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Most people head to Cambodia for a couple of days or so. They head over to Siem Reap to make sure they see the ‘must-see’ sight of Angkor Wat…and it is a place you have to see. However, Cambodia doesn’t start and finish there.
I headed to Kep – a favourite resort for Phnom Penh holiday makers sitting on the Gulf of Thailand and on the edge Kep national park. Kep has had several waves of popularity and for good reason. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French came and built their villas with Cambodia’s elite adopting Kep and the holiday homes as their favourite seasonal haunt in the 1960’s. The 1970’s saw the Khmer Rouge destroy much of Kep and what it stood for and many villas fell into disrepair.
Kep is coming back to life and has still got plenty going for it. In fact, the dilapidated villas are pretty impressive; some are empty shells and some have a kind of Angkorian temple feel to them as the Kep jungle has reclaimed them over the years. Some villas have been restored to their former glory such as the place I stayed at – Knai Bang Chatt.
Kep itself is right on the water, but surprisingly, there’s not really much of a beach. You would expect that there would be miles upon miles of white sand, but there’s not. There is a small beach next to the town which is covered in white sand, but most of the sea front covered in small crab restaurants sat on stilts over the water and a market…and you can’t go to Kep without munching on some fresh crab. However, even though there’s not much of a beach, the Knai Bang Chat does it well – a sand covered front with the waves lapping. A lovely place to relax at sunset enjoying some food and drink.
But the beach situation in Kep is more than made up for with Koh Tonsay, also known as Rabbit Island. A twenty minute boat ride from the bay, Koh Tonsay is the idyllic island – palm trees, white sands and warm translucent sea – and pretty basic, but beautiful.
As you sail over to Koh Tonsay, you can spot the Vietnamese island resort of Phu Quoc in the distance – it’s on the same level in some ways – it’s a beautiful island – but Koh Tonsay is very different. There are no roads, no hotels and no electricity beyond the generators…but who needs any of this in a place like this?
Lay straight down on the sand, dip in for a swim or snorkel, kick back in a hammock, have a massage – perfect! And my favourite experience on the island was a freshly caught seafood BBQ under bamboo shelter on the 600 metre long beach. It’s a great way to spend the day, or even a few days for that matter.
After a day on the island, we made sure that we headed back over to Kep to enjoy a little drink on the sea front and enjoy the sunset. I can see why this place was so popular.
Several hours drive from Phnom Penh and close to the laid back town of Kampot, Kep can be added into any tailored trip to Cambodia or indeed the Indochina region.