Kep: An Introduction
‘Kep–sur-Mer’ came to prominence as a colonial retreat for the French in the early 20th century, before becoming a popular weekend getaway for the Khmer elite in the '50’s. Tragically the town suffered more than much of Cambodia during the 1970’s, witnessing some of the most ferocious fighting between Khmer Rouge and the forces loyal to the government.
The city lay all but deserted for the following few decades before intuitive expats began to rebuild and remodel the town into the Kep you see today. Whilst relatively few of the villas have been restored to their original grandeur, with scores of walls throughout the town daubed with painted telephone numbers and values, Kep has undoubtedly started to regain some of its original charm and is earmarked as a region for future investment and improvement by the current government.
In truth it is a mesmerising place in its current form, and one can’t help but guiltily wish that it was left as it is; the original architecture that remains is still pleasing on the eye and the scars of battle almost add to its impact.
The town does not boast the fine beaches of Sihanoukville, (Kep's beach is best described as 'minimal!'), however it is exactly this that makes the place so special. There's not a tacky seaside shop to be found, the local wood shack restaurants serve some of the finest seafood in Asia and the hotels have been created or restored by innovative expats with an eye for some unique Khmer-Colonial flare!
Rabbit Island is just a short boat ride away and makes for a great day trip or even overnight stay on the beach. In addition, the nearby province of Kampot is home to a large National Park and Bokor Mountain, both of which can easily be reached on a day trip. The region is well suited for cycling and there are several Angkor-era ‘cave-temples’ to be explored.
Displaying a level of quality and charm so rarely found on Asia's coastline. Steer away from the touristy beaches at Sihanoukville and marvel in Kep's delights; peace, Colonial elegance, solitude, deserted islands and some of the most memorable seafood you'll ever eat.