My last stop in Cambodia on the way back to Vietnam was the sleepy seaside town of Kep near the border. Kep is very close to Kampot, and the ride was quick. Many visitors with limited time can only visit one. I wondered which I would like best.
In some ways, the history of Kep parallels the history of the Bokor Hill Station resort. Kep was a popular resort for the French and elite Cambodians until the 1960’s. Mansions and resorts were built.
Then the Khmer Rouge came, and the place was abandoned. Locals stripped the mansions and sold what they could for food.
As with Bokor Hill Station, in recent years money has poured in to Kep. The road to the beach has been partially upgraded to a four lane divided highway. Many new resorts have been built.
And the Cambodians are coming in droves. My three day visit coincided with a three-day Cambodian holiday. The beach was full of visiting Cambodians, picnicking, relaxing, and swimming.
There is a small town, but the resorts are near the beach. Everything is spread out along the highway, and many of the resorts are far down red dirt roads. There’s simply no way to get around on foot, and there is no public transportation. I saw a few backpackers wandering around confused, and I wondered what they were doing. You simply need your own motorbike here.
I stayed at the very nice Treetop Bungalows, which is set in a beautiful garden where they grow all sorts of fruits and vegetables. They have both cheap and more expensive bungalows. I opted for the latter, at $15 a night, since I would be staying for three nights.
The first thing to do at a beach resort is to check out the beach, so that’s what I did on my first afternoon. Kep beach is nice enough, but the throngs of visiting Cambodians did not make it a relaxing place. I read that during the week it is almost deserted.
The Cambodians were picnicking on mats set up on the sidewalks, and in little shelters. Other than those crowded options, there really was nowhere to sit, so I just wandered around.
There was a lot of traffic congestion on the road by the beach. Vendors were selling seafood and snacks. For dinner I discovered the night market, where they grill up fresh, cheap seafood.
The nice thing about Kep is it’s more than a beach. You can also use it as a base to explore Kep National Park, and even the same temples and caves in the countryside you can visit from Kampot.