The hidden paradise of Kep
It is said that Kep was a city. It is most probably that it will become one. But despise its current official name as Kep City, it is not such a urban entity: it is just a paradise. A hidden paradise in Cambodia.
The smallest Cambodian province is located at the southeast, very near to the Vietnamese border, less than 15 kilometers from the Hatien International Gate, where you can find a huge hotel: Hatien Vegas Casino.
Although its nearness to Vietnam, the tiny province (152,47 square kilometers) does not touch the neighbore country by land, because it is encircled by greatest Kompot province. Kep territory touches Vietnam by sea, after its tiny and beautiful islands face Phu Quoc Island.
It is the only Cambodian province you can visit in all its territory in less than two hours! Its geography is an amazing combination of islands, hills, beaches, woods, fisher towns, rice fields and, especially, dawn and sunset…
The ruins of the former French villas give to the town a special atmosphere of history, drama and magic. As the place was founded by the French colonialist at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Khmer Rouge regime (1975 – 1979) was especially careful in bombing villa after villa, including the former college of the Presentation’s sisters (demolished this year to give place to official offices) and the Benedicten Monastery (little is seen of the former monastery, which place is today the ASPECA orphanage, near the Crab Market.) Of course, executions are registered on the site, though no evidences can be seen.
Food and accommodation
Unlike Sihanoukville, Kep seems to be a more sophisticated place. There are few cheap guest houses for backpackers and a big offer in high standard hotels.
I can divide the hotels in two categories: those along the sea coast like the Knai Bang Chatt Resort and those on the hills like Kep Lodge Hotel. Both categories are just special.
As hotels, restaurants are everywhere.
The Crab Market can be a good experience, thought there are several good restaurants in the same hotels.
The Kep delicacy is, by tradition, the crab.
Places to see
Kep is a place to rest, meditate, pray, contemplate. There are not malls, entertainment sites, movie houses and discotheques. Those things can be found in Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville.
Nights are silent and full of stars.
Tours to the islands are mandatory.
Walks through the Kep National Park is highly recommended. You go up the hills with their tropical woods and you can contemplate splendid views of the Kep bay, reaching with your sight the Vietnamese lands and seas.
Photos of dawns and sunset are a must.
Riding bicycle through roads protected by centennial trees (fortunately they were saved from the Khmer Rouge bombs) and visit farms, fish villages, pagodas and even mesquites.
I can assure you: if you come to Kep and enjoy it for a couple of days, you will return to it many times.