. All the seafood is fairly fresh! Ask for the Crab Curry or for the delicious stingray! Prices are quite reasonable. Enjoy it!