Sihanoukville, Kep and wonderful Khmer Hands
I wrote last in Sihanoukville. It was nice, and we enjoyed it.
The hotel was, as I mentioned, supremely disappointing, but Otres Beach, nearby, was just lovely. We spent our one day there, sitting on the beach, drinking coconuts and reading books.
After the hustle and bustle of all the towns and cities we’ve visited, it was a welcome break.
We walked up and down the shoreline, enjoying the warm saltwater on our toes and the cool breeze in the air.
It’s an incredibly touristy beach, but still very lovely.
Every ten metres there’s another bar or restaurant offering $3 cocktails, 75c draught beer and $5, hour long massages.
Local kids tumble around in the surf, and women crouch by the waterline, grilling freshly caught seafood.
It’s a nice vibe.
After a nice day of sitting around, we had seafood pasta at the hotel (which was surprisingly delicious) and packed up ready for the next day’s journey to Kep.
The bus was quite late picking us up, but it was a mere two hour trip to Kep, so it was all just fine.
It stopped for about half an hour in Kampot with no warning, and nobody at the ticket counter there had any idea where we should be waiting of when the bus would turn up.
Everyone seemed extremely calm, though, so we just went with it.
Eventually the lady behind the desk stood up and practically shouted “Kep! Now! This bus!” and gestured toward the bus we’d gotten off just half an hour earlier. It had been idling a metre away for the duration of the stop.
Unfortunately for the bus company, Felix and I were the only two passengers going to Kep, but they drove the big bus all the way there anyhow.
An hour later, we were relaxing at our new accommodation, Khmer Hands.
It’s a cute little collection of well-built, bungalows with a cool breeze constantly running through the rooms and the restaurant, comfortable beds, a clean bathroom and hot water.
It’s in a great location, the food is heavenly, and it’s completely affordable.
Our bungalow is the midprice option, at $15 per night for the both of us. I could barely believe it.
The owners are a super kind and chatty American man, Chris, and his equally lovely Cambodian wife, Naome.
The hotel doubles as a hospitality and sewing school, so the food is cooked, rooms cleaned, and clothing in the gift shop sewn by young Cambodians training in what they’ve learned here.
All the staff are helpful and friendly and extremely good at what they do.
Everything is clean and beautiful.
After the perfectly-acceptable-but-nothing-special places we’d been so far, this was a lovely end to our trip.
10/10 would recommend to anyone travelling Cambodia.
In fact, Kep itself is totally worth visiting. I read that it was a lazy seaside town with good seafood which is true, but there’s plenty to do, at least for a few days.
The national park, for one, is a beautiful walk under cashew, durian, and all sorts of other trees teeming with monkeys and the odd mosquito.
The crab market is probably Kep’s biggest bragging right, filled with fresh seafood and bottles of homemade chilli sauce.
Wandering through the tight stalls, ducking the canopies and being simultaneously tempted and revolted at the various market scents, freshly caught crab and other seafood is available to buy for around a kilo for $7.
Khmer women, waist deep in water, throw their catches up to their friends on the shore, who bag the critters and hawk them loudly to passersby.
Another woman calls out from nearby, asking if you’d like your seafood steamed. For a dollar or so, she takes it out of the plastic bag, tosses it in the steamer and, when it’s cooked, sticks it back in the same back and hands it over.
Another excellent little Kep drawcard is the butterfly farm.
A relatively new tourist attraction, the farm consists of a decent exhibition showing the lifecycle of a number of the butterflies on show, as well as a large, netted room filled with beautiful butterflies and plants.
Entry is donation only, and a few dollars to share a ‘room’ with hundreds of winged friends does’t feel misspent.
Another little trip we took on our last day in Cambodia was to Sothy’s Kampot Pepper farm.
A solid 40 minute moped ride from Kep, Sothy’s farm is a bit of a hike (on which one can get more sunburned than might be expected) but a well-worthwhile one.
We were greeted with great enthusiasm on arrival, we ordered a coconut and were offered some red, white and green pepper to taste while waiting for a tour guide to become available.
15 minutes later, we were being shown around the farm, from the amazing solar oven, to the natural (and organic) pest control systems and, of course, the incredible pepper crop.
We learned a lot about pepper. It turns out that green pepper is baby pepper (which is delicious but hard to come by outside of growing areas), black pepper is dried green pepper, white pepper is black pepper without its skin, and red pepper is ripe pepper.
Red pepper also happens to be the most sought after and (I believe, as a non-pepper-lover) the most delicious. After green pepper, that is, but it’s pretty much nonexistant in Australia, so I’m going to pretend I never tasted it.
Kep was what we’d been hoping for, every time we stepped off a long and sweaty bus ride during our trip. It was a breath of fresh air, literally as well as figuratively. There was less trash, less traffic, excellent food and plenty of opportunity to find things to occupy ourselves with.
If I went back to Cambodia, Kep would be high on the places-to-return list.