Emerging from the shadows of its former glory as a holiday haven for the aristocrats, the charmingly torpid seaside town of Kep is slowly but surely making a comeback.
Shells of once magnificent French villas, many now converted into beachfront resorts, dot the small stretch of sugary white sandy beach of Kep. The faded French glamour, breathtaking sunset views, relaxingly laid-back ambiance and mouthwatering seafood mark this sleepy coastal town as the ideal weekend getaway from the usual chaos of Cambodia.
Kep is idyllic as Sihanoukville is spirited, fit for couples and families to unwind. This upper-class Khmer holiday spot is a decompression chamber with a picture-perfect beach for lazing around or leisurely walks to find many of the mysterious abandoned villas. For backpackers and solo travelers seeking something more stimulating, head to Kep National Park, where you can trek into its lush jungle and discover the treasures of the rainforest. Or simply join the locals at the crab market on the promenade for a bite of perfectly prepared delicious fresh seafood.
With a paved road connecting Kep and the capital, you can easily make your way to this quaint little town by taxi or bus. With the re-opening of its train station, you can also get to Kep by train from Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, or Kampot. Tuk-tuks can be hired from Kampot to take you directly to Kep or even from Ha Tien, Vietnam, which is about 45 minutes away.
With its first ATM established in 2014 and a second one in 2016, Kep is steadily growing but remains a predominantly cash economy town. Money changers can be found at the crab market and the preferred currency is US Dollars.
Warm and humid all year round, Kep is best visited from November to February. May to October is the wet season with heavy rainfalls usually in the afternoons. March to April is dry, but can be unbearably hot.
The easiest way to travel in Kep is by tuk-tuk for short distances, or you can hire them for an entire day. For the more motivated, you can also rent motorbikes and do independent tours on your own. Walking along the beachfront is rather enjoyable but for anywhere beyond that, it might not be a viable option as businesses tend to be located some distance apart.
When locals from as far as Phnom Penh make their way to Kep just to stuff their faces with crabs and other seafood, you know the seafood restaurants here is a musty-try. If you are, unfortunately, allergic to seafood, fear not! You can still find restaurants serving pizzas, French patisserie, and diners with European flavours.
Like other parts of the country, Kep is developing as more travelers discover its charm. However, unlike other parts of Cambodia, its growth is slow, steady and planned. If you are looking for a classy beach resort-style escape, away from the rowdy crowd, then Kep is the ultimate destination for you.