Back in the 1960s, when Sihanoukville was just a fishing village, KEP, 25km from Kampot, was already an affluent seaside resort. Subsequent events were unkind to the town, but today, though now eclipsed by Sihanoukville, it is making a spirited comeback as a day-trip destination from Phnom Penh. It’s not the beach (narrow, dark brown) that brings people here, however. Cambodians largely come for the food – particularly the offerings at the crab market – while foreigners linger to enjoy Kep’s mellow atmosphere, excellent accommodation options, and the possibility of trips to offshore islands and into the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Traces of the town’s sombre past remain. The region is dotted with the gutted shells of colonial villas – tragic evidence of the Khmer Rouge’s destruction. Until recently, most were smothered by prolific tropical vegetation and home to squatters; now some have been restored, with more likely to follow, although the difficulty of establishing ownership means this will be a slow process.