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Kep

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Kep

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Remains of a colonial French villa

Kep is a seaside resort area in Cambodia and includes the small town of the same name which is the capital of Kep Province.

Understand

Cambodia's top seaside destination until eclipsed in the 1960s by Sihanoukville (and, soon after, decades of civil war), today's Kep is slowly being rediscovered by travellers.

Get in

  • From Kampot: The road from Kampot to Kep is paved and smooth. 25km, 30-45 minute trip. Follow the road from Kampot to the White Horse Monument. Bear right at the monument (go straight to Kampong Trach.) At the next main turnoff, bear right onto the oceanfront road to the Kep Beach area. Motodups charge about $2 - $3 one way and $6 round trip. Package day tours to Kep out of Kampot also often include a visit to at other nearby destinations such as Rabbit Island, the caves between Kampot and Kep and a pepper plantation. Sok Lim Tours is offering moto-trailer tours to Kep for $3/person.
  • From Phnom Penh: There are two bus companies driving to Kep, leaving PP at 7AM and 1PM either from the central Market or the Olympic Market at $ 5/person. The more comfortable way is hiring your own taxi at $ 40-50.
  • From Ha Tien, Vietnam: Take a motorbike taxi. Bargain hard. It is a 45min journey mainly on a dirt road. Cost 100,000+ dong per person.

Get around

The best way to move around Kep is rent a motorcycle at around US$7 for a small 125 cc or around US$ 14 for a 250 cc. A nice and peaceful way is also to get a bicycle from your guest house or from the Led Zep cafe.

See

  • Kep Beach. A single, kilometer long crescent of sand near the tip of the Kep peninsula. Dining platforms and seafood vendors line the road behind the beach. Busy on weekends but often deserted during the week. The road through Kep traces the coastline to the beach and then circles back on itself. Cars and vans must pay admission to drive the loop (2500R-5000R). Motorcycles and pedestrians are free. Be aware that the loop is an one way street and the police do occasionally enforce the law, levying fines against violators.
  • Kep Mountain. There is an easy trail going full circle around the hill above Kep in the National Park. It's a wonderful piece of jungle, in which it is quite probable to see some monkeys and other animals. The trail is about 8km long (a 2-3 hour walk) and has a lot of direction signs made by Christian from the Led Zep Cafe. If you don't want to walk, the path is big enough to ride a bicycle or a motorbike. There are even some small benches to enjoy the view and have a rest during the walk.


  • Kampot Pepper. An absolute must is to visit the Pepper plantation at Phnom Voir mountain, about 20min drive from Kep. This pepper used to be the number one pepper in the world and all the good french restaurants had it. It is having a revival at the moment with some local NGO (Farmlink) helping promote and plant it again.
  • Colonial Villas. There are around 100 or more old french villas, mostly destroyed by the Khmer Rouge army and some of them overgrown like Angkor Wat - quite a spooky feeling. Some of them have been restored, but most of them are in possession of rich military officials who are waiting to sell it at the highest price.
  • Caves. Around Kep there are 3 major caves, some with small shrines inside. The most impressive and biggest one is the one near Kompong Trach with beautiful limestone formations. You can also find a swimming cave nearby.
  • Crabs. No visit to Kep is complete without having a least one meal of the fresh crabs, apparently the best one in Cambodia.
  • Rabbit Island. Rabbit island is only a 20 minute boat trip (around 8-10USD one way) away from Kep beach. Bungalows on Rabbit Island are quaint and cheap (from 5USD a night), and is generally pretty quiet. One of the nicest remote islands worth seeing in Cambodia. Now even with a massage shak directly on the beach.
  • Angkaul Beach. The Angkaul beach located 45min to the east near the Vietnamese border was once the swimming beach for the Cambodian Elite in the 1960ties. The trip there might be long, but it is worth every minute. The around 2km long beach is clean with white sand and totally deserted except some fishermen. Now there are 6 deck chairs and parasols and a small shop selling cold drinks for the few tourists going there. The water is shallow but clean. Truly a paradise beach and not worth to miss.

Do

  • Lida Massage, National Road, 012 953 427. Great Massages (Thai, Oil or Steam) for only USD 7, located just next to the Kep Lodge.
  • Sailing Club, next to the crab market a newly established place called the Sailing club has commenced activities, where you can rent catamarans, kayaks and even a speedboat. They now also have a eating menu with some special food.

Buy

  • Lily Perles, near Crab Market, 017 306 550. daytime. Liliperles, a new shop in town which sells 'bees' from all over the world for very reasonable prices. Lily and Stefan the owner have been doing this for years and their collection is huge and very tastefully. They also have a small school for free, for learning French to the local people. Better leave your wife at home, otherwise your wallet will shrink a lot. I warned you!

Eat

Fresh fish with pepper sauce. Only $2!

Kep is famous for its crabs and you can get live crab in the crab market. Crabs are caught using line and are left in the floating cage in the sea. For a dollar or 2 you can get the hotel to cook or steam the crabs.

You can also go to one of the crab restaurants built over the seashore along the road out of town (the Crabmarket - towards Kampot). The crabs cooked with fresh Kampot peppercorns are to die for!

  • Kimly restaurant. Excellent place to try the crabs.
  • Led Zep Cafe. The Led Zep Cafe has moved and is now on the mountain trek road, just after Le Bout Du Monde. The new place has some of the best views overlooking Kep and the ocean and there is always a nice breeze. Small menu offering Burritos, Pizzas and Pan Cakes. Big range of detailed maps of Kep and its surroundings (no photos please). The helpful French owner has been living in Kep for 5 years and knows quite some stories. He made all the signs guiding you around the Jungle Trek and it was him, who discovered the 'Sunset Rock', a rock with great views over the area and the gulf of Thailand. They also rent out mountain bikes. A place to unwind and to rest enjoying a cold beer or a cappuccino.
  • Veranda Restaurant & Bar, Kep Mountain Hillside, 012 888 619, [1]. Breakfast buffet 6:30AM-10:30AM, restaurant 11AM-10PM. Main restaurant at the Veranda Natural Resort with a great ocean view and sunset, beside their popular Bakery shop, the restaurant offering professional seafood dishes, as well as western and Asian food.
  • Breezes Lounge & Restaurant, National Road 33 (Halfway between Kep Beach & Ferry Pier), 097 6759072. Set in a beautiful, quiet and green area, and is a good spot to unwind near the sea. Serves imaginative food with an emphasis on Asian (sea)food. Try the Khmer Fish Wrap, Chilli & Rum Prawns or Asian Beef Stew. With comfortable chairs, a lounge bed, jazz music and a beautiful garden this place is not only about food and provides a pleasant upmarket alternative in Kep. Showers available for swimmers (guests only) and free pick-up and return service (with tuk-tuk) for dinner when called in advance.


Drink

  • Lida Bar, National Road 33, 012 953 427. 12-late. This newly opened bar at the Lida Khmer Guest House is small but with a powerful sound system, a little dance floor and some seriously cold drinks. Worth a visit and always stays open late. Great addition to Kep with very nice bartenders.
  • Kukuluku, National Road, 012 607 8777. morning till late. Kukuluku, not only a guest house on the sea shore also has a small bar with good music. The location is hard to beat, right on the sea, with some great sunset views for the honeymooners and all other romantic folks out there. Also have a restaurant, try the steak and the big selection of crepes. Recently hosted some live music sessions on the beach.
  • The Riel Bar. offers reasonable priced beer and well made food. The Dutch owner has created a warehouse atmosphere playing his music, although he is quite an eccentric person and somehow a very special host with a quite strange kind of humor. He can be aggressive too, so be careful the later the night goes. Also you might want to check your bill very carefully. Try pay in Riel!

Sleep

  • Botanica, National Road 33a, 016 562 775 (). A friendly easy going guesthouse with 5 nice, but small bungalows with fan and shower. Restaurant serves world food. Pool table, petanque, book exchange. US$8-10.
  • Jasmine Valley Eco-resort, Kep Mountain (two kilometers up into the mountain from the Kep Hospital corner), +855 (0)977 917 635, [2]. Jasmine Valley is nestled just below the national park in the jungle-covered mountains. Opened in December 2009 and offers home-grown foods and views across to Vietnam. Six solar-powered mud-brick and thatch bungalows are currently available, overlooking the creek, deep in the valley. One 'tree-house' was also completed in 2009 and a second is now complete with natural bathroom and views across the islands to Vietnam right from your bed. The cafe, and interim restaurant, sits by the natural swimming pool (currently under construction) and sauna. You can spot for monkeys in their natural habitat in amongst the trees on the mountain - you may even be lucky enough to spot a Gibbon or Toucan - right from your own veranda. from US$19.
  • Kep Lodge, Pepper Street, +855 92 43 53 30 (), [3]. Located below the national park, offering views from each bungalow down to the Gulf of Thailand. Six private bungalows with hot water shower, full breakfast included with home made mango or papaya jam. A peaceful resort. Servies pizzas and roestis, coffee and home made ice cream. Swimming pool with kids pool, free bicycle, free WiFi, book exchange, lots of games and a information about Kep and the tours to be done there. Air conditioning is not needed since the intact jungle gives natural cooling. US$28-38.
  • Knai Bang Chatt, [4]. One of the fanciest places in all Cambodia, this complex has only three seaside villas. Book more than one, and they'll guarantee that the entire place is yours. Great swimming pool, free Wi Fi, a real private hide away. Next to the Sailing Club. US$160-350.
  • Star Inn, 777 Ocean Blvd, 011 777 012 (). Small 13-room hotel. All rooms are facing the sea. Has a seafood restaurant (not recommended), cocktail bar and and karaoke, so it is quite loud at night. The staff are friendly is this small hotel. US$20-35.
  • The Beach House Kep, Right on the beach (Directly behind the white lady statue on Kep Beech Road), [5]. 35-50.
  • Le Bout du Monde, Preah Thom Kep, +855 (0)119 641 81, [6]. Fine French and Khmer cuisine, Panoramic restaurant-bar, private bungalows US$18-85.
  • Villa Romonea, Street 33, 012879486, [7]. checkin: noon; checkout: 2PM. A new place for the high class traveler. Directly on the sea, the villa with six rooms is on a two hectare property with a six hole golf course, an infinity swimming pool and a tennis court. It is private and has all the amenities. US$150-190.
  • The Vine Retreat, Phnom Voar, Chamcar Bei (Off Highway 33, between Kep & Kompong Trach), +855 11 706 231, [8]. The Vine Retreat is an ecologically conscientious guesthouse and organic farm nestled at the foot of a small range of jungle entrenched mountains called Phnom Vor. Remote, tranquil and beautiful. Naturally filterd swimming pool under construction. $20-$45. (10° 33' 57.2394,104° 21' 38.5194)

Get out

  • Kampot - Gateway to Bokor National Park.
  • Sihanoukville - Cambodia's best-known beach resort
  • Ha Tien (Vietnam) - On the other side of the border with Vietnam is the fishing town of Ha Tien. Catch a boat to Phu Quoc or a bus into the Mekong Delta. The border was opened for tourists in 2007. Some of the roads are not paved, but you will get to see some nice rural areas on the way.

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