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.
Kep was Cambodia's top seaside destination until eclipsed in the 1960s by Sihanoukville (and, soon after, decades of civil war). The town is full of ruined shells of old villas, destroyed in the Khmer Rouge days and during the subsequent Civil War and stripped down by the leaving Vietnamese army.
Today's Kep has recently become established as a Khmer holiday spot and is slowly being rediscovered by travelers. Even though there is not really a great beach (except the idyllic Rabbit Island, just off the coast), the charm of this coastal resort lies in its peacefulness, its National Park, its delicious seafood and last but not least in the extremely friendly local inhabitants, which very often wave at you with huge, honest smile on their faces. Not seldom a Tuk Tuk driver will invite you for a meal to his house to meet his family and you become friends.
Nowadays there are over 60 hotels, ranging from a $5 home-stay to a over $400 double story wooden villa, with your own pool.
There is not a lot do to in Kep, but exactly that is what the visitors are appreciating so much. Many visitors enjoy their holidays in Kep so much that they will come again and again.
The Kep Tourist Information website visitkep.com, which is operated by the Kep Tourism Group, offers a complete hotel, restaurant, bar, shop etc listing with detailed maps of the area. You get a pretty good picture what the expect from this beautiful coastal town, which is still off the beaten track.
- From Kampot: The road is paved, smooth and well sign posted. 25km, 30-45 minute trip. Bus $2. For a motorcycle taxi ($2 - $3) or tuk-tuk (around $6) be prepared to bargain like a local or pay a bit more. Package day tours between the two towns often include a visit to nearby destinations such as Rabbit Island, the caves between Kampot and Kep, and a pepper plantation.
- From Phnom Penh: The road is paved, smooth and well sign posted. Around 4 hours by bus. Several bus companies serve Kep ($5 - $6) and offer various departure times from 7am through to 3pm. 168 Phnom Penh Sorya bus company runs from the bus station near Phnom Penh's central market. Hua Lian is based near Olympic Stadium (Street 182, Oknha Tep Phan). Capitol Tours run from their offices in Phnom Penh. Hiring your own taxi should cost around $40-50 (2.5 to 3 hours).
- From Sihanoukville: Minibuses take around 2 hours and cost around US$7 (shop around, prices vary). Departures are in the morning.
- From Ha Tien, Vietnam: Motorbike taxis take 45 min and should cost 100,000+ dong (~US$5). Bargain hard and in dollars, it'll work out cheaper than in dong. It is a 45min journey.
"Tuk-tuks" are plentiful in the centre. Short trips around town should cost $1-$2, the price for a full day is between $12 to $25. Some roads can be a little bumpy, but there is no major dust irritation like in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.
Self-drive "motorcycles" can be rented for around US$7 per day for a small 125 cc or around US$14 for a 250 cc. "Bicycles" are also available for rent from differnet places and guesthouses for the cheap basketbolding type. For touring the enchanting country side on dirtroads, following the railwaytrack to Kampot (small track aside) or other trips, get a good "mountain bike". WAM travel agent has excellent ones at Bat 11, Kep beach, also in big sizes and children types.
Apart from the beach front, most businesses are spaced out. If you don't rent any transport, be prepared to walk or alternatively stick to the area around your guesthouse and relax there.
- 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 a 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. If you don't want to walk, the path is big enough to ride a bicycle or a motorbike, though be prepared for a somewhat bumpy ride. 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 Kep locals, returning after the fall of the Khmer rouge regime (and not by the Khmer Rouge itself as noted in some travel guides) 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 at the highest price.
- Caves. Around Kep there are 3 major caves, some with small shrines inside. The biggest and most impressive is near Kompong Trach (30km from Kep). It boasts beautiful limestone formations and a nearby swimming cave.
- Crabs. No visit to Kep is complete without having a least one meal of the fresh crabs, reputedly the best in Cambodia.
- Rabbit Island. Rabbit island is a 20 minute boat trip from Kep beach (around US$8-10 return if part of a tour; alternatively, get to the boat pier before 09:00 and share a $20 boat ride with others). Bungalows on Rabbit Island are quaint and cheap (from US$5 a night). The island is generally pretty quiet and is a gem of coastal Cambodia. Development is slow, though there is now a massage shack 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. A new way is in construction, leaving from the Auberge du Wam close to the pier. At the moment it stops in the destroyed mangrove. There is a track further through the highly picturesque fisherfamily settlements, salt collecting fields and other countryside, accessible by bicycle and with some difficulties (and noise) by moped.
- Lida Massage, National Road, ☎ 012 953 427. Great Massages (Thai, Oil or Steam) for only USD 7, located just next to the Kep Lodge. Also now located at the crab market.
- Sailing Club, next to the crab market. The Sailing club is the place to be, where you can rent catamarans, kayaks and even a speedboat. They also have a bar-restaurant, popular among groups from Phnom Penh in the week-ends.
- Swim in the sea. Whilst Kep beach doesn't have the world's nicest sand, it's still enjoyable to go for a swim in the calm, cool water. There are wooden lounge chairs spread along the beach, occasionally with a Cambodian woman requesting $1 to use them. Lots of cold drink vendors nearby and a decent place to watch the sunset too. Don't believe the gloom and doom that some guide books write about the beaches in Kep as they're quite nice.
- Swim with the phosphorecent algae!, (Rabbit Island's beach, maybe Kep's). Going for a swim at night in the sea off Rabbit Island results in bioluminescent) algae glowing all around you, which is an absolutely magical experience.
- Kep-Plantation, ☎ 0 89 33 88 74, . A ranch with about 10 horses and ponies on which you can explore the area. There are also khmer carts which are great for families.
- Country side tours. The best way to explore this beautiful, sleepy town is by bicycle or scooter. Most Guest Houses rent them for respectively $1 or 2 and $7-8/day and since Kep is quite small, it is easy to find your way. There are also guided Country Side tours organized by the Kep Lodge and by the Rega Guest House.
There are money changers at the Crab Market that will exchange euro, dong, US dollar, and riel. If you're fresh in over the border, note that the riel is maintained at around 4000 to the dollar. The market traders will change large denomination dollar notes.
There are no ATMs in Kep, Veranda Natural Resort and Kep Lodge offer cash advances on Visa and Mastercard cards but levy a service charge of 5%. The nearest ATM is at the Canadia Bank in Kampot (about 25km away).
- Lili Perles, near Crab Market, ☎ 017 306 550. daytime. Liliperles, a new shop in town which sells beads from all over the world for reasonable prices. Lily and Stephane the owner have been operating for years. They also have a small school for free, for teaching French to the local people.
- Kep Supermarket, Next to the Pier. 7AM - 8PM. The first supermarket opened its doors a few weeks ago (May 2010) and is located near the pier going to Rabbit Island. It has a limited selection of wine, spirits, beers, snacks and some western food. There is also a fridge and you can buy cheese, butter, milk and other food.
- Kep Souvenir, @ Ana's Travel & Restaurant, . 10AM-6PM. The Kep Souvenir stand offers you a wide range of local products like salt & pepper, t-shirts, silk bags and postcards. Located near the beach, at the roundabout. (during the rainy season located @ Kep Lodge)
- Sun Supermarket, near the beach. The second supermarket in Kep with a great selection of western food, drinks and snacks. Further there are some postcards of Kep and a good selection of toys for children. Open from 08:00 - 20:00.
Fresh fish with pepper sauce. Only $2!
Kep is famous for its crabs. The crab market (a 10 minute walk or $1 tuk tuk ride from Kep beach) has line-caught crabs held in floating cages in the sea. Depending on the size of the crustaceans and your bargaining skills a kilogram of crabs should cost 10,000 - 20,000 riel. Vendors can steam your purchases in the boiling pots in the market or your hotel may also cook them for you.
Several seafood restaurants line the seashore near crab market. They have terraces built over the sea to provide stunning sunset views of Phu Quoc and Bokor National Park while you enjoy crabs cooked with fresh Kampot peppercorns. If you head there early afternoon you can watch fisherman unload their catch for the day.
- Kep Thmey Seafood Restaurant, At the far end of the crab market, ([email protected]). 08:00-22:00. Like all the other restaurants near the crab market, Kep Thmey is noted for crab and shrimp in green pepper. $3+.
- Kimly restaurant. Established and popular but possibly becoming complacent in success. Located towards the end of the row of seafood restaurants near the crab market. Shrimps or crabs with spicy sauce are cited as notable, though this applies to all the restaurants on the row.
- Led Zep Cafe, (mountain trek road, just after Le Bout Du Monde). It's elevated position offers breeze and good views overlooking Kep and the ocean. The small menu offers burritos, pizzas and pancakes. There's a range of detailed maps of Kep and its surroundings. The helpful French owner has been living in Kep for 5 years and provides interesting company. Mountain bikes are available for rent. A good place to relax with a cold beer or a cappuccino.
- Veranda Restaurant & Bar, Kep Mountain Hillside, ☎ 012 888 619, . Breakfast buffet 06:30-22:30, 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 seafood. Has comfortable chairs, a lounge bed, jazz music and a beautiful garden. Showers available for swimmers (guests only) and free pick-up and return service (with tuk-tuk) for dinner when called in advance.
- Kep Lodge Restaurant and Bar. The comfortable bar is replete with pool table and offers a good selection of Khmer and western dishes including Swiss specialties cheese fondue and raclette. Music and liveliness can be enjoyed until midnight. Happy hour (17:30-19:00) lubricates the sun's decent over the infinity pool. Mojiot and draft beer available.
- Toucan - Restaurant Bar Tapas, ☎ (+855) 097 853 10 57, . Open from morning - till late. The Toucan is in the middle of the Crab Market and has a various menu with khmer, italian and french dishes. Try their Spaghetti with Kampot's Green Pepper sauce. Offers free WiFi and lounge Music to enjoy the sunset from his terrace.
- Lida Bar, National Road 33, ☎ 012 953 427. 12-late. Lida Bar is now closed to guarantee a good night's rest for guests. Has buil more rooms in addition.
- 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 sunset views. Recently hosted some live music sessions on the beach.
- Toucan - Restaurant Bar Tapas, ☎ (+855) 097 853 10 57, . Open from morning - till late. The Toucan is in the middle of the Crab Market, with great decor and a pool table. Stays open very late and attracts a nice mix of locals and tourists. Offers free WiFi and Moto for Rent.
- Baraka. The Baraka Bar and Pizzeria is not only a popular hang out for local expats, also a cozy place to enjoy a sea side pizza and cocktails. Has a upstairs terrace overlooking the ocean..
- The Beach House Kep, Right on the beach (Directly behind the white lady statue on Kep Beech Road), . $40-55.
- Botanica, National Road 33a, ☎ 097 899 8614 ([email protected]), . A friendly easy going guesthouse with 6 nice bungalows with fan and shower. Restaurant, pool table, petanque, book exchange. A new, friendly owner who has undertaken some renovations, and now also offers air con rooms. US$10-25.
- Le Bout du Monde, Preah Thom Kep, ☎ +855 (0)119 641 81, . French and Khmer cuisine, restaurant-bar, private bungalows, on the hill, steep reception. US$20-150.
- Jasmine Valley Eco-resort, Kep Mountain (two kilometers up into the mountain from the Kep Hospital corner), ☎ +855 (0)977 917 635, . Jasmine Valley is nestled just below the national park in the jungle-covered mountains. Opened in December 2009 and offers home-grown foods, views across the islands to Vietnam, a natural pool with nibbling fish. Solar-powered mud-brick and thatch bungalows, overlooking the creek, deep in the valley. Tree-houses on poles. Some rooms have natural bathrooms and views across the islands to Vietnam right from your bed. The cafe, and restaurant, sit by the natural swimming pool and the games room, complete with pool table, table-football and table tennis. You can see monkeys in their natural habitat in amongst the trees on the mountain, and you may even be lucky enough to spot a Great Hornbill from your own veranda. from US$19.
- Kep Lodge, Pepper Street (below the national park, next to Tree Top, Entry is to the LEFT!), ☎ +855 (0) 92 43 53 30 ([email protected]), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 12AM. Offering views from each bungalow down to the Gulf of Thailand. Ten private bungalows with shower, minibar, desk and a big private terrace with a hammock and sofa - full breakfast included. The popular infinity salt-water swimming pool, free bicycles, fast & free WiFi all over the lodge, a book exchange and lots of games will make your holiday peaceful and relaxing. Four spacious deluxe bungalows with air-con, sat TV, DVD, sound-system, safe, minibar, tea & coffee maker, shower, king size bed and one of the best views in town. Has a bar and restaurant. US$28-70.
- Knai Bang Chatt, . 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.
- Sovanna - ex Starr Inn, 777 Ocean Blvd, ([email protected]). Small 13-room hotel. All rooms are facing the sea. All the rooms have been renovated. They even made a tiny pool in front of the hotel, a comfortable restaurant as well as a bar. US$25-40.
- Villa Romonea, Street 33, ☎ 012879486, . checkin: 2pm; checkout: 12noon. . 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.. US$150-190.
- The Vine Retreat, Phnom Voar, Chamcar Bei (off Highway 33, between Kep and Kompong Trach), ☎ +855 11 706 231 ([email protected]), . Ecologically conscientious guesthouse, organic farm and restaurant nestled at the foot of a small range of jungle entrenched mountains called Phnom Vor. Famous Kampot Pepper plantation and a naturally filtered swimming pool. Remote, tranquil and beautiful. Base yourself there for trekking or mountain biking in Phnom Voar or just wiling away the hours in a hammock with a good book. $20-45. (10° 33' 57.2394,104° 21' 38.5194)
- Raingsey Bungalow ([email protected]), Kep Mountain Hillside Road (same road as Vanna and Veranda), ☎ +855 (0) 11 558 197, . Eight independent, wooden bungalows surrounded by a growing tropical garden. From your private balcony, you have access to the swimming pool, shaded by palm trees. The bedrooms in the Raingsey Bungalows are tastefully decorated and comfortable to ensure you a peaceful sleep. Each room has air conditioning, well equipped en suite bathrooms with hot power showers but no doors to the toilet. You have a choice of a double bed or 2 single beds. Enjoy delicious food (local and Western) in the upstairs restaurant which overlooks the sea and the National Park of Kep. WiFi. 35$.
- Brise de Kep, 18-19 Kep Beach Road (The row of restaurants and guesthouses on Kep beach near the southern roundabout), ☎ 036 633 633 9. All rooms have hot water and TV. The adjoining restaurant looks good but isn't. US$12 (fan) US$15 (AC).
- Tree Top Bungalows, (just below the national park next to Kep Lodge). checkout: 12. Set in a beautiful garden next to Kep Lodge overlooking the sea with both Bokor Hill Station and Phu Quoc in view, this place offers a wide range of accommodation ranging from $4 double fan basic rooms, treehouse style rooms through to shared bathroom rooms to $20 with private bathroom rooms. $4+.
- Boathouse, 33A Sangkat Pray Thom, ☎ 097 572 4444, . checkin: Anytime; checkout: 12:00. Charming wooden rooms (from $15) with fan/air-con, cheaper rooms in concrete building. Traditional khmer style, tropical garden with stylish huts, views on the national park, lots of birds around, quiet. Restaurant serves traditional Khmer & western food. Walking distance to Crab market and Kep beach. Friendly family atmosphere. Free WiFi. Free bicycle. Motorcycle rental is available. [email protected] [email protected] 8-30$. (10.48493,104.29360)
- Masada Resort, Pepper Street 2 (below the national park, opposite to Tree Top), ☎ +855 (0) 97 50 62 338, . checkin: 13.30; checkout: 11.30. Five bungalows with air-con and a private balcony. US$40-50.
- Le Flamboyant Resort (www.flamboyant-hotel.com), 33a National Road (500m on the road to Kampot after the Vishnu Roundabout), ☎ +855 (0)17 491010, . checkin: 2pm; checkout: 11am. 28 spacious, comfortable and private bungalows (rooms between 30m2 and 80m2) and two beautiful swimming pools all set in a lush, tropical garden. Lovely al fresco restaurant and bar overlooking the premises as well as the mountains. Le Flamboyant Resort also offers the services of a state-of-the art, on-site conference centre. 60 - 250 $.
- Villa Saat (www.villa-kep.com), ☎ + 85517383185, . Brand-new villa opening in Jan 2013, overlooking the seashores of Kep. Villa for rent on short or long stay. + 85517383185 - Ask for Emilie
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