Kep is very close to Kampot and technically can be done as a day trip from there or vice versa. I wanted to have some beach time, before we move to Vietnam. As Stijn did put his veto on Sihanouk ville, we decided to say few nights in Kep. Our chosen accommodation was Khmer Hands guest house located close to the Kep National Park and with a view to the sea from the terrace of their restaurant. It is not only a guest house, but also a training centre for locals, who want to work in tourism. They have their own school on the same property and most of the employees are graduates of it. There are also cooperating with the local Don Bosco School for when they need handy young men.
We had our own bungalow again, but it was a serious upgrade. We had a spacious room with some shelves, a nice little terrace with a table and two comfy armchairs and a hot water in the bathroom! And lots of background noise from the wildlife of the jungle.
The staff and the owners of the place were very friendly, caring and helpful. No wonder, that at the time we visited, their rating on Booking.com was above 9. We had our meals in the restaurant of the guest house, that served a Cambodian and American fusion dishes. The menu is not extensive, but broad enough to be able to eat something different every time. We tried out the amok fish, several sandwiches, eggs, pancakes and other tasty things. The portions were more than sufficient. It was obvious that the owners have a clear vision why every item was on the menu.
For our 2 days and 3 nights in Kep we had 2 activities in mind – a hike in the Kep National park and paying a visit to the Rabbit island.
The first day we went for hiking. We could easily reach the territory from our guest house. We had to cross a private property to get on the trail, but the owners do not mind. It is path used by locals and visitors. As we crossed the yard two dogs joined us. One of them followed us for the first kilometres. When we stopped by the first viewpoint it was hot. Not only for us, but also for the thick furred dog. Stijn found a water tank and an empty bottle, we improvised a bowl from a banana leaf. We could reward our faithful follower with a sip of water.
The park has many information boards about the trails, the fauna and flora and the history of the park. We had come to a point where few other trails connected. The path we were on was very easy, wide and going around a mountain. We decided to try out another trail that would take us to an old dam: the dam trail. We started on a narrow path going through a forest with slight ups and downs. After a while we started to descend and the path got steeper and steeper. I was not so happy anymore. It was hot, we were walking through jungle, fighting with spider nets and I had to watch my every step not to fall. Not to mention all the snake stories that were building up in my mind.
In the middle of the jungle we came across an altar placed in big beautiful tree. And a saying of Buddha in a frame…
When the path got very steep, we found a stick that I could use for support. As we finally got down and on the next trail, I was not in my best mood anymore. But we had come to an area full with blooming bushes and butterflies. We could see hills covered with green trees, a ravine covered with palms and blue sky with few clouds. Butterflies in blue, yellow, orange, white, black, violet were crossing our way constantly. Even though the bushes and plants were leaving scratches on my legs and some big, noisy bugs were often trying to attack us, this was much nicer walk then what we did just before (I know that Stijn has a different opinion). We found the old dam, that seemed a perfect location for star watching in the night or a romantic spot for a picnic, or even a small concert.
I refused to take the same steep trail back to get to the main path that would take us to the town centre of Kep. We did not have any water left, no snack either. We were about to get hungry. We took another road along coconut plantation. On the road we saw our second snake of the trip. Luckily for us (unfortunate for the snake), someone had driven over it. It was still a little bit alive, but it could not move anymore.
I, on the other hand loved it. For a part the dam trail did more seem to be like the ‘damn’trail for Elize. Going up and down, big trees, sometimes almost crawling on hands and feet. A hike can be a little bit challenging for me to get extra pleasure out of it. And still it wasn’t that bad as Elize did describe it. The nice part about the second part through the bushes and butterflies is that it was clearly visible not many people come here. First of all: there’s no trash at all and secondly, the path is covered in spiderwebs and plants covering the trail.
Our goal was to reach the town centre and The Kep Coffee Cafe. Only 4 km to walk… We bravely started our walk along the newly made highway, sharing our road with few white cows in the heat of the sun. The road was wide and boring, we were baking in the sun and getting very hungry. After 2,5 km we gave up our bodies to a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the final destination.
The lunch was rewarding and tasty. We sticked around the Kep Coffee for a while. Stijn found a book to borrow for reading the next day on the island.
Like Khmer hands, Kep Coffee is run by Cambodian – American family. Moved to Cambodia just 2 years ago. In the past weeks we had heard so many stories of people moving to Cambodia and starting their business or just enjoying their retirement. Like the Austrian man, with whom we spoke Dutch, as it was one of 8 to 10 languages he had mastered in his life. So many exciting stories of people that have lived all around the world. Certainly gives a little nuge to look for opportunities in a little broader area than Europe.
We finished our day with another walk through the National park, taking the main path the other direction. Back in our guest house we enjoyed the terrace view with some good wine. It has been long time since we did that.
A day on the Rabbit island
Getting to the Rabbit island next day was extremely easy. We were picked up from our guest house and transported to the boat. By 10 am we were on the island covered with palm trees, bamboo terraces, floating in clear blue water. We considered options walking around the island, but I first wanted to have a little beach time. We ended up spending the whole day just on the beach. For once we had a complete “do nothing day” – laying in the sun or in the shadow of palm trees, having a swim and reading a book. Nothing more, nothing less. We also had a massage, but that is really not worth mentioning. Stijn had a longer chat with a Swedish chap, who was considering business in Cambodia or Kenya. He definitely brought some interesting perspectives to business opportunities. You have to have the courage, resources and the right skill to do that. He seemed keen enough to be able to push through.
By 4 pm our boat back to main land was leaving. We did not manage to walk further than 50 or 100 m from our spot on the beach, but we learned that the nearby Snake island was no longer a tourist attraction, as it had been sold and now is a private property. How long will it take before Rabbit island is sold too?
Kep is a strange place. It is worth to visit, to clear the head and soak up some sea air. The perfect get-away-location. The sea side promenade of the town is decorated with big sculptures of a crab and a mermaid. There is also a crab market somewhere in Kep, but we did not get that far. The other side of the sea-side road is taken by huge hotel buildings, deeper in the main land one after another resorts are spreading. But it still felt very empty. Most of the locals we met were laying in hammock near the beach, or maybe they come out after dark? After another good meal in Kep Coffee we strolled on the promenade towards our stay as we experienced a very surreal sunset, or better say – one that I did not believe existed. It was not possible to catch it with a camera. It reminded one of those tacky baby colour paintings, with sky in soft pink, sun in pale orange and the sea being something between beige blue and green. I always thought that these kind of sun sets belonged to fantasy cartoon worlds, but there it was. Not on a kitsch painting, but in real life.