I’m not sure how to write about coastal Cambodia. From the photos I have taken, it looks a stunning place. But then aren’t we all programmed to take photos of attractive vistas? Post them on Facebook to make our friends envious? The problem I have with coastal Cambodia is the omnipresent litter problem, especially the plastic rubbish. I should look beyond that, James tells me. But I would hate to write a glowing piece and someone take my word as gospel and come here and be disappointed.
So let me tell you how it is. I would not recommend Sihanoukville to anyone. It is a rubbish strewn building site. Otres beach which is suppose to be the beach to go to, was one of the worst places I have visited in Asia. Piles of old bagged rubbish litter the streets and ditches, the smell is quite unbearable. When we got on the bus to leave we were treated to a impromptu trip around the town. God only knows why! And it just confirmed my opinion.
Kampot, on the other hand is a charming little riverside town. It reminded us both of France, with its little leafy main square and sidewalk cafes. The riverside walk is lovely for an evening promenade or a meal on one of the stationery dinner boats. And of course you can’t go to Kampot without visiting a Kampot Pepper plantation.
Further along the coast close to the border with Vietnam is Kep. We travelled here by boat from Kampot and would highly recommend that as the way to arrive in Kep. We saw dolphins playing on the way. And we had our guide point out the places of interest in Kep, from the sea. There is no real centre to Kep, there is the Crab Market then round the point Kep Beach and further along is the pier.
Kep in its heyday under French rule was “Kep Sur Mer” and was resplendent with modernist villas until the 1970s. Sadly little of these are left today, but not as a result of the Khmer Rouge destroying them. The beautiful villas were stripped by poor hungry locals, and exchanged for rice and money in Vietnam.
Tips for Coastal Cambodia
To get here it is either a train trip, which only runs on the weekend or a bus. Both take about 4/5 hours. Unless of course you want to splash out on a private transfer.
Do not go to Sihanoukville. Go straight to Kampot or Kep. They are only about 20kms apart so you could stay in one and visit the other.
We stayed at Makk Hotel on the river in Kampot and would recommend it. And they do the best towel art we have seen this holiday!
Catch the Crab Shuttle from Kampot to Kep. It takes only 8 people so contact them on their Facebook page a reserve a seat. It is run by an Englishman so communication is good. The boat does a round trip so if you were staying in Kampot you could just pop to Kep for the day.
Do visit a pepper plantation. We went to La Plantation and we would highly recommend this one. The farm tour is excellent and it is free! It cost us a US$15 return tuktuk ride to get there and he happily stopped whenever we wanted to take a photo. Our hotel arranged this for us.
In Kep we stayed at The Beach House and we would totally recommend this place. It was owned by an Aussie and the influence is very obvious in the design. We went to the Sailing Club for the best sunset view and meal.