When the Giant Ibis arrived at the Kep bus station, Tuk Tuk drivers descended before passengers could alight. Wearing their biggest smile, locking eyes and using best English, “Where you going”.
It’s like trying to select the most interesting book without reading the foreword. Our appointed driver was asked to take us to the recently re-named Villa Kep Resort. He lost his toothy smile when we told him the destination.
This perfect piece of paradise is off the main road and nestled along a track that would fully test the mechanics and suspension on his beloved machine. The thin track of red clay and uncountable potholes, honed from what was once Cambodian jungle, was a true test of man and machine. The good news is we made it to this 1.5 hectare of bungalows, manicured gardens and greenery,an affordable adults-only oasis where the owners ordered immediate repairs to the road.
Owned and operated by expat Fins, Juha and Marco, these very welcoming hosts and their staff have created a tranquil environment to re-charge your batteries and …well…take it easy in large European standard accommodation, tasty food, welcoming tropical bar and a 30-metre swimming pool.
Close to Kep National Park and a 5-minute Tuk-Tuk ride from the bustling Crab Market and upmarket Sailing Club, the Villa Kep Resort features18 villas that are private and host spacious terraces and free wifi.
The Crab Market serves seafood of all description straight from the water and barbequed right before your eyes. Here a kilo of prawns will cost you US$6 or a kilo of crabs for US$10.
Kep is internationally renowned for its crabs. Its restaurants also offer squid, fish, octopus and prawns to test your appetite. As you enter Kep around the seaboard, the monumental ‘Big Crab’ rises from the water to welcome visitors to Cambodia’s crab capital.
Co owner Juha Kuustie
Kep is about four hours south east of Phnom Penh and was established as a French colonial retreat and at one time referred to as the St Tropez of South East Asia. The Grand Ibis bus is a little more expensive than local buses costing USD$10 from Phnom Penh to Kep. They have a reputation of being clean, safe and also feature free wifi.
The Villa Kep resort aims to be as sustainable as possible, cultivating its own fruits, herbs and vegetables for their menus and providing guests with environmentally friendly refillable water bottles.
Staff are happy to organise outings and provide transport at competitive rates. Kampot, home to some of the world’s best pepper, is about 30 minutes away by car and 45 by Tuk Tuk. The riverside town is peaceful and well placed for boat tours along the river and outlining Rabbit Island with its pristine white-sand beaches and eateries.
Kampot features some of the most preserved French colonial shophouses and buildings in Cambodia. It is more of an action area for restaurants and bars and for travellers looking to visit local pepper farms, national parks and mangrove forests.
Marco says they have some great plans for the property, starting with a two-story bar and restaurant, spa and excursions. These inclusions will only enhance what is already a truly tranquil and relaxing hideaway.
Written by John Savage