Seeing coastal Cambodia – Kep
One of my favourite places in Cambodia was Kep. Kep was not on the original itinerary but we added it after visiting Koh Tao and deciding we should visit a sea side resort in Cambodia too. We are definitely seaside people!
Cambodia’s Sihanoukville is the obvious seaside town to visit but I did some research and it didn’t sound like somewhere we’d enjoy. The beaches aren’t great and supposedly there’s a large “sex-pat” community. I noticed a similar community in Kanchanaburi and found it pretty awkward to watch. So Sihanoukville was off the table. Instead we choose Kep because it was on the coast, easily accessible by bus and we were intrigued by the abandoned French villas.
Getting from Phnom Penh to Kep
We travelled from Phnom Penh to Kep by bus. Unfortunately we travelled the weekend of a public holiday so all the seats on the Giant Ibis coach were fully booked. Instead we managed to get seats with Vibol, a budget service. The bus station for Vibol is behind the football stadium in Phnom Penh and it’s essentially a tin roof with some chairs. I think it was the owners house as the whole family seemed to be there doing one job or another. The family chicken was even in attendance! The bus was fine, not as comfy as Giant Ibis but it got us from A to B. The bus driver was nuts, typical for Asia, and unfortunately we had a crash with a Land Rover just 30km from our final destination. No one made any announcements during the crash and two hours passed before we got back on the road in a replacement mini bus. We arrived at our resort jaded and starving!
While in Kep we stayed at Bacoma Resort. It is amazing. Coming from polluted Phnom Penh we were in awe when we first arrived. While we waited on dinner we sat in silence and listened to the local wildlife. It is such a relaxing place. Our accommodation was a round hut with shared bathroom and only cost us £5 a night! The huts and the grounds are beautifully designed. The Swiss owner Michael obviously had an influence on the design as the rooms had a touch of IKEA and were modern yet still traditional. I loved everything about this resort including the food, the staff and the outdoor cinema! I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Kep.
Places to eat in Kep
Kep is quite small and had a limited number of shops and restaurants. Luckily the food at Bacoma was excellent so we mostly ate there. It is reasonably priced with a delicious Cambodian curry costing just a few pounds. On a few occasions we did ride down the hill to Spring Resort and Mr Mabs restaurant where if you bought lunch you could use the swimming pool. Kep was roasting hot so a dip in the pool was a welcome relief and the lunch sandwiches were really tasty.
Things to do in Kep
Kep is a seaside town with a thriving crab market. We loved visiting the market which offered ample opportunity to take photos of locals and their wares, usually crabs that had just been plucked out of the sea. We probably shouldn’t admit this but we didn’t actually try any crab while we were there because the cost of crab was significantly more expensive than other meals. But I’ve read a lot online about how good it is.
The beaches in Kep aren’t great so we didn’t actually do much sunbathing. The beaches are man made and the white sand that is shipped in from Sihanoukville is in need of a refresh. This didn’t stop the locals who were enjoying a public holiday when we visited but it did stop us!
We explored Kep on bikes supplied for free from Bacoma. It was the perfect way to explore the town and we must have covered several km riding round the coast and through the abandoned villas. You can see the main sights by cycling from the crab market to the villas and back.
The French villas are an eerie reminder of the horrific history of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. We visited them briefly on the bikes and it was quite sad to see. They made me think about Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge and what Cambodia might be like today if the civil war hadn’t occurred.
During our stay we visited the national park and the connected butterfly farm. The farm is free and the national park costs just $2. It was nice to walk through the hills and we had the trail to ourselves. The butterfly farm was good for a free attraction and we spent about an hour snapping butterflies.
In all our visit to Kep was a relaxing week. The sun shone the whole week and we got suitably sunburnt. I think Kep is a must visit for people who want to experience traditional Cambodia and enjoy a relaxing week.