The coastal towns of Kep and Kampot don't boast brilliant beaches or fancy resorts (although the growing amount of reclaimed coastal land is starting to challenge that), but you’ll find some of the freshest seafood in Asia alongside heavenly, family-run pepper plantations - not to be sneezed at! Give the generic seaside shops and quasi-bohemian bars of Sihanoukville a miss; Cambodia's southern coast has got a far simpler side to set your sights on. You'll discover a scattering of beautifully-revived heritage properties, as well as that old-fashioned, sleepy seaside charm that drew the French here in the first place.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Despite the southern setting, Kep's number one draw isn't the beach. It still exudes coastal charm, albeit in a more rustic sense. The lack of large stretches of of sand has long been the town’s saving grace. Despite some larger man-made beaches that are now in development, you can still experience the same sleepy seaside ambience that once tempted French colonialists down from Phnom Penh. Our favourite aspect, however, has to be the seafood - we challenge you to find fresher anywhere else in Asia. Visit the crab market and you might find a local fisherman whipping off his shirt and diving into the sea to get one for your lunch: it's that fresh.
First things first: Kep National Park is very hilly. If you're taking a mountain bike into them there hills, you can rest assured that your legs are going to get a good old stretch. However, fortune favours the brave, and if you fancy pedalling to a family-run pepper plantation, before returning for a seafood supper at the Sailing Club as the sun sets, it will be a moment to cherish with an ice cold Angkor beer. Of course, if you prefer to pedal at a leisurely pace, more in keeping with Kep's general laid back vibe, stick to the flatter coastal paths and cycle to some of the sleepy outlying fishing villages.
Just down the coast from Kep, Kampot is fast becoming another firm favourite with foodies. Famed for its family-run pepper plantations, Kampot is still local, rather than touristy, and has an old town area and riverside cafes which provide perfect perches to watch the sunset over the water. Although there's no beach, as such, Kampot's waterfront promenade reveals French Colonial properties, as well as a smattering of shops and art galleries, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand and the Bokor Mountains. If you're looking to linger a little longer, keep an eye out for a certain rather fabulous, family-run, riverside resort on the outskirts of town...
Need to turn the dial down a little further still? Try one of Cambodia’s southern islands
Discover the true breadth of Cambodian culture by exploring the Angkor Temples, bustling Phnom Pehn before heading to the Cardamon Mountains and rounding up with a few days on Cambodia’s islands.