Kep / Cambodia




Kep is a seaside resort east of Kampot at the Gulf of Thailand and, although a very small town, another province capital. That seems surprisingly for such a small nest. However, in the past Kep was part of Kampot Province, but became an own provincial status in 2008. It's said the long-term ruling (primeminister) Hun Sen is planning to retire here. That also explains the bombasic development of the small, remote and quiet place.

An Old Villa

Abandoned French Villa in Kep by Asienreisender

An abandoned former French villa in Kep. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Factually, Kep is a stretch of buildings, many of them resorts, hotels and guesthouses, extending over some kilometers along the coastline. The town's center is at a roundabout where the buses stop, but there is not much around except a few restaurants, small guesthouses etc. Kep is a pretty quiet place.

In the colonial past Kep was, beside from Bokor Hill Station, another relaxation place for tired French privileged officials and businessmen. A number of villas of the time are still there, nowadays in ruins. When the Vietnamese occupied Cambodia in 1979, the place got pretty demolished, at least what the Khmer Rouge left of it until then.

Although Kep looked in 2007 still half-abandoned, since then the place is getting slowly rebuilt. The main road has been extended, partially to motorway dimensions - although there is barely a car on it at the present time. But that will change as well. A considerable number of new hotels and guesthouses opened recently, all brandnew. There is accommodation for five dollars as well as for 400 dollars. The speculation phase seems to be over, the real-estate prices are high. After what is rumored, it's mostly in the hands of high officials respectively army officers who wait for potent buyers to make a good deal.

Koh Tonsay

'Koh Tonsay / Rabbit Island' by Asienreisender

Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), a small tropical tourist island with only very basic accommodation, seen from Kep. Image by Asienreisender, 7/2015

Kep is expanding, got many oversized government buildings who all look unused and rather like museum pieces, misplaced in the landscape. Parallel to the main road there is a big promenade made up, seamed with more brandnew government buildings, a broad green stripe in the middle and a smaller copy of Phnom Penh's independence memorial. Barely a soul is to see on the promenade.

Phnom Kep (Kep Mountain) is a forested hill (286m on the top) where a few good walks into the jungle are possible. One can almost surround the hill on a kind of dirt road or hiking on several narrow tracks deeper (and steeper) inside the green. Here and there one has great views over the coastline.

Kep's Crab Market

'Kep's Crab Market' by Asienreisender

Kep's 'famous' crab market, a fish market at the edge of the place. Some local stuff is offered here; it's a pretty touristic place. Image by Asienreisender, 7/2015


When I was in Kep in May 2013 the motorbike had a puncture. I had to push it some two kilometers to find a place with two guys who repair motorbikes. One guy started circumstantially to mend the hose, applying a weired metal press and set even fire on it. Didn't look good and took a long time, and suddenly the guy went off. The other guy then continued and proved the hose in water if okay now. I became impatient because of the loss of time and now he only had to put the hose back into the tyre. Two more minutes and that it was, I thought. Instead, what did the guy? He took a nail and punctured the repaired hose again. He apparently enjoyed moving the nail in the hole while extending it. Hard to believe. He was fully aware that I stood beside him, watching the sabotage. When I inquired what he was doing he was confused. Then he tried to sell me a new hose. When I declined he didn't do anything anymore. The other guy was disappeared, I couldn't find him around. So I prepared to mend the thing myself. Then the weirdo took the case over again and mended the self-made hole and finished the work. I paid the usual prize and went out.

The Road between Kep and Kampot

Crab Monument in Kep by Asienreisender

A new crab monument from 2012 in the sea. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

The road between Kampot and Kep is partially bad, but at least paved. In other, the longest parts, it's awfull. There it's not paved and that means, being on a two-wheel vehicle, swallowing a lot of dust, dust and more dust. The dust is partially so dense that the sight is almost zero. Additionally there is the biting in the eyes. As if that weren't enought, the car drivers who cause most of the dust drive like wild boars.

If the weather turns to rain then it's slippery. That's even worse, because slippery is unpredictable. When once slipped out with a motorbike, you might wish the good, old dust back. Forget about watching the magnificient landscapes to the left (limestone mountains) and the right (seaside, salines, partially some remains of formerly big mangrove forests). The drive is a pure struggle for survival. And that although it is a national road (no. 33).

The bad roads start already in Kampot town. Parts are under construction, but it takes time. And this kind of time is running very slow in the Orient.

In the dry season 2014 roadwork made progress. The bad part of the road is paved now (May 2014), although the construction is still not completed. But the situation improved much and it will pay out particularly in the next rainy season.

Meanwhile the main road between Kampot and the White Horse Monument is well-done. From the monument to Kep the road is paved but not in a good state. Broadening has already been done and it's to expect that a new asphalt coat will restorate the road in the future.

Map of Kep

Map of Kep by Asienreisender

Map of Kep and the nearer surroundings.


The Cambodian - Vietnamese Border at Prek Chak

Casino in Prek Chak by Asienreisender

Another new casino, directly at the border. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Some twenty kilometers further east of Kep, passing a wide plain with salt salines and remains of mangrove forest in brackish water and some mountains on the horizon, one reaches the Cambodian / Vietnamese border at Prek Chak. Prek Chak was soon before just a hamlet, but got it's two streets made new and gathered along of them for a few hundred meters new buildings of the usual contemporary standard type in Cambodia. The border is another dusty place and a big building site as well. Most of what is under construction there, apart from the road, are casinos. Big casinos, middle-sized casinos and small casinos, together with a variety of hotels for all the different gamblers, depending of the size of their wallets. The ensemble will include restaurants, bars and brothels as well.

This border has been opened in 2007. At my visit in 2013, the custom buildings were still provisional. At my last visit in 3/2016, they were newly made and look overdimensioned. The border routines take a much too long time. When entering Vietnam, it's mandatory to fill in a health form. The authorities charge for this additional annoyance an extra dollar. As though they would anyhow care for health - look only at the hygienic conditions in the country! However, the extra dollar is a good, additional income for a predatory, corrupt state buerocracy, I would say.

Leaving finally the customs building, there was a heavy stench of piss in the air. Just another indication for the health awareness of these authorities. 50m away is another border post placed where two officialls with the passports of the arrivers in their hands called them out loudly and handed the passports back.

That's the first, welcoming impression of Vietnam.

The Cambodian - Vietnamese Border

Cambodian Vietnamese Border at Prek Chak by Asienreisender

At the border. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

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Published on May 29th, 2013

146 | Kep

Last update on March 21st, 2016

Separated from the article 'Kampot' on August 6th, 2013