After Phnom Penh we hired a car and driver and headed for Kep on the coast, famous for its crab, French Colonial villas and beautiful coastline including powder soft, white sands and dotted with islands.
Like our visit to Angkor Wat three years ago, our week in Phnom Penh will always be etched in our minds.
See our earlier blogs ‘Insights to Angkor Wat & the Cambodian Countryside‘ and ‘Exploring S21 and the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh Cambodia‘.
Phnom Penh, is probably one of Asia’s friendliest capitals, with authentic South East Asian people and culture. Be warned, frequent use of tuk-tuks is essential to properly explore the city. Walking the city is not really an option, with sidewalks given over to parking and market stalls. With limited tourist sites, Phnom Penh surprisingly becomes a place to relax, sitting in a restaurant or bar along the Mekong river and people watching to enjoy one of Asia’s most authentic experiences.
We were sad to say goodbye to the staff at our boutique hotel but promised to return on our next trip to the area. They organized a car and driver for the three-hour road journey from Phnom Penh to Kep. We were glad to arrive safely, after experiencing some of the worst driving ever and having to tell the driver to slow-down and go easy on the horn several times. The first half of the journey seemed to be an urban sprawl, fairly uninteresting apart from highlighting how hard life is for the average Cambodian. In the second part, we saw wide valleys, hills and mountains in the distance, given over to farming and some small pretty towns and villages, with the familiar sight of buffalo and dogs roaming the streets. We sensed that the quality of life was better the closer we got to Kep.
For us extreme contrasts on our travels help us keep focus and enables us to enjoy experiences to the fullest. We chose Kep because it was described as a provincial capital, with wide streets, and crumbling villas recalling the former glory of a French colonial resort town (Wikipedia). [for some amazing photos of French colonial architecture open this link]
We spent six nights in a small resort hotel, set in the heart of the Kep National Park, high on a hill, with spectacular views of the sea.
Our first evening we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant and experienced excellent sea food and a magnificent view including watching sunset over the sea.
Next day we hired a tuk tuk and asked him to show us around Kep. We saw the last king’s summer palace, built by the French in the 1920s and in Art Deco style but unfortunately it was completely devastated by the Pol Pot regime in the 1970s and is now just an empty shell.We also saw various former French colonial villas, some built in the late 19th century but most constructed in the 1920s and 30s with beautiful architectural style of that period. We then visited the famous Crab Market and witnessed the selling, buying and cooking of Cambodia’s finest seafood in the bustling market. Guess what, we decided that we would go back there later for dinner.
See our next blog and read all about our experiences in Kep.