Kampot and Kep, Cambodia

Our last two spots in Cambodia were two places we’d never heard of until we arrived in Cambodia. We intended to head to Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s main beach city, after visiting our friends in Phnom Penh. Fortunately, our friends pointed us to what turned out to be a much better beach just across the border in Vietnam – Phu Quoc. With Sihanoukville out of the picture, our friend suggested we spend the weekend outside of the capital in Kampot and Kep, which are conveniently just across the border from Phu Quoc (you can actually see Phu Quoc from Kep, but more on that later).

It was worth the early wake-up for this view

It was worth the early wake-up for this view

As it turned out, Kampot and Kep were two places that topped our “best of” lists for both lodging and food. To get there, we ended up hiring a taxi to drive us to Kampot, which is about a 3-6 hour drive from Phnom Penh, depending on the time of day you leave. We left at 8 AM Saturday (even though we stayed up late at the Christmas party the night before) and made the trip in just 3.5 hours. Kampot city itself was pretty boring – generic stores, and not a lot of energy to it. Kampot is known for its pepper, which is sold and used all over Cambodia (and presumably, the world? But I’d never heard of it before).

Kampot is situated on a river, which provides for some beautiful surroundings, including where we ended up staying, at Champa Lodge. We were about 5km out of town, so when we arrived, we found ourselves in a peaceful oasis tucked just back from a bend of the river. The owners purchased several traditional Khmer (Cambodian) houses, which are built on stilts, and moved them to the hotel property. We rented the full house, which had two queen beds and nice hot water. We rented the on-site kayaks and took a nice ride through the mangroves around the river, stopping off for some swimming on the way. We were also impressed with the wide variety of Belgian beers he had on offer.

Delicious food, like Kampot pepper crab, was everywhere!

Delicious food, like Kampot pepper crab, was everywhere!

In the evening we took our motorbikes (“motos”) into town to eat “the best ribs in Cambodia”. They turned out to be really delicious! The cut was more near the vertebrae, because there was a lot of meat and no bone to speak of. But they were sure tasty! We ate at a couple of other delicious places in town, notably Espresso, which had (not surprisingly) tasty coffee and delicious Western foods like corn cakes with poached eggs and chipotle salsa.

I mentioned the motos earlier because, despite being in southeast Asia for over 3 months, we’d yet to drive or ride on a moto, easily the most ubiquitous means of transport in most SE Asian countries. Our friends rented two and were nice enough to teach us how to be passengers, drivers, and drivers with passengers. We actually picked it up well and I drove Sara around for the rest of the day.

Traps at the Crab Market, in Kep

Traps at the Crab Market, in Kep

After a lazy Sunday reading by the river, we headed to the beach town of Kep and our friends went back to PP. Kep is a former resort town, and there really wasn’t much to it, so I’m not surprised we hadn’t heard of it before. We stayed in a stone bungalow at Bacoma Guesthouse, which turned out to be really nice accommodation that reminded us of our cave hotel at Kelebek in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Kep is famous for its crab, which is why we booked a place near the crab market in town. The crab market is really just a strip of seafood restaurants near a place where the fishing boats dock to unload the crab traps, along with shrimp and squid. Another expat we knew from Laos was staying in town, so we met up with him and a friend and ordered up four different seafood dishes: Kampot pepper crab (Kep crab cooked with Kampot pepper – best of both cities!), crab amok (traditional Khmer dish, cooked with curry in a banana leaf), and some shrimp and calamari. It was all pretty tasty, and we washed it down with some cheap Cambodia beer (that’s the actual name). It actually turned out we washed it down with a lot of beer, because when we emerged from the restaurant at midnight, we were literally the only people out – not even any taxi drivers. Definitely a quiet town.

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