This battered sea-side town does not attract the crowds – which makes it so attractive!
Known as Kep-sur-Mer by the French colonial administration, who, like the subsequent governing Cambodian élite, had their weekend villas here, this place was one of the first to attract the attention of the Khmer Rouge – and it shows, in the numerous destroyed houses, bombed, burnt-out, pockmarked from bullets. This makes the entrance to Kep a little overwhelming. However, as a quiet, more authentic beach alternative to the much more developed Sihanoukville, Kep is the perfect hang-out for a few days peaceful rest and recuperation. Don’t expect luxury resorts and discotheques, but settle for the lovely, generally empty town beach – where the whole town is watching you, of course, when you are lying on the sand, or swimming in the sea, or trying to change from your wet swimming trunks into dry underwear behind a skimpy towel; the Cambodians themselves go fully clothed into the water, and see no reason to change afterwards.
Which is why the entire temporary foreign population of Kep gets into tuk-tuks at around 9 am, and heads for the boat landing to transfer to the real gem of Kep, a small offshore island called Koh Tonsay, or Rabbit Island. Here you have a long, pristine beach, palm-fringed, a very gradually deepening sea, perfect water temperature. A few cabins provide basic accommodation, and the beach restaurants sell drinks and, more importantly, freshly grilled sea food. Huge fishes, king prawns, squid, and the best black pepper crab ever (and we have tried a few, believe me!)