Ah…Cambodia. This beautiful country in Southeast Asia has a rich culture that goes back to the time of the Angkor Kingdom, and has unfortunately been laced with a recent horrid past. Over the last few decades, Cambodians have worked hard to overcome their experience in one of the worst genocides this world has ever seen. And, though it may seem that the days of the Khmer Rouge is a “thing of the past” to the outside world, every Cambodian that’s alive today has been impacted by the Khmer Rouge one way or another.
You can see it in the people, you can see it in the cities, you can see it in the rural areas where many people needed to start their lives over again after the war. But, even with all the melancholy associated with these places, there’s sincere beauty that you can’t find anywhere else.
If you are thinking of going on a tour of Southeast Asia, don’t miss Cambodia. And, if you do go to Cambodia, don’t leave without first visiting the city of Kep; a majestic beachside town that is like nowhere I’ve ever been before.
First of all, Kep is famous for their peppercorns and their crabs. Of course, when you combine the two together, you get delicious peppercorn crabs for $7 that will blow you away. Whether you go to a restaurant and have the crabs brought to you or you pick them out yourself at the adjacent Crab Market, they’ll be delicious no matter what; smothered in garlic and peppercorns. Yum.
And, speaking of peppercorns, they need to come from somewhere! Kep is filled with breathtaking peppercorn farms, laden with cows, green grass, and open fields.
Last but not least, in addition to the beach, there are gorgeous villas of French-style architecture that used to be the summer homes of the European aristocrats and wealthy Cambodians long ago. Now, the homes are all abandoned, but they certainly make for a stunning landscape.
Kep is not as big as it seems. If you stay in the center, which is right across the street from the beach, you can walk to the crab market and a few other places. Hotels are about $10 a night for a decent room with AC, and of course, if you go on a tour, they can help you organize this. This is a great option if you want a more rustic experience, but if you want something a little fancier, they have resort-like places, too.
So, you can walk a lot around Kep. But, we decided to go a bit further. We rented a motorbike from our hotel for $5 a day and went for a drive. We made our way first to the Peppercorn Fields by following a paper map. No Google Maps here!
After the Peppercorn Fields, we had the bike and nowhere particular to be. So, I got on the back as my boyfriend drove, and we decided to explore this countryside. We drove through green rice paddy fields, saw skinny white cows, whole families living in straw-roofed huts, and waved as people smiled at us.
Then, we got lost. We were far from the peppercorn farms, and I took over as the driver as I thought I knew the way back. Turns out, we ended up driving further and further in the wrong direction. My boyfriend took the lead again, and eventually, we found our way back. Though I was a little scared about being lost, it was the most amazing experience ever.
When we got back to our hotel, we noticed a group of monkeys eating out of a garbage can. Then more monkeys came. And more. As Kep is on the beach and there is tons of farmland, you forget that you’re in the jungle, too.
How To Get to Kep
If you’re interested in checking out Kep, make sure your tour either A. Includes Kep as one of the stops or B. Gives you some time to head out to Kep and explore it on your own.
You can get to Kep easily from Phnom Penh, Kampot (very close to Kep) and Sihoukaville. If you’re coming from Siem Reap, you will need to make a stop in Phnom Penh, anyway. There are many bus companies that go this route.
So, what do you say? Are you convinced to go to Kep? Start checking out tours now!
Hana LaRock is originally from New York, though has called other places around the world her home for the last two years. She currently lives in Mexico and freelance travel writer. When she’s not working, she enjoys writing, reading, spending time with her dog, and of course, traveling. You can find her at www.hanalarockwriting.com.