Kep, Cambodia (25-28 Dec)

Kep waterfront

On Christmas day, we left Sihanoukville and headed for Kep, a coastal town and former destination for the rich and famous in Cambodia (more on that later). I liked the idea of going to a town called “Kep” and as we learned more about it, it sounded like a nice change of pace.

We decided to stay at Jasmine Valley – a place that bills itself as a “jungle lodge.” We thought it would be a nice Christmas treat to stay someplace a bit nicer than our usual, and after checking out their website, Jasmine Valley seemed like the perfect place. At the time, we did not realize just how rustic the setting was going to be!

The owners have developed the property in a way that is very sensitive to the existing environment, keeping in mind that they did not want to jeparodize the very things they loved about the area. In addition, local natural materials were used in the construction of the lodgings, and the paths between the rooms and the common areas are a bit like paths through the jungle.

Our lovely room

The room was very nice, but open to spiders, lizards and other jungle creatures (I believe there was some sort of jungle rat in our room two of the three nights we stayed), so it is not for the faint hearted. The owners, Owen, an Australian, and his Cambodian wife, Jasmine, are very welcoming and you truly feel a part of their family while you stay here. They cooked up a Christmas feast (click here for photos) which made us much less homesick! They also have a great staff that is more than happy to help with anything you may need.

Our Christmas was also made more homey when we met Emily and Devin, two other Americans who were on an extended trip. They too have a blog of their experiences, which can be checked out here.

In disguise for our jungle trek

The property is literally situated a few miles outside of town in a valley in the jungle, reachable only by a rough track road, which many tuk tuk drivers refuse to navigate. The only other way to reach town was walking, either down the rough road or up over a track through the jungle.

We were told this track was accessible via a fairly easy path up the hill. This is subject to debate, and we soon realized something we would be reminded of many times on this trip – Australians are much more adventurous than Americans. Several times we were sure we could not be on the correct path (or any path at all for that matter!), because it was so challenging. We knew the owner’s elderly parents had gone that very same route before and we didn’t think they could have scaled the same track that winded us so severely. Apparently, we are in pretty bad shape (to be fair, Suhail does have asthma), because it was the correct path and eventually we made it to the track. There, we were rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the coast and the surrounding islands.

The view from the top track

Marker on the track

The track

Looking towards Jasmine Valley

At the end of the hike you descend and end up in Kep town. The good news is you can get some refreshments. The bad news is you have to hike back up to return to Jasmine Valley!

Near Kep town

Boats docked off Kep

We actually convinced ourselves to do the hike twice and on the second day, we walked all the way to Kimly crab restaurant. It came recommended to us by several people, but upon arrival it seemed pretty touristy. We ended up giving it a shot and the food was actually quite good and the setting was great.

We watched the crabs being harvested while we ate

Suhail tries to get through Kimly's massive menu

Crab traps in the bay

We had two different dishes, both crab, but one with ginger and the other with fresh local peppercorns. In the photo here they look like small green strings of pearls. Kampot is about 15 miles from Kep and is known to produce some of the best pepper in the world. We were really happy to try two local specialities in one tasty dish!

Who knew how delicious fresh peppercorns are?!