When planning our two weeks in Cambodia, I knew it was only fair to my Dad to get some beach in there. While spoiled me had spent the past three weeks on a tropical island, my father was flying in from landlocked Albany, New York and was dying for some quality sand time. My research indicated few options for beach bumming in Southern Cambodia, the main ones being Sihanoukville, Kampot and Kep. Turned out Kampot had no beach and Sihanoukville, while I had heard great things about it, was a bit of a party town. So I settled on sleepy Kep, described by my travel bible Travelfish as “former playground of the French and Cambodian elite.” Emphasis on the former. However, part of the charm is the dilapidated and crumbling mansions and the ghost town feel. Kep gave me glimpse of life untouched by western culture- one of the most “authentic” experiences of my entire trip.
While there isn’t much to do in Kep, it’s a pleasant and walkable town. The only beach in Kep itself is a narrow strip of brown sand far from the postcard perfect beaches on the other side of the Gulf of Thailand. It’s main landmark is a large mermaid statue appearantly constructing in honor of the Cambodian fishmerman’s wives left behind waiting. While guidebooks claim the beach is unappealing for swimming, the Cambodians who frequent the place must disagree. As one of only a handful of westerners, we couldn’t resist jumping in either and I think it was pretty pleasant. The Cambodians are very modest in dress and even swim in oversized tshirts and pants and I felt slightly uncomfortable in a bikini. Note to self: Next time, pack wetsuit.