Travelogue: Kep

Kep, a peaceful beach town half an hour away from Kampot, made for a fun day trip. It’s a town where you can do nothing, and have a great time doing so. I spent maybe 6 hours in here, walking around enjoying the sights and foods.
Kep - beach 3

The primary draw of Kep is its crab market, said to be the best in all of Cambodia. I don’t doubt that’s true, but since Cambodia isn’t known for its seafood, I’m unsure if that compliment means anything. But in any case, about twenty minutes’ walk from town center, you’ve got the local crab market:
Kep - crab market row Kep - crab market

I picked a nice restaurant (Kimly Restaurant) overlooking the ocean, famous for its crabs.
Kep - crab restaurant Kep - crab market crabs

Freshly caught crab, cooked with fresh Kampot peppercorn. Before and after:
Kep - crab with green pepper before Kep - crab with green pepper after

The peppercorns were quite interesting. Usually, when you eat pepper, even freshly ground pepper, you use dried peppercorns – usually black or white. This was my first time having fresh peppercorns, and green ones at that. It’s a feast for the taste buds. While the larger (older?) peppercorns have more of a classic pepper taste (albeit milder), the smaller (younger?) peppercorns are savory, almost sweet. Mixed with the crab sauce, I could almost eat the peppercorns just by themselves!
Kep - young green pepper

After having my fill of crab, I walked around Kep for a bit, enjoying the sights, and found that the beaches are quite nice too, though rather smaller:
Kep - beach 1 Kep - beach 2

Give it another couple weeks though, and the beaches will be a lot larger and nicer. While I was visiting, I saw truckloads of beach sand arrive, shipped from Sihanoukville, to create a bigger beach.  It’s somewhat strange, seeing bulldozers building a beach.
Kep - beach building 1 Kep - beach building 2

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Sure, a larger beach would probably attract more tourists, but it might also destroy the essence of Kep. With a huge influx of tourists, it might become just another Sihanoukville – full of drugs and partying.

On the other hand, I can see why the locals would want to make the town more attractive to tourists, even the party and drugs type – because it brings in money!  It’s hard to say to somebody that they should remain poor to preserve the unmarred and unspoiled culture.  If you make that argument, you’re basically following the footsteps of the Khmer Rouge, who argued that uneducated villagers were ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’, whereas educated people and those who lived in towns were corrupted by the West and had to be re-educated.

At least while I visited, it was calm, peaceful, friendly, and quite enjoyable.

Oh!  And while I was in Kep, I joined some locals for a pick up game of sepak takraw – you get some friends, stand around in a rough circle, and kick around a cross between a ball and a badminton bird, keeping it in the air with your feet, hands, and headbutts.  It’s surprisingly hard, but quite fun!  I didn’t speak a word of Cambodian, and the locals didn’t speak a word of English, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves.
Phnom Penh - sepak takraw

Hammocks along the beach!
Kep - hammocks by beach

And of course, no beach is complete with people hawking shell-based arts:
Kep - seashell art

Sights along the coastline:
– I have no idea what to call this – a public rest area off the coast?  A relaxation pier?
Kep - relaxation pier 1

– Fishing boats, taking a break during the noontime heat:
Kep - fishing boats 1 Kep - fishing boats 2

– Fishing!
Kep - fishing 1 Kep - fishing 2

Walking around the coastline, there’s a lot of statues.
– A mermaid (naked lady) statue – the locals call it a mermaid, but I don’t see the tail.
Kep - naked lady statue

– Monkeys on a tree stump:
Kep - monkey statue

– ??? (near the crab market – maybe the god of seafood?)
Kep - crab market statue

– And of course, a crab, presenting Kep’s most important product.
Kep - crab statue

A bit more inland, you see a lot of colonial French buildings – believed to be owned by Cambodian military officials, who are waiting for increased tourism to jack up prices:
Kep - French villa

There’s also Kep National Park – a 2-3 hour hike in the forests. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn, and ended up climbing up the staircase to heaven (through the jungle).
Kep - staircase to heaven

All in all, Kep is a great destination for a day trip from Kampot.
Kep - sunset

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *