Once known as Kep-sur-Mer, the town of Kep was an upscale resort for the rich and influential of French Indochina in the 1930s. Today, it is little more than an overgrown village in a scenic location, surrounded by a lofty forested headland, and the sea on three sides. A profusion of greenery and thick tree cover add to the easy appeal of the town. In recent years it has become Cambodia’s most successful micro-resort, with a new range of ecolodges and guesthouses mushrooming across town.
The town was overrun by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, who torched most symbols of Colonial prosperity, leaving behind blackened shells of the once sprawling buildings and villas. Despite their devastation, Kep’s Modernist concrete villas remain the town’s best-known attractions. Although dishevelled and ruined, these structures are charred reminders of a more prosperous time and are certainly worth a visit.
Visitors will also find the town’s beaches a pleasant dis- traction. Kep Beach, located on the edge of the Kep peninsula, is about 1 mile (2 km) long and strewn with pebbles. The dark grey sand is quite unlike the Caribbean vision of paradise, and is dotted with sun loungers. The bay’s waters are extremely shallow and quite safe for children, although adults may have to wade a long way out for a decent swim. Coconut Beach, a short distance east of Kep Beach, is popular with locals.
The region’s most renowned dish, the delicious and spicy Kep pepper crab, is served in every restaurant on the strip known as Crab Market, north of town, and is definitely worth a try. There are several pepper farms nearby where visitors can see the vine-like plant and also buy the famous and pungent Kep peppercorn.
The hill behind Kep offers fine views. Those keen to hike can follow a track through the jungle, accessed from behind the Veranda Natural Resort.