Getting to know Kep & Kampot
‘Kep-su-Mer’ became a prominent colonial retreat for the French colonizers in the early 20th century, before turning into a famous weekend retreat for the Cambodian elites in the 1950s. Tragically, the town endured more than it can compared to the rest of the country in the 70s, experiencing some of the fiercest fights between the government forces and the Khmer Rouge.
The city seemed like a ghost town for the next few decades after the fighting ceased. The city was given new life when expats began rebuilding and remodeling the town into the Kep of recent years. While just a few of the villas have been restored to their original glory, with many walls in town smirched with painted numbers. Kep has definitely regained some of its luster and charm, and is labeled as a region for future improvement and investments by the government.
Kep is a mesmerizing town in its current state, and visitors can’t help but hope that the town was left as it was. The original design that has remained is still eye catching and the scars left behind by intense battles add a distinct kind of intensity.
The town lacks the pristine beaches of Sihanoukville, the beaches in Kep are best described as average compared to Sihanoukville; it is actually this trait that makes the town so different and special. There’s not a single gaudy seaside store in sight, the local wood shack restaurants offer some of the best seafood in the region, and the hotels have been restored or built by creative expats with a distinct taste for some unique combination of old colonial and Khmer architecture.
Rabbit Island is a few minutes boat ride away and is a great day excursion or even one night stay on the island. Additionally, the nearby province of Kampot has a huge national park and Mount bokor, both of which can be done in a day excursion. The region is ideal for cycling and there are quite a number of Angkor-era cave temples to be discovered.