Where We Be
|This huge blue crab welcomes you to Kep
Kep is the unofficial crab capital of Cambodia.
Just 20 km from the Vietnamese border, it's a
small town right on the water with a relaxed
vibe, friendly locals, and just enough activities
in the surrounding area to keep you occupied
for a few days -- including tours of salt fields
and pepper plantations, the beaches on Rabbit
Island (Koh Tonsay), and even some burnt-out
French mansions from the Khmer Rouge era.
On our first day we asked our tuk-tuk driver to
drop us off at the far end of town. From there
we walked towards home, past an enormous
crab statue, across the newly imported white
sands of Kep Beach, and along a tiled ocean-
side path to the celebrated Kep crab market.
Here we paused for lunch at one of the stilted
restaurants overlooking the water and tried the
locally famous Kampot pepper crab. The green
pepper sauce is delicious not only on seafood
but also on beef. Our feeling is that Kep is doing
a lot of things right and is an easy town to like.
|The local landmark sits out in the water -- but that doesn't stop folks from visiting it
|Kep Beach is primarily a locals beach but that could change. They've recently
imported white sand and are building seaside lodges aimed at tourists.
|The town is dotted with interesting statues and overlook points. We
particularly enjoyed the tiled walking path that meanders along the coast.
|The stilted shacks serve Kampot pepper crab and every other kind of seafood imaginable
|Eventually we reached Kep crab market with its rows of seafood shacks
|Fresh-caught crabs are brought to the market in traps like these.
Note the woman in the background pulling a trap through the water.
|We continued on back roads to the salt fields. Seawater is pumped into shallow beds
where the water evaporates after three or four days, leaving the sea salt behind.
|This local boy stands above blindingly white sea salt. We got to taste it, and yep, it tastes just like sea salt!
|The salt fields continue all the way from Kep to the Vietnamese border
|Salt baskets are used to transport the salt into storehouses with metal roofs to keep the rain off
|Heading home, we passed numerous French houses that had been destroyed during the
Khmer Rouge era when anything smacking of wealth or privilege was considered fair game
|One of the joys of backroad travel is meeting kids like these. We called out hello and they lit up with big smiles
and called hello back. The warmth of the Cambodian people is something: smiles are the norm here.
|This is the actual Kep crab market, where women bargain in little knots over recently caught crabs
|The next day we went on a "Salt ‘n Pepper Tour." Our tuk-tuk's first stop was for gas,
which comes in three colors: yellow, orange, and green. Only in Cambodia!
|Our tuk-tuk-driver took us on back roads through rural countryside, past scenes of local
farming life: oxen pulling carts, cows grazing on dry rice paddies, and wooden stilt homes
|Eventually we arrived at Sothy's, a pepper plantation. Up close we could see the young green peppers,
which are unripe berries of the pepper plant best eaten within three days of picking (and so good!)
|Our guide showed us the pepper vines intertwining on wooden poles and covered with palm leaves for shade
|Three circular drying trays contain red, black, and white peppercorns. The reds are the most mature and are highly valued, the blacks are
green peppercorns that have been allowed to dry in the sun, and the whites are the reds that have been soaked and with the skins removed.
|We ended our walk with a dip in the Zen-like infinity pool at Kep Botanica. With
its lightly salinated water and perfect temperature it was the ideal finish to the day.
|The open-air French restaurant at Kep Botanica also serves terrific food --
from beef filet with Kampot green peppers to shrimp flambee and stuffed squid
|Our walking tour of Kep started at this picnic hangout. Crab vendors take your order and bring your food to you. You pay for your
family's spot for the day along with your order of crab or seafood (about $10). In another hour this place will be packed with locals.
|Kampot green pepper sauce is delightful. Since it takes a lot of work to
tease out the crabmeat, we discovered we liked it even better on beef.