Cambodia: Kampot vs Kep?
Lonely Planet on Kep: “Some find Kep a bit soulless because it lacks a centre and accommodation options are spread out all over the place. Others revel in its sleepy vibe, content to relax at their resort, nibble on crab at the famed Crab Market and poke around the mildewed shells of modernist villas, which still give the town a sort of post-apocalyptic feel.”
Lonely Planet on Kampot: “Ever more visitors are being seduced, gently, by the charming riverside town of Kampot, with its relaxed atmosphere and one of Cambodia’s finest (though run-down) ensembles of French colonial architecture.”
In no way do I consider Lonely Planet to be my travel bible like so many others out there, but I definitely see it as an incredible tool and typically a good place to start planning. When I started planning my travels through Cambodia last fall, I went back and forth on whether I wanted to go to Kampot or Kep, both, or somewhere else completely. I began scouring forums, which consist of the all-wise internet commentators preaching their thoughtful gems like, “Kep sucked!” “Kep is amazing!” or “I loved Kampot!” So that was pretty useless, but it also seemed like a highly discussed topic around the interwebs.
I wrote the other day that I decided Kep was the highlight of my trip. I think part of it is because the weather was great, I needed some beach/resort time after 4 weeks of traveling mainly through small cities, and I was in some good company. But I also think it had a lot to so with Kep itself. The comment from the NYTimes article I posted the other day resonates that: “It was just life as it had always been and always would be.” Plus it’s a beautiful, beautiful setting.
Lonely Planet’s descriptions of both places are extremely accurate (except for the “soulless” comment, I don’t believe that) and now that I’ve been, I don’t think either destination should be left off anyone’s path if they’re in Cambodia. But, I think the debate I saw online between travelers was over the wrong question; It’s not which town is “the better one?” They’re similar so the question should be about what that particular traveler is looking for at that moment of their trip:
- Would you prefer access to beaches (Kep) or chill on a river (Kampot)? (And realistically, Kep’s beaches can be a day trip from Kampot…)
- Would you want to relax at a resort (Kep) or just need a room as a home base to explore (Kampot)?*
Other than that, they’re very comparable destinations. Kampot and Kep both had relaxing atmospheres, both were relatively ‘sleepy’ towns, both had good restaurants, and both were absolutely gorgeous. I personally got what I wanted out of Kampot in two days (one night) and could have spent 20 more days in Kep because I was at the point where I needed to do nothing at a beach/resort atmosphere. Depending on someone else’s travels or personal preference, they might have felt the opposite.
Overall, don’t skip either one – book a night or two in one and move on only when and if you’re ready...
*This is based solely on what I had seen when walking around and online when I was booking. Maybe there are resorty places in Kampot, but I just didn’t see them