Bored in Kep, Cambodia

Kep is often done as a daytrip from Kampot but we thought that we might want to spend a couple of nights there. We’ve become pretty confidant in our ability to find lodging on arrival in Cambodia so we just took the first bus out of Kampot to see what we would find in Kep. Just as we had found in Sihanoukville, there were tuk tuk drivers eagerly awaiting the bus in Kep in order to earn a commission from various guesthouses.

This time there was also a guesthouse owner looking for guests and after confirming the price and that there was good wifi, we were following his motorbike back to his guesthouse in a tuk tuk. The guesthouse was quite a bit farther away from the beach than the owner had implied. In fact there wasn’t much around the guesthouse at all except a small shop and another guesthouse.

Street in Kep, Cambodia.
The area around the guesthouse. Yawn.
Cow standing in a shaded field.
Our nearest neighbor.

The owner suggested that we rent a motor bike from him but we decided to start walking back to town (and the beach), figuring that a tuk tuk would come along at some point. We were wrong. Micheal probably remembers this walk as that time Ariadne wouldn’t shut up about how hot and thirsty she was. The bottle of water we bought at the small shop next to the guesthouse went all too quickly and then I complained my way all the way to the beach.

Path along the edge of the sea in Kep.
We finally found the beginning of the beach area.
Shaded hammocks in Kep, Cambodia.
Hammocks along the seafront.

Everyone tells you how great it is to rent a hammock in Kep and have someone run to the market for you but nobody ever explains exactly how you go about this. Most of the shaded pavilions we saw were empty but when we tried to ask about renting one for the day, we were met with blank stares or nervous smiles. How do you say “I would like to rent one of your lovely hammocks please” in Khmer? We didn’t know either and English was getting us nowhere. We decided to keep walking toward the main beach.

Statue of woman at the end of a pier in Kep, Cambodia.
We find the beach and another statue of Yeay Mao.

We finally found the main beach and I was never so happy to see a cold drink vendor. That statue at the end of the fishing pier is Lok Yeay Mao who is thought to be a protector of travelers and fishermen. Micheal was fairly annoyed with my complaining by now so we decided that he would go for a swim while I guzzled bottles of water and recovered from the walk.

Beach in Kep, Cambodia.
Micheal chances a swim.

While the beach looked to be nice for sunbathing, Micheal said that it was not the best for swimming as the bottom was covered with sharp rocks. Renting a tube and just floating seemed to be the popular option here. The day had cooled off a bit by now and so had our tempers so we decided to go in search of that famous Kep crab.

Row of small restaurants along the seafront in Kep.
Row of seafood restaurants in Kep.
Plate of crab covered in spicy sauce.
The famous Kep crab.

Small seafood restaurants lined the beach, some of them not much more than shacks. I had the “fried crab with spices” and it cost 32.000 riels (about $8 USD). This was supposed to be the medium sized crab but I thought it was very small and not much of a meal. Is this the normal size for this type of crab or is the area overfished? It was tasty, just much smaller than I expected. We had a beautiful view of the sea and the sun setting from our table though.

Young boy bringing in a crab trap.
Young boy bringing in a crab trap.
Sun setting over the sea in Kep, Cambodia.
Sunset in Kep.

Is there any nightlife in Kep? We did not see many bars in Kep and the few we did see were empty. Micheal had a couple of beers and we decided to call it a night and took a tuk tuk back to the guesthouse. This is when we discovered that the wifi in the guesthouse did not work anywhere except right next to the front desk. I hate it when guesthouse owners lie to you.

We decided get up early the next day and visit the crab market and take photos of some of the colonial villa ruins before taking a bus to Phnom Penh. We bought bus tickets from the guesthouse owner who assured as that it was a comfortable bus with air conditioning.

The next morning, we asked the owner where was the closest place to get breakfast since they did not serve any food at the guesthouse. He just shrugged his shoulders and said that we could probably get some fried bananas in the market next door. Okay, thanks a lot. We tried the restaurant next door but they were only serving the traditional breakfast of pork and rice and I don’t eat pork. We eventually fund a non-pork breakfast at one of the guesthouses much farther down the road.

Ruins of a colonial villa in Kep, Cambodia.
Destroyed colonial villa in Kep.
Old bus with torn seats and mold.
Micheal is not impressed with the bus to Phnom Penh.

Our bus turned out to be the cheapest, oldest local bus available. I guess the guesthouse owner pocketed the difference. We saw much nicer buses at the station. Ours not only did not have AC but the walls were covered in mildew and the seats were torn. Fortunately, there were only a few locals on the bus so we had room to stretch out and sleep until Phnom Penh.

Is Kep worth visiting? Yes, but a daytrip is probably sufficient for most people. There are better deals on steamed crab at the actual crab market and you could probably make a lovely picnic at one of the hammock pavilions. If you know how to actually rent one, let me know.

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