When people think of Cambodia they think of war, atrocities and temples like Angkor Wat. What they don’t think about is beaches, amazing seafood and tiny unspoilt towns and islands.
Here’s what we did to break away from the normal holiday, and enjoy an amazing holiday in Cambodia.
We arrived in Phnom Penh and caught a taxi downtown to the riverside. Should cost $12 but we got fleeced for $15 and then short changed from the $20 we gave, but hey, its just a few dollars and we should have done the research.
We stayed at the Blue Corner which is a short hike from the Riverside, but we wanted peace and quiet on our sleep in as we knew we’d hit it pretty hard in the colourful clubs later that night.
First stop after dropping our bags, showering and doing a quick change from USD into local currency (which isn’t really necessary as USD is used for all purchases from 1 dollar upwards) was the riverfront for some local taste treats and a sunset beer on the water. The food failed to disappoint and was amazing. Get stuck into the Amok, its legendary stuff. A local curry with coconut milk and can be had with beef, chicken or fish etc.
We washed this down with some well priced happy hour local draft beer for about 75 cents a pop. Cracking start to the trip.
After a short pitstop home to freshen up, it was time to hit some of the top night spots in Phnom Penh and have a laugh at some of the most colourful people on this great planet. If you’ve never been to these types of bars, do yourself a favour and go. We were a group of three and two were a couple, so we were there to sing, dance and to observe. What a brilliant night out it can be if you keep your witt’s and make sure you are alert and don’t be a dick. Check out….
After a late finish it was back to the hotel for a long sleep and a recharge.
Breakfast on the river at Paddy Rice was just what the doctor ordered. Bacon, sausages, eggs, toast and coffee to help exercise the alcohol demons from the night before and soon had us all fit and ready to tackle the 4 hour commute to the stunning and peaceful coastal town of Kep.
We hired a private car which is about 63 USD for a sedan and 75 for a 4WD. A fast (good?) Driver can do the trip in about 3 hours. And the road is more hair raising due to erratic drivers than peaceful or relaxing.No chance of grabbing a kip on the way.
We arrived late afternoon, checked into a quaint little place called Cheng Lee Natural Resort, which is more of a send up of a resort than a resort itself. It is quiet I will give them that, and its well constructed, but its mainted by a comedic duo that would struggle to tie their own shoe laces.
After freshening up we ventured down to the sailing club which is probably the best layout of any seaside eatery I have ever seen. If only the food was as good. For about 25 USD a head you can certainly find better in Kep. However the sunset was one I will never forget
We had been told the Rabbit Island day trip via a 25 minute boat ride was not to be missed. So we booked ahead at a tour operator at Kep beach, paid our $8 round trip fee and where all ready for our 830am pick up.
The tuk tuk came to the hotel on time and hurtled us down to the marina pier. However, it had occurred to us that the near gale force winds would make it hard to sail. Sure enough, after about 30 minutes we had been advised the seas were too rough and to try again tomorrow.
Having no ‘plan b’ we decided to get motorbikes (these were arranged through our hotel for 7 USD a day) and we drove to the entrance of the national park which is about 5 minutes from Kep beach. We then began to hike the 12 km trail through the up and down terrain and trails that make up the park.
About 5kms into our journey we discovered a sign saying ‘gibbon valley and cold drinks’. We saw a steep descent and no end to the path, and suddenly images of wolf creek or some kind of gruesome missing people horror movie sprang to mind. We were wrong and it was well worth the climb down.
At the bottom there was a rustic but charming little bar and a few huts. We were greeted by a very hospitable Australian owner and host and we stopped for a cool drink and got to play with little monkeys.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, why are there monkeys on chains?. When you hear the story you’ll be an avid supporter of the cause. These little monkeys are orphans and their parents are quite often killed for food. The local villagers eat them. They are taken in and looked after and have a very wonderful life. They are like children to the owner and if it wasn’t for her they almost certainly wouldn’t be alive. So stop by, buy a drink, and make a donation. Well worth the stop.
After another 7 kms or so, a brief stop at a butterfly farm and several other landmarks, we made our way back to the starting point at cafe Led Zep, where we enjoyed a cheese crepe and fresh lime juice with a brilliant view as a backdrop.
After a quick pitstop at the hotel to freshen up and change, we headed to dinner at the crab markets at a place called Kimly. At 45 USD for 3 people, we were pleasantly surprised. This was probably our best seafood meal in Kep. The squid coconut curry was amazing. As were the prawns. A must try for dinner while in Kep. After a quick nightcap at the Sailing Club bar, it was time to turn in and prepare for take 2 of Rabbit Island.
Another skipped breakfast and a pick up at 830am in a tuk tuk and we were off to the pier on yet another windy day, for take 2 of our trip to Rabbit Island.
Despite the wind we were given the green light and we made the 20 minute journey across a choppy sea to the island. It didn’t dissapoint. Despite its modest accommodation and eco friendly huts, it provides a respite from the mainland and gets you as close to village life as possible. We spent 7 lazy hours eating seafood, getting Oceanside massages and sleeping in hammocks. Wonderful lazy day.
We caught a 4pm boat back on much calmer waters and then headed for dinner to the aptly named Holy Crab. Yes, this is possibly the best named restaurant in the entire world. The food was also very good and at 65 USD I thought pretty reasonable.
After dinner, we went to the only club on Kep, Bee Bee Club. It serves only beer which costs 10 USD for a tower and was full of local men. The sign at the front made it clear that there were no grenades, guns or knives allowed. We drank quickly and exited as it didn’t feel safe or accommodating. Worth the experience though.
To be continued…