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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Coming from Kampot, I was expecting a similar experience in Kep. Kep is an even smaller, seaside town less than 30 minutes from the Vietnam border. I stayed at the Boat House Guesthouse, which was a really beautiful place and a splurge at $12/night. Kep is known for its crabs and the signature dish there is pepper crab. Fellow travelers had recommended a place called Kimly and it was also recommended by the guesthouse. I went there and had the pepper crab, it was really good. They literally go out to the sea to get your crab, then cook it to order. I also checked out the crab market. It was smaller than I had expected, but Kep is a very small town. I got to see locals selecting their crabs and haggling over price. It looked like a lot of fun. I headed back to my guesthouse and things stopped being so fun. The sign at the Boat House restaurant says the kitchen is open until 10 pm. I went to eat dinner a little before 7 and it was a ghost town. The only employee who speaks English had gone for the day and the other 2 workers totally ignored me. I could see the kitchen from the restaurant and it was probably for the better that I didn’t eat there. I ate nearly a kilogram of mangosteens I had bought at the market in Kampot (for just $1.25!) and went to bed. I purchased transportation to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) for $10 through the guesthouse. Rabbit Island is about a 30 minute boat ride from Kep and features beach bungalows and very few people. I would spend the day and the night on Rabbit Island, then head to Vietnam the following afternoon. I shared a boat with 3 very cool people that I spent my time on RI with. They paid $8.50 each for their transportation. We stayed at Yeay Orm koh Tunsay Guest House and it was $7 for a private bungalow with a hammock overlooking the beach. Food prices were cheaper than Kep, which was the most expensive place I went in Cambodia. We had lunch, then hiked around the island. It was pretty and scenic despite the overcast weather. I got a Khmer massage on the beach for $5 and had a very nice day on RI. My boat back to Kep was supposed to leave at 8 am and I called the travel agent to confirm. He questioned why I didn’t stay at the guesthouse he recommended and let me know that the boat driver would meet me at my guesthouse. After waiting more than an hour, I went to the boat landing area at 8:30. Two French girls were waiting for any boat back to Kep and we were able to get a ride from a fisherman that was taking some rich Khmer kids back to the mainland. It cost $5 for the 3 of us! I paid triple the price through my guesthouse and their travel agency and didn’t even get picked up from the island. When we reached Kep, the tuktuk driver from the travel agency was at the pier. I had him take me to the agency so I could talk with the manager. I explained the situation and told him that I would like $5 back since they only fulfilled half of their obligation. He gave me $1.50 to cover most of what I had to pay to get back from RI after his guy didn’t show up. Things got a little ugly and we had a brief, one sided discussion about business ethics… After I had thrown the money back in his face, taken pictures of him and his business, and promised to blast him on my blog, lonely planet and trip advisor, the driver refused to take me back to the guesthouse to pick up my backpack. I guess I should have waited until I was about to get on the bus out of Kep to have that conversation… It was only about a half mile walk each way and I had more than enough energy to make the trip several times over. While I was waiting at the bus stop, which happened to be directly across the street from the travel agent, it started raining. A lady working at the bus stop restaurant was having difficulty moving an umbrella with a concrete base into place. I moved it for her and she invited me to come sit down in the restaurant so I didn’t get wet. She was sweet, kind, and nice. This was my last experience in Cambodia and summed up the country perfectly. There are people like the travel agent and people like the lady at the restaurant. The place itself is wonderful and you can’t let the scum pollute that. There is way too much scum for my liking in Kep and I do not see myself going back there.

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