By: Jas Mitch
Kep - the perfect place to get away from it all
Whilst travelling around Asia we have been on the hunt for that perfect place to recharge and chill out. Kep is that place. Sitting on the southern coast of Cambodia, this sleeping beachside town has very little to do other than hanging out by the beach or eating crab (more on that in the next post!).
This was the first beach side town we have stayed in since we left Australia. You just can’t beat it! Having been torn between visiting Kep and visiting the more popular beach destination, Sihanoukville, we were pleased with our choice. There were basically no tourists around and after the first day even the tuk-tuk drivers began to bother us a bit less. The locals were lovely (especially the girls at the corner store, who after a few visits, began to call out “see you later!” or “see you tomorrow!” as we left the store, all whilst giggling!)
During our search for accommodation, we discovered Kep has a healthy monkey population! They live just off the northern tip of the beach, going through the bins and picking at leftover crabs when people aren’t looking. Later on we were walking past this group of monkeys when one ran out onto the road narrowly missing a young girl on her way past absolutely screaming!
We ended up finding cheap accommodation at a small family run guesthouse just across from the main beach and spent most of our days wandering around up and down the coast from here.
Kep is the place to go for the wealthy Khmer families. On the weekend we watched bus-load upon bus-load of people arrive all throughout the day! They would visit the local crab markets and then sit on the path next to the beach, their kids swimming with life jackets on all day whilst their parents chatted and consumed a phenomenal amount of crab! Life here is very laid back.
Prior to the Khmer Rouge, Kep was a place for Cambodia’s more affluent, wealthy society. During the reign of Pol Pot and during subsequent years, many of the mansions in the area (including one owned by King Sihanouk) were repossessed by the government, their doors and windows taken and sold for what money they could make, and the houses left in disrepair. Some of these properties are still standing today and as you wander around the town and up into the national park you can see glimpses of the houses through the overgrown forest that surrounds the area. It is a very strange opposition to the booming infrastructure projects that are being undertaken in Kep, with large roads and beautiful resorts being built left and right, and completely abandoned (except for a few squatters in some cases) properties being overtaken by the forest.
Along with a cool vibe, Kep is also home to some interesting expats! There is a French doctor with his western GP services (combined with a fancy pharmacy) with what we presume to be his family running the amazing French patisserie next door.
Our favourite though was by far the American family (with their four kids) running a little cafe down by the Kep pier, appropriately named Kep Coffee. They had been running their little cafe (with its to-die for chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting!) for two years now. The wife, Saavy, is Cambodian from Battabang province, but had been raised and living in America for a majority of her life. The husband was a born and bred American. Together, they created the most welcoming environment! So much so we stayed for coffee and cake and came back for dinner that night! From the moment that we stepped into the cafe we were taken in like family. They sat and chatted with us for hours. And then when our scooter broke down they attempted to help us fix it before calling the guesthouse for us. Awesome people with an awesome cafe.
oh the other thing about Kep… They LOVE their statues! Everywhere! And of anything!
It was with reluctance that after five days we decided to move on. Kep is the type of place where days melt into each other and time really has no meaning.