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The quaint coastal town of Kep is undergoing a revival as it returns to the former glory of its heyday as Kep-sur-Mer, catering to the country’s elite from the 1920s to 1970s. Seemingly sleepy on the outside, there’s plenty to pack into a visit to Kep. Here are 10 options.
Paddle in the ocean or sunbathe on the sand at the short stretch of beach in Kep. Popular with locals during public holidays and at weekends, the beach can quickly fill up. Small stalls line the promenade, offering drinks and snacks, and renting out sunbeds and inflatable rings.
A visit to the crab market is a must, because this is where the majority of the country’s fresh seafood comes from. Watch the fishermen hauling in their crab catches, live fish writhing in buckets and squids being barbecued on sticks.
Kep is awash with seafood restaurants, with the main serving of options sitting next to the crab market in the form of a series of shacks that jut into the sea. Sampling the signature dish of seafood (usually crab) and Kampot pepper are a must. Another must for the agenda is eating the town’s famous dish of crab and lashings of Kampot peppercorns.
Kep National Park is a delightful mass of jungle, offering vistas across the ocean and beyond. Home to a series of walking and trekking trails, entry is $1; rangers patrol the park to collect payment. The main circuit is about 8 kilometres and takes in the stalwart Led Zep Café, a great stop-off spot.
Kep was the place to be seen during Cambodia’s Golden Age of the 1950s and ’60s. Reserved for the country’s high-flyers, the town was dotted with beautiful minimalist villas. Its demise came with the Khmer Rouge, when the town fell into decay. Many of these derelict buildings can be explored.
Neighbouring Kampot is home to world-famous Kampot pepper, with many of the sprawling pepper farms sitting about 20 minutes away from Kep centre. La Plantation offers free daily tours of its farm, which grows a range of high-quality peppers that are sold across the globe.
The area’s world-famous pepper often means its top-notch salt is forgotten. On the road from Kep to Kampot, close to the sea, sit a series of salt fields close. Water swamps the fields, which are then blocked so the water can evaporate to reveal the salt crystals.
A fun way to explore Kep’s untouched countryside is on horseback. Range de la Plantation puts on private half- and full-day treks that take in meditation temples, slices of the national park, paddies and the beach.
Sitting about a 20-minute boat ride away from Kep is Rabbit Island, or Koh Tonsay. Boasting rustic life, the small beach is lined by food shacks and wooden bungalows. Amenities are basic on the island so don’t expect any luxury.
Everyone in the know knows Knai Bang Chatt’s Sailing Club is the place to be for sunrise. Overlooking the ocean, the former fisherman’s hut is now a chic bar and restaurant and water sports centre. And it offers pristine sunset views across the ocean.