I’ve mentioned before I’m constantly asked what my favorite part of this last trip was. Sapa was pretty sweet (despite the weather), Hoi An was amazing enough for me to spend 6 days in, and Angkor Wat was, well, Angkor Wat. In that Hoi An post, I basically proclaimed that spot topped my list. But now in looking back at pictures and putting this post together, I’m going to flip-flop and say it was Kep (Cambodia) taking that crown.
Kep (or Krong Kep or Kaeb) is a tiny seaside town on a small peninsula jutting out into the South China Sea. The town faces Bokor Mountain (and Kampot) as well as Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam and like Bokor, it was founded as a colonial retreat for the French elite as well. After a renovation and renaissance in the 1960s, it similarly went into decline under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
I was going get more in depth, but instead, I’m just going to refer to this really good NYTimes article that will do it a lot more justice than I would: “On a sunny weekday in Kep, a seaside village about halfway along Cambodia’s coast, the crab market was heaving. Women in straw hats and rubber boots stood knee deep in the surf shouting out prices, periodically darting into the sea to pull writhing specimens out of wicker baskets. Children of all ages ran through the stalls; it seemed as if the entire town had congregated in this one main square. Nearby, suspended over the water overlooking the South China Sea, rickety open-fronted restaurants were perched on stilts. At one of the smallest, the Seagull, I sat with my son and husband watching wooden fishing boats move slowly along the coastline as the family who owns the spot prepared what would be the finest steamed crab I had ever tasted. Even my one-year-old tucked into the white buttery meat. It was a scene that felt quaintly out of time, made all the more novel because we were somehow able to exist seamlessly within it. No one tried to sell us souvenirs or offer to guide us around town. It was just life as it had always been and always would be.”
So along with some great company, I spent some a few days in that majestic atmosphere: Relaxing around the fantastic Kep Lodge, motorbiking through an absolutely superb countryside to Kampong Trach, lounging in some hammocks on Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), and eating some great seafood (I don’t even like seafood!).
With all the snow we’ve been experiencing in Colorado this season (which is awesome for both skiing and for business), the one place my mind keeps drifting back to is Kep. And, along with Luang Prabang (Laos), Kep is absolutely on my ‘must return’ list, but when Cohane says, “It was just life as it had always been and always would be,” she follows it up with, “But of course this wasn’t true.” Unfortunately, I’d say she’s right.