If you hear the word ‘Kampot’ in Cambodia it is usually followed by the word ‘pepper’, the town’s prime agriculture. Likewise, for the blue swimmer crabs in the neighboring town of Kep.
When you consider that there are only 25km between the two towns it is hardly surprising to learn that someone thought to put the two together, leaving us with the delicious dish known as Kampot Pepper Crab.
You can buy this seafood feast on the waterfront beautiful seaside town of Kep in Southern Cambodia. Kep is easily accessible by bus from Phnom Penh (5 hours), the Vietnamese border (2 hours) and a mere 25km from the expatriate haven of Kampot.
Originally the illustrious holiday spot of King Sihanouk, now-days the name of the game in Kep is seafood and relaxation, two things that go together very well.
During the daytime the town’s boardwalk is full with stalls selling freshly cooked seafood, fresh fruits, and of course, Kampot Pepper.
But at night the markets die down and the restaurants open up, all of them are fairly similar and all sell Kep’s prime cuisine, the Kampot Pepper Crab. It is worth arriving before sunset as the restaurants are perched right on the coastline with stunning ocean views.
Now, it is tempting to seek out the restaurant with the cheapest serving of crab along the strip, and it is certainly a sport I enjoyed. But after painstakingly breaking apart the tiny crustaceans to reach only tiny piece of meat all the while spreading the sticky sauce everywhere, I recommend looking for restaurants that sell the bigger crabs.
For those of you used to Western Style Pepper think again, Kampot Pepper is cooked fresh and rarely dried; it explodes in your mouth with a pop of flavour and is not very hot.
It may seem counterintuitive for a coastal town but the best places to stay are those a little further away from the coast because the higher ground allows for a clear view of the close-by Cambodian and Vietnamese Islands. I stayed at Q Bungalows where I spent many an afternoon watching the view from my bungalow and the pool for a mere $14 USD a night!
A warning for those afraid of creepy-crawlies, a bungalow right on the jungle line has its drawbacks. I had daily visits from giant millipedes on the doorstep, frogs in my bathroom and huge geckos pacing the roof.
If you get sick of staring dreamily off into the ocean there are some activities to keep you entertained too.
Hiring bikes is pretty inexpensive and thankfully the landscape is relatively flat – I hired one from Q Bungalow for $1USD and leisurely peddled along the coast, past the boardwalk and markets, the French colonial buildings, the town centre, the beach, the white lady statue and all the way out to the giant statue of a Blue Swimmer Crab. Yes you read that correctly; just off the coast with the serene looking islands in the background is a giant comical statue of a crab… perfect.
We also managed a climb to the top of Kep national park. The 8km Kep National Park walk is a fairly easy hike through the jungle with some lovely views of the countryside, islands and coastline. Remember to always use mosquito spray.
You can hire all sorts of water sport activities from the sailing club but the best bit about the sailing club is the cocktails (and happy hour of course).
I really wanted to visit Rabbit Island as it is a short boat ride away but the weather was not in my favour. The rain was so horrible that the boats wouldn’t risk taking the trip to the island. Those of you that have visited South East Asia would understand how big a deal this is.
I hit the 2 week mark of my 2 month journey while in Kep and I couldn’t think of a nicer place to be. I didn’t think I could get any more relaxed after my time on Koh Rong Island and at Otres Beach but Kep certainly achieved that. And a good thing too because I was due back in the big smoke, Phnom Penh ahoy!