Kep is a small coastal town, the capital of Kep Province (Krong Kep) in southern Cambodia. Visitors to Kep are greeted by a giant crab on the main gateway from Kampot to Kep. Kep is synonymous with crabs.
Krong Kep is the smallest province in Cambodia, with a land area of 336 km2. Kep has situated 173 km to the south of Phnom Penh and 130 km to the east of Sihanoukville. The Vietnamese border is only 25 km to the East.
History of Kep
Kep Town officially is a district on a small peninsula. The story related to the name of Kep said that there was a prince named Sakor Reach who was on the run from the troops of a commander of Angkor Thom, dropped a saddle at the seaside. So this area was called Kep Seh (meaning 'the horse saddle') and later shortened as Kep.
Kep town is synonymous with crabs
It was founded as a colonial retreat for the French elite in 1908. From the turn of the century through the 1960s, Kep was Cambodia's premier beach town for the wealthy Khmers, drawing holiday-makers to its breezy shores and nearby Bokor Hill Station. Back in the day, luxurious villas of the privileged class dotted the seaside but now remain as ruined vestiges of an earlier era, slowly being cleared away for new developments. Kep appears to be experiencing something of a renaissance, with several mid-range and luxury guesthouses and bungalows recently opened or still under construction.
Main attractions in Kep
- Kep Beach: Heading around the peninsula to Kep Beach, you can enjoy a small trip of white sand and a little rocky beach. The slightly darker beaches than in Sihanoukville are mostly scattered with mangroves and black rocks. The coastline is lined with wide sidewalks; there are promontories with large statues. The sandy beaches are not as wide as in Sihanoukville but less crowded. The tranquillity makes Kep Beach a nice escape to relax and soak in the warm waters. Also, it’s a great chance to see how the locals like to do beach days. The Khmer families usually gather on nearby bamboo pavilions to laze in hammocks and enjoy the moments.
- The Crab Market: Apart from the beaches, Kep is well known for fresh seafood. The seafood is cheap, plentiful, and delicious - particularly the famous crabs. Approaching the Kep town, the Crab Market is a huge statue of a blue swimmer crab standing just off the shore, showing the town’s pride in their abundance of fresh crab.
The Crab Market in Kep
- The Pepper Plantations: Take your chance to visit the biggest organic peppercorn farm in Asia. Pepper grown in Kampot is considered the world’s best for decades. The pepper here derives its flavor from a mixture of the mineral soils, the sea air, and the bat guano deposited in caves around the hills.
Pepper Kampot is the world's best organic pepper for decades
- Rabbit Island: Unlike the most other tropical islands in Southeast Asia, Rabbit Island, called Koh Tonsay in Khmer, is truly off the tourist path. Just a 30-minute ferry from Kep, a-day trip at Rabbit Island is a perfect place to take a break and enjoy chilling time with a beer, some fresh food, and an ocean vibe. There’re two beaches suitable for swimming since they have white sand and shallow water. The island is settled by only seven families, who earn their living by small fishing and maintaining coconut plantations.
Rabbit Island in Kep
The average water temperature around Krong Kep is extremely warm, around 29°C, with no significant variations during the year. You should avoid the rainy months ranging from April to November, especially the wettest month - October. The best time for water activities in summer.
From Phnom Penh, you take a bus that leaves the city twice daily at around 7 am and 1 pm. Also, it takes 30-45 minutes to depart from Kampot to Kep. Aside from public transport, you can travel by motorbike or shared taxi. It's a half-hour drive from Kampot, Cambodia a half hour to the Vietnamese border; and 2 hours from Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.