We travelled from Phnom Penh to Kep via Sorya bus company ($10 each). We boarded a big bus at the station after being transported from our hostel via minivan. The journey was painless but a bit longer than expected as it took us an hour to get out of Phnom Penh itself. On the way, we stopped at a small restaurant to use the toilets and had cheap basic chicken curry complete with all the bones and lots of lemongrass and pork, greens and rice ($1.50 each). We were dropped off in Kep “centre” which is where buses are, a few shops and a lovely small beach. The sun was shining at the time so it was a completely different world to Phnom Penh. We got a tuk-tuk for a couple of dollars to our accommodation as we were staying a bit out of town at Khmer House Bungalows.
This was a lovely place where we had a bungalow with balcony and bathroom. The whole place was covered in plants and was gorgeous. The restaurant looked onto Kep national park and in the distance, you could just make out the sea. The couple that ran the property and restaurant were also very nice.
We arrived in the afternoon so we walked down to the pier area to investigate if there was much there. It had said there was a supermarket but it was closed the whole time we were there.
There was, however ‘Kep Coffee’ a coffee shop that we had read about online as being highly rated so obviously we went there for a drink ($1.50 ice coffee). We also tried some of their homemade cakes- chocolate and espresso cake and chocolate and peanut butter cakes ($2 each) which were delicious. Whilst we were there, there was a huge thunderstorm and it rained for about an hour. In this time we were speaking to the owners who were lovely and from the states. When the rain stopped we made our way back to the bungalow before it started again where we chilled out and skyped family. For ease, we ate at the restaurant at our place which was actually pretty good- noodles with chicken and noodles with local seafood ($3.50 each).
We woke up and got a few tedious jobs out of the way, like doing our washing, before heading over to have breakfast at our place. Breakfast was made better by the spectacular view of the national park and the breeze that blew through the restaurant. We rented bikes from our place, Dave making sure he had a mountain style bike this time and we went to explore Kep. We ventured to the other pier, saw the crab statue (symbol of Kep), the “raunchy” lady statue and looked over the beach. Then we made our way to the beach to a viewpoint overlooking it. After this, we cycled around the pinnacle to look at Kep crab market briefly on our way to cycling up into the national park to find Led Zep Cafe. We soon stopped cycling though and started pushing our bikes up the steep hills into the national park a little bit to find Led Zep Cafe. We had read good things about it having lovely views, good people and information about the routes around the national park as they were instigators of all the signage for the park itself. However when we got there it was shut, no explanation of why it was shut or when it would be open as the signs on it said it should have been open. Exhausted from hauling our bicycles up there we sat down on the steps outside just to recuperate a bit. In the few minutes we were there several other groups of people turned up on their scooters to find it closed and then returned back the way they had come. Just when we decided to leave and start making our way back down a couple of Cambodian women drove past us on their scooter and made their way to Led Zep. We stopped and asked them if they were opening up, which they were, so turned around again to go for a drink. We had a nice refreshing Anchor draft beer ($1.75). The place did have a reasonably good view over Kep and the sea but overall it was a little disappointing. We had read the music was good and there wasn’t really any music on, the two women hid in the kitchen the whole time barely taking our order and offered us no information about the park. Obviously, as they had been shut there was also no one else in there.
After tackling the downhill bit on bikes with very squeaky breaks we actually stopped at the crab market. Within the crab market itself, there actually isn’t too much crab being sold anymore due to over-fishing. Kep is a weekend holiday destination for a lot of people living in Phnom Penh, when they travel down they go to the beach and eat a lot of crabs. As we were there though and it was famous for it, we wanted to try some local crab. We went to one of the small restaurants just down from the market- Magic Crab where we had a nice view out over the sea and the incoming rain clouds. I had Amok Crab (Amok is a Cambodian curry that has coconut milk in it) and Dave had crab meat with the also locally grown famous green Kampot pepper. Both were incredibly tasty- I have not really ever had crab meat before. Just as we were about to leave the heavens opened again so we hid inside the restaurant for half an hour before biking back to our bungalow.
In the evening we went away from town as we had read there was more of a locals market that had options of street food. We found the market but there wasn’t much food there. Instead, we went back to Kep Coffee and had coffee and tacos which were very good ($2 a taco). We spent the rest of the evening on our balcony looking at places to stay in Kampot and watching the lightning in the distance.
We were up brightly and early the next morning at 6.30am as we wanted to walk in the national park before it got too hot. We walked from our bungalow to the local butterfly garden where we paid a small donation before looking around. The butterflies were beautiful, all different sizes and colours and it was a great little place to visit for an hour or so.
We continued along the path to Jasmine Valley after this where we came to a resort and had to find the path that led up to the national park route. After a few failed routes we found the right one and climbed up the steep diagonal paths until we reached the main track of the national park at Angkor beach viewpoint. We had planned to walk around to see the waterfall, however when we got there it was not even a stream despite all the rain, apparently, it has to be the true wet season before there was any rain in it. On our journey there though we did see a very tiny snake (a couple of inches at most), lots of lizards, a basilisk lizard and lots of birds. We were unsure whether to walk all the way back around on the path (about 6km) to our bungalow but instead, we thought we would try the “shortcut” of the transverse path. This was not a shortcut, however, this was an incredibly steep path straight up into the jungle and then straight down from the top. It was very hot, humid and on the way down the paths were very slippy and we fell a few times each. We did get to see the briefest glimpse of a monkey though and it was more of an adventure than the flat concrete path going around the jungle.
We returned to Khmer House bungalows at about 10.30am in desperate need of cold showers and breakfast which we had looking up at where we had just climbed. After passing out on the bed for the next few hours due to the heat and general exhaustion we ventured to Kep Coffee only to find that it was closed which was disappointing. Instead, we headed up the road to Mangroove where we had an average ham and cheese toastie and a beer. We returned to the bungalow after this relaxing on the balcony watching some shows. In the evening we ate at our restaurant trying to Beef Lok Lak another local dish, full of Kampot green pepper that was recommended to us by the other people in the restaurant. We then got talking to two people from England and a girl from Canada who were in there and proceeded to have in-depth philosophical conversations and debates as well as discussing the other couples ideas about “taking down the banks and replacing them with a different system”. It was an odd evening.
In the morning we packed our bags, ventured to Kep Coffee for our last coffees there and to try their toasties which were delicious. Then we were picked up by our transfer minibus ($3 each) in the late morning for the half hour drive to Kampot, our next destination.