The tiny seaside hamlet of Kep, established by the French in 1908 as Kep-Sur-Mer was a thriving resort town for the French and Cambodian elite until the early 1970s, and even the retired King Norodom Sihanouk built a villa here. Literally meaning “saddle,” the ruins of the once-grand villas still remain, and fans of architecture will enjoy touring the areas where they are located.
A few have been converted into luxury resort complexes, but for the most part Kep is still a relatively sleepy, relaxed place populated mostly by fisher folk and their families. These locals run a bustling crab market on the seashore, where the men and women bring up their crab pots to empty them before waiting diners and the restaurant owners cook them up within minutes of arriving from the ocean. No visit to Kep is complete without a trip to the crab market for lunch or dinner to enjoy the freshly caught crab usually served with the wonderful pepper from their neighbouring province. There are a number of small bungalow-style guesthouses in Kep which often order seafood from the market for guests.
Kep’s Koh Tonsay, better known as Rabbit Island, can be reached with the help of local fishermen. Two dazzling white sand beaches grace this local island where the waters are shallow and calm and perfect for family swimming. The clear water makes for excellent snorkelling and marine biologists come from around the world to study and enjoy the rich biodiversity around the island.
Dugong are known to inhabit the sea grass beds near Kep, and monkeys abound in the thickly forested slopes that rise up from its small beautifully clean beach, hugely popular with locals and tourists. Fun and easy trekking is found inside Kep National Park. Kep is an easy day-trip from Kampot and there is an international border crossing to Vietnam not far away
Seafood (especially crab), fish sauce, sea salt, pepper
Coastal mangroves open to mainly black stone beaches and the centre of the province is a small mountain with dense forest.
Kep it all about relaxing and as such, there are not that many special sites to visit. But if you have a knowledgeable local driver, or a hired motorbike and some spare hours, take a journey around some of the back roads and view the wonderful ruins of all the grand villas. These crumbling holiday homes of the rich and famous still stand as testament of some of the best examples of French and Cambodian architecture of that era.
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