5 Reasons to Visit Kampot, Cambodia

Adventure Travel, Cambodia, Travel

Kampot, a small town near the coast in Cambodia, is slowly making a name for itself among backpackers and luxury tourists alike who want to slow down and appreciate the subtle pleasures of travel. If you love having mountains, hiking, water sports, nature, and relaxation all in one place, here are five reasons to visit Kampot during your next trip to Cambodia.

reasons to visit Kampot

Approaching Kampot on my Cambodia Bike Tour

1. Stay in a Guesthouse on the Kampot River

Kampot is spread out along a river, known in Khmer as “Preak Tuek Chhu”. In town, there is a small park and paths for walking, along with docks where the tourist boats wait for passengers on the evening river cruise. But the real highlight of Kampot takes place upriver, where plenty of guesthouses are tucked away in the lush jungle, offering bungalows on the Kampot river for as low as $6 a night.

During my last trip to Kampot, I stayed in the Kampot River Bungalows. This is the cheapest option and I have to say I loved it. The bungalows are very simple: small wooden huts perched on stilts in the river or set back in the jungle, furnished with little but some bamboo shelves, a thin mattress on a bed, a fan, and a mosquito net. The family that runs the guesthouse is really welcoming. The common area overlooking the river is one of the most peaceful places in all of Cambodia.

Further upriver, backpacker haunts like Arcadia, Greenhouse, or High Tide offer swimming, tubing, rope swings, and parties. If you’re looking for a social guesthouse or hostel that’s also an escape from reality, head up that way.

No matter which riverside guesthouse you choose, you’ll get to spend your days lazing in a hammock watching the fishing boats glide by. If you’re feeling more active, you can rent a kayak or even try stand-up paddle boarding on the river. The Kampot River is the perfect place to spend a day, a week, or even longer.

bokor mountain kampot

Entrance to Bokor National Park

2. Climb Bokor Mountain and Visit the Bokor Hill Station

Bokor Mountain is one of the top tourist activities in Kampot and for good reason. It rises above Kampot town, wreathed in clouds during the rainy season, usually still foggy even in the dry. Perched on top is a ruined French resort, built in the early 20th century for luxuriating colonials. Today, you can still visit the ruins of the old hotel and there is a modern (and ugly) resort and casino up there as well.

The normal way to visit Bokor Mountain is either through a tour or on a moto. You can easily rent a moto in town for $4 and drive yourself up the hill. I drove up in the rainy season and even with the wet and cold, it was still a great drive. Bring layers though because it gets cold up there!

Once you get to the top, you’ll get incredible views of the surrounding countryside, as well as the ocean, and even Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island in the distance. The old French resort still stands but as of May 2017, the building was closed off to visitors.

For a real challenge, rent a mountain bike in town and try to cycle up to Bokor Hill Station. It’s about 10km (6 miles) from town to the start of the ride, then 35km (21 miles) up to the top. It’s not a steep grade, but it is consistently uphill for the entire 21 miles, so get ready to climb. The downhill afterwards makes it all worth it.

Entrance to Bokor Mountain National Park on a motorbike is 2000riel ($0.50) and it’s free on a bicycle.

bokor hill station kampot

Bokor Hill Station

3. Cycle A Countryside Tour of Kampot Pepper Farms, Salt Flats, and Caves

The countryside around Kampot is a prime spot for exploring typical Cambodian rural life. Rice fields lined with red dirt roads spread out into the distance. Kampot pepper farms grow the coveted spice and offer tours. Drop by for a visit and pick up a bag of overpriced pepper to take home. The name brand “Kampot Pepper” costs $70 a kilo, a completely ridiculous price. How could the average Cambodian afford that? Or even want to?

Other than pepper farms, other highlights are the salt flats, a wide area of farm fields out near the sea that are used to cultivate, you guessed it, salt. You can get a stunning view of the salt flats with Bokor Hill rising up beyond them just a little ways outside of town.

Lastly, visit some of the caves that surround Kampot. Phnom Chhngok is a popular choice, a small cave that has an ancient Angkorian temple built inside of it. Entrance is $1 and there are usually some kids hanging around who will give you a tour.

Salt flats Kampot Cambodia

Kampot Salt Flats with Bokor in the distance

4. Engage in Responsible Tourism at Epic Arts Cafe

This cafe is genuinely one of my favorite spots in town but there are more reasons to visit beyond the scrumptious paninis and decadent carrot cake. Epic Arts Cafe supports Epic Arts, the organization. In their own words, Epic Arts believes that “every person counts”. They use the arts as a tool to empower disabled people in Cambodia, helping them gain confidence and find their own space in society.

Not only does the money you spend at the cafe go back to the organization but you can get a sense of their work while you eat. They have a gallery upstairs to showcase student work, you can buy souvenirs made by their beneficiaries, and most of the staff at the cafe are deaf or disabled in some way. You can even learn some Khmer sign language from the signs and books sitting on the tables.

I totally recommend checking out this cafe. It’s honestly one of the reasons I came to Kampot to begin with. The cheese and tomato panini is delicious. And you can get french press coffee! Yum.

Epic Arts Cafe Kampot Panini

Cheese and Tomato Panini at Epic Arts Cafe

5. Take a Day Trip to Kep

If you follow my blog, you’ll know how much I love Kep. During my bike tour around Cambodia, I spent three days there hiking in the national park, exploring old ruins, eating great food, and trying to explore everything there is to do in Kep.

But if you’re based out of Kampot, you might only have time to take a day trip to Kep. The good news is, it’s only 26km (16 miles) away, so you can easily rent a moto and head out to Kep for a quick day trip.

If you’ve only got one day in Kep, I recommend taking your moto and driving around the Kep National Park trail. It’s a dirt road but very easy to drive. You’ll get amazing views of all the different parts of Kep. If you have extra time, I recommend hiking up to Sunset Rock. The whole hike is pretty short, should take only 1 to 2 hours.

After you explore the park, head down to the fish markets to eat some of Kep’s famous blue crab. You can buy it fresh at the market or have one of the restaurants prepare it for you. If you choose to go to the market, there are people there who can steam or sauté your crab on site (5000 riel or $1.25), and you can buy a plate of rice for 1000riel ($0.25). At the restaurants, the dishes are more expensive but you’re paying for presentation and atmosphere as well as the crab.

In the markets, a kilo of crab is $6 and feeds two people. So for two people, a kilo of crab sautéed with fresh peppercorns and a plate of rice will cost you $7.50.

If you still have more time in Kep, I recommend driving over to the beach to see how Khmer people do beach days. Or take some time to explore the town and find all the ruined mansions. There is also a butterfly farm and a few other tourist attractions that can help you pass the time.

Kep is a beautiful little seaside town perfect for a slightly adventurous morning. But don’t be surprised if you fall in love and end up spending few days there.

views kep national park

Kep National Park Views

Kampot: Cambodia’s Relaxing Getaway

I love Kampot. It’s the perfect place to escape from the rigors of long-term travel. Get yourself a bungalow on the river, rent a moto, and idle away a week lazing by the river or driving around the countryside. I promise you won’t regret it.


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5 Reasons to Visit Kampot Cambodia This Year: Where to Stay in Kampot, What to do in Kampot, the best adventure travel and relaxation5 Reasons to Visit Kampot Cambodia This Year: Where to Stay in Kampot, What to do in Kampot, the best adventure travel and relaxation5 Reasons to Visit Kampot Cambodia This Year: Where to Stay in Kampot, What to do in Kampot, the best adventure travel and relaxation

Hiking in Kep National Park – Off The Beaten Path in Cambodia

Adventure Travel, Cambodia, Travel

The idyllic seaside village of Kep sits on the Cambodian coast only 26km (16 miles) from Kampot. Famous for its delicious blue crab, most tourists spend half a day in Kep, driving out for the morning or afternoon. But those willing to dig a little deeper – Kep offers a rare chance to hike through the jungle on well marked trails without a guide. For an independent outdoor lover visiting Cambodia, a visit to Kep National Park makes for an enjoyable day.

History of Kep National Park

remarkable fig tree kep national parkThe town of Kep is situated on a small peninsula jutting out into the Bay of Thailand. A small mountain looms above the sea, with houses perched around it’s base. Kep was once a coveted vacation spot for rich Cambodians and French Colonials, both for its beach and also for the many gorgeous art deco houses overlooking the sea. That came to an end with the onset of civil war and the subsequent Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s.

When the war was finally finished, Kep began the slow and arduous process of pulling itself back together. Part of this effort involved designating the mountains of Kep as a National Park. In 1993, the Cambodian government set aside 50 square km as protected land. But for many years, the park sat unused, forlorn and forgotten.

Then, in 2007, a French expatriate partnered up with the local authorities to begin building a network of trails in the park. Today, there are many kilometers of trails criss crossing the mountain; some accessible by moto or mountain bike and other single track hiking trails. All the trails are well marked, and maps can be found at Led Zep Cafe.

The trails in Kep National Park are not particularly challenging, but there are some steep sections. A basic level of fitness is needed. Remember that you are trekking through a jungle so use caution and don’t just blindly reach out to grab at trees or sticks – they just might be snakes.

trail markers kep national park

Trail markers in the park

I was lucky enough to visit Kep in May, 2017, and I loved the town so much I spent three days there. Here is a round up of my favorite trails for hiking and mountain biking in Kep National Park.

Best Hiking and Biking Trails in Kep National Park

main trail kep national park

Entrance to the park

Bopha Prasidh Road – 8km

This dirt road circles the park at the base of the mountain. Most of the road is raised up above the town, so you’ll get plenty of beautiful vistas of Kep, the sea, and even Phu Quoc island in the distance.

The trail is wide enough and smooth enough to be driven on a moto, as many visitors do, but I chose to ride my mountain bike around it. It’s also possible to walk the path as well.

At one point the dirt road spills out onto a paved road. Stay close to the mountain and you’ll head back up onto a dirt road again soon.

  • Pros: Great views of the surrounding countryside and seashore, with chances to spot some wildlife if you’re quiet and lucky.
  • Cons: Not a physical challenge, have motorbikes passing by every now and again.
  • Best For: Mountain Biking or Driving
view from Sunset Rock Kep National Park

View from Sunset Rock

Sunset Rock

The Sunset Rock trail is a moderately difficult hike up to a rocky outcropping overlooking the Bay of Thailand and Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island. To begin, take Bopha Prasidh Road until you find the transverse trail. In May 2017 the transverse trail was not marked, so keep an eye out for a very steep trail cutting directly up the mountainside. After a steep beginning, turn right at the sign for Sunset Rock. From here the trail levels out. Overall, the trail is narrow but well maintained.

  • Pros: Stunning view of Kep and the ocean.
  • Cons: Tons of mosquitos – bring spray!
  • Best for: Breaking a sweat and getting an epic view. Bring a headlamp or flashlight if planning to stay for sunset.
Little Buddha Kep National Park

Little Buddha on the way to Phnom Kep

Phnom Kep

This is the trail that takes you up to the summit of the National Park. Phnom Kep sits at just about 300m above sea level, so while it isn’t exactly the most rigorous climb, it’s still a fun hike. There are several different routes to get up to the summit. All begin with the transverse trail. From there, follow the signs to Phnom Kep.

I took the Sunset Rock and Little Buddha route up, which wasn’t very steep, then took the Stone Horse route down.

  • Pros: Break a sweat and get to reach the summit
  • Cons: No view from the top.
  • Best For: Getting to say you bagged a peak in Cambodia. Just don’t mention the elevation.
little critters in Kep national Park

Critters on the trail

How to Get There

Getting to Kep National Park is quite easy. If you’re driving into town on the main road from Kampot, follow the signs for the National Park from the roundabout where the road splits for the Market, Beach, and Park.
From there, the road heads uphill, the entrance to the park is behind the Veranda Natural Resort.

Entrance fee: $2 per day.

Phnom Kep Kep national park

No views but at least you get this funny sign at the summit

What Next?

After you finish up exploring the park, head down to the crab market to taste some of Kep’s famous blue crab, pulled right out of the sea to order. Ride on over to the beach to check out how local Cambodian people like to enjoy the seaside. If you’ve got plenty of time and love urban decay, try to find some of the deserted mansions left over from Kep’s golden era.

If you’re coming to Cambodia, I highly recommend adding Kep to your travel plans. It’s an often skipped over town, but it deserves more visitors. I loved hiking in Kep National Park – I saw monkeys, crazy insects, and found some great photo opportunities. In my opinion, Keep is a hidden gem of Cambodia.

Have you been to Kep National Park? What did you think?


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Get off the path in Cambodia and try hiking in Kep National Park near Kampot. Best Cambodia Travel Tips from Into Foreign Lands

Bike Tour Cambodia: Kampot to Phnom Penh

Adventure Travel, Cambodia, Travel

How strong can your body get over just 3 weeks? Could it really be possible that riding 100km could go from impossible to easy? And do my legs have the strength to race the rain?

It’s been awhile since I sat down and wrote one of these trip reports. But here you go, this is what happens when you try to ride a bike from Kampot to Phnom Penh, via Kep and Angk Ta Saom.

Kampot To Kep: The Short Day of Pleasant Surprises

After two days in Kampot, riding motos up mountains and kicking it in cafes, it was time to make the incredibly short 26km ride out to Kep. It could easily have been a day trip, but I had other plans.

The ride from Kampot to Kep follows Highway 33, a well paved road in good condition. It cuts through several different Community Based Tourism initiatives, marked by their big green signs with arrows on the highway. I turned off the road to go explore one but after the recent rains the road was in terrible condition. I was forced to abort.

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Welcome to Kep

Back on road 33 I road until the turn for Kep, featuring a statue of a white horse rearing into the air. Why a horse in particular? Not sure. Take the right hand turn and follow that road until you reach Kep. You’ll know it by the signs for guesthouses, and the big green sign that reads BEACH.

A Surprisingly Nonsensical Arrival in Kep

Kep, or Kep Sur Mer as the French once called it, is a small town situated on a peninsula that juts out into the bay of Thailand. The peninsula is dominated by a fairly small “mountain” rising to an imposing 300m (984ft). Bungalows and boutique accommodation dot the lower hillsides and a massive, four lane road sweeps around the perimeter, providing access to all the major attractions, and a neat loop back up to road 33.

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Road through Kep

As I cycled into town I couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of this massive road. It was one of the cleanest and most modern roads I’ve ever seen in Cambodia. Once you pass the construction just off road 33, it turns into smooth blacktop that is four lanes wide.

Who are they expecting?

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Welcome to Kep Cambodia

Kep is in many ways a beach resort turned ghost town. Picture Cape Cod in the winters except it isn’t winter. The infrastructure is set up to receive a massive tourist influx but the tourists never arrived.

Oh well. I love quiet, deserted towns, especially on this bike ride, so I was pumped. Kampot had been too crowded for me after the solitude of my ride and I was charmed by Kep’s empty streets and deserted accommodations.

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View from the guesthouse

I checked into Tree Top Bungalows, a cute but slightly overpriced guesthouse nestled into the foothills of the mountain. I say overpriced because I saw online that there were bungalows for $5 but I had to pay $7. Oh well. It isn’t the best hotel in Kep, but it is the cheapest.

After that it was time to explore all that Kep had to offer.

What To Do in Kep, Cambodia

There are basically three main things to do in Kep: go to the beach, eat at the crab market, and explore the Kep National Park. Obviously I went for the national park first.

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Kep National Park Views

The park sits on the mountain in the center of the peninsula. A frenchman who owns a cafe up there has spend the last 10 years creating and maintaining a network of trails and roads that wind around and over the mountain.

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Kep National Park Critters

The most popular trail is a small road that circles the mountain. It’s a 7km trail that is more or less level, in alright condition, and doable on a moto, bicycle, or by walking. I road my mountain bike around it. It’s not overly technical but it’s more fun than riding on pavement.

The park costs $1 per day for use. There is a sign off the main road pointing to the entrance. Just follow the road up to the gate, then follow that dirt road all the way around. At one point maybe 4km in, the road turns into pavement again. Stick to the right and you’ll find the dirt road again about 1km further down.

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Mountain Bike and Moto trail in Kep National Park

After the national park, I went to check out the famous fresh Kep Crab market. I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible and fun the market is. There are a series of restaurants right on the water where I assume you can have someone cook up your crab and serve it to you on a nice place for a premium.

If you want to do it the rustic way, head down all the way to the end (or the beginning) to the rougher looking market stalls. Walk all the way back to the water and you’ll find people hauling up crates of crabs straight from the reef. You can buy fresh crab from the women there. A half kilo is enough for one person, 1 kilo is enough to share. 1 kilo is $6, or five if you are particularly good at negotiating.

Once you get your crabs, you have two options: you can have them steamed on site or have them chopped up and fried with fresh green Kampot pepper and a mild spicy sauce. I HIGHLY recommend the peppercorn fry. Having your crabs cooked is an extra 5000 riel or $1.25

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Kep Crab cooked in Kampot Pepper

Women in the market will sell you rice for 1000 riel or $0.25. Have a seat at one of the tables, order a sugarcane juice (2000 riel, $0.50) and enjoy your gourmet seafood meal right there.

After my late lunch in the market, I headed back to Kep National Park to try out some of the trails that cut up into the hill.

To access these, head up the dirt road from the gate until you see a trail heading off to your right. This is the transverse trail. It was pretty steep at the beginning, so I opted to chain my bike to a nearby tree and head out on foot. That afternoon I followed the signs to Sunset Rock to get a nice view of Kep beach and Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island in the distance.

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View from Sunset Rock in Kep National Park

Hiking to Sunset Rock in Kep National Park took me probably 30 minutes. It’s steep at first, then a fairly level walk around the mountain to the rock.

Headed back to Tree Top for some dinner and a decision. Should I ride to Phnom Penh the next day, or did Kep deserve one more day of exploring?

In the end, I spend two more days in Kep. Hiked to the top of the mountain, road my mountain bike around the trail again, had another lunch at the crab market. I also spent some time exploring the deserted mansions from Kep’s heyday in the 1960s. A really fascinating and ghostly view of Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge changed everything.

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View over to Kampot from Kep National Park

But all good things must come to an end, and after three days I had to head out. I needed to get to Phnom Penh to extend my visa for 6 months, and anyway, I was missing the open road.

Cycling from Kep to Phnom Penh

From Kep, I took Highway 33 towards the Vietnam border, then followed Highway 31 up until it meets Road 3 just south of a small town called Angk Ta Saom, which, I hoped, would have a guesthouse. The whole day would be 93km, a distance that had almost killed me just a week before on my way from Koh Kong to Kampot.

Would it kill me today? I admit, I was nervous.

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Road to Phnom Penh

From the beginning, the roads were quiet. I flew along their flat surfaces through wide open rice fields and quaint villages. It was the kind of picturesque day I had imagined when I dreamed up this trip in my apartment in Battambang.

I had to deal with the occasional truck flying by but for the most part it was just me and my daydreams cycling down the road, pedaling to the rhythm of my breath.

Along the way I passed by Kampong Trach, a small town that featured an unexpectedly stunning view. Rock formations like those that characterize east Asian landscape paintings rose up from a flooded wetland. It looked like a pretty great place for some rock climbing.

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Kampong Trach

The rest of the day was smooth sailing through rice fields. Minus the two flat tires (YES TWO) in one day. I also met a peace corp volunteer along the side of the road just after lunch. Like most peace corp volunteers I’ve met in my years abroad, she seemed friendly, happy, and a bit starved for English language conversation.

Let’s talk about flat tires and the trouble they cause.

My last flat tire of the day came 10km outside of my destination, Angk Ta Saom. It also happened to be on a pretty deserted slice of road. I didn’t have any extra inner tubes with me, so I had to wander off down a nearby dirt road until I walked into a village.

In my best Khmer, I asked around for a mechanic and was eventually pointed to someone’s house. Indeed the guy there could fix my tire, and of course the whole village had to come out and watch.

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Fixing a flat in Kep

As with many things in rural Cambodia, fixing my bike tire was a leisurely affair. They took their sweet time, because whats the rush? Nothing else was going to happen that afternoon.

Except for me, the rush was building in the sky to the north, threatening me with impending doom.

Deep purple clouds were gathering in the sky, an ominous rumbling beginning to sound from far off. The wind started to sweep across the rice fields, bringing dust and garbage.

The tempest was about to begin.

The villager fixing my bike continued on at his leisurely pace. Stopping to just kind of sit there, or talk to someone else, or just look at me.

I tried not to get frustrated. It was only 10 more kilometers. I’d be fine.

At long last, the bike was repaired. Ahead of me, the sky was a warning sign. Dark clouds pregnant with rain gathered on either side, with just a narrow strip of light blue sky between them, seemingly positioned just over the road. I knew that when those two rain clouds met, I was fucked.

Those 10km were the fastest I’ve ridden yet on this trip. My heart rate had to be up above 180. It was a full on sprint. My muscles were screaming, my lungs dying, and my mind was frantically praying to the Cambodian spirits to please just hold off the rain for 10 more minutes.

The sprinkles started as I reached Road 3. Only 4 more kilometers to go. I ignored my protesting muscles and continued to race. Would I make it? I had to make it.

As I passed the road marker that said “Angk Ta Saom 2km” the heavens opened. The rain came down, first in fat splattering droplets, then in a heavy pour. I screamed, shouted, but kept riding. 2km! You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

I wasn’t going to stop 2km short of town.

Thankfully, just as the water began pouring down in sheets, I saw a sign for a guesthouse. I pulled in gratefully and even though it wasn’t yet 3pm, asked for a room. The bewildered looking Khmer family that owned the place showed me to a simple yet clean room and left me alone.

As I sat in the room, I took stock of my day. I’d just ridden about 95km, with the last 10km being a full on sprint. I felt good. I felt like I could ride another 50km if I needed to. I felt like 90km was basically nothing, a walk in the park.

I was getting stronger.

That was one of the best gifts I’ve received from this ride.

Bussing to Phnom Penh

I’m not happy about it but I had promised my mom I would take a bus into Phnom Penh, avoiding the heavily trafficked road 3. And that is exactly what I did. I found a bus stop in Angk Ta Saom and hopped on a bus coming up from Kampot the next morning. Made it to Phnom Penh by noon.

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Gateway on the road to Phnom Penh

Since then, I’ve been in Phnom Penh waiting for my 6 month visa to Cambodia to come through. I’ve ridden into and out of the city numerous times on day trips. Yes, riding in the city is stressful but it’s totally manageable.

So if any other bike tourist are reading this, just don’t tell your mom about it and cycle into Phnom Penh. You’ll be fine.

Next up is a 154km day out to Kampong Cham and then it’s up into the remote mountain wilderness of Mondolkiri!

Let’s see what happens.

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Bike Tour Cambodia Kampot to Phnom Penh

In Photos: The Deserted Mansions of Kep, Cambodia

Adventure Travel, Cambodia, Travel, Uncategorized

Kep, Cambodia. Or as the French once called it, Kep Sur Mer, is a small seaside town that was once a romantic getaway for the rich and famous of Cambodia’s bourgeois class. Jungle clad mountains rolling into turquoise waters made it the perfect escape for upper class Phnom Penhoise. That is, until upheaval, genocide, and decades of civil war ripped Cambodia into pieces, leaving behind only the ruined mansions of Kep, a ghostly reminder of what once was here.

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The Golden Age of Kep

Back in the 1920s, when Cambodia was still under French control, the French turned Kep into a seaside resort town. And when King Father Sihanouk of Cambodia negotiated a peaceful independence from France in 1953, the Cambodian upper class continued the trend, turning Kep into an elegant seaside getaway.

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Part of that transformation included the building of sophisticated modern and art-deco style houses in the mountains overlooking the sea. These structures, designed by some of the most fashionable architects of the 1960s, including the beloved Vann Molyvann, reflect the so-called “golden age of Cambodia.” To my untrained eye, they’d fit right in among the art-deco houses of Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon.

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Kep’s Violent Upheaval

When the Lon Nol government took over Phnom Penh in 1970, expelling King Sihanouk, construction of these mansions was put on hold. That construction was halted forever when the Khmer Rouge came to power.

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Given its location in between Phnom Penh and Vietnam, Kep was affected by the war in Vietnam and the wars in Cambodia. When the Khmer Rouge took over the city, they rounded up Kep’s upper class, forced them into a gas station, and lit the building on fire.

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Kep’s fortunes didn’t look good even after the “fall” of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. A faction of the Khmer Rouge continued the fight in the hills and mountains of Kampot and Kep until well into the 90s. By then, the romantic lifestyle of the 1960’s felt like a dream, slipping away and tinged with horror.

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Today, Kep is finally in a full blown recovery. Khmer families travel from across the country to relax by the shore and enjoy Kep’s famous blue crab. Foreign tourists travel for a day trip from Kampot. Some, like me, decide to stay for a few days. Kep is a relaxed and beautiful seaside town but the scars of its violent past live on.

IMG_0177The Abandoned Houses of Kep, Cambodia

Just a cursory drive around the town reveals glimpses of Kep’s abandoned houses poking out of the jungle. Spend a day exploring the back streets and you’ll come across ruin after ruin, like a sick modern parody of Angkor Wat. Many of the houses have been reclaimed by the jungle, some are gone forever, marked only by the 1960’s era wall surrounding the overgrown plot of land.

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Still others have been reclaimed by Kep’s population, filled with squatters and families who, perhaps too poor or perhaps too afraid to relive the painful memories, live in the broken down ruins without rebuilding.

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In today’s Cambodia, where the land is more valuable than their cultural heritage, these ruins face an uncertain future. Many have already been torn down in the face of new development, and many more will soon be removed as well.

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But I was in love with these ghosts of Cambodia’s golden age. I found them compelling and haunting, pulling me back in time to a Cambodia before the fearsome pain of the Khmer Rouge wars. I hope, for Cambodia’s sake and for tourists’ sake, that someone protects these 1960’s mansions of Kep, keeping at least a few of them safe for the next generation of curious explorers.

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