Our dreadful day of travel continued after the life threatening boat ride and two hours sat amongst junkies and fat lazy idiots. Once the van eventually arrived we piled in and headed towards Kep. After we drove for 10 minutes we stopped at an intersection to drop people off… We thought. It was soon apparent that we had all paid for the van so they were now shoving as many of their friends in as they could. When three guys piled in to sit between Sarah and I, we clearly gave them a look that said, we are pissed off and you are going to receive the brunt of it. They looked at us, looked at each other and got off. I think it was Sarah’s London face that did it. The one when she walks against the flow of traffic on Oxford Street.
Two hours later, we rolled into Kep at dusk to be greeted by the predatory Tuk Tuk drivers. We gave a pretty clear instruction to get away from us and started walking along the shoreline. The guidebook said the beach was not great to look at and there was nowhere to swim. It needs updating, as the beach looked great, people were swimming and the sunset was beautiful.
Unsure of the distance from where we were dropped off to where we would stay, we decided to wander away from the Tuk Tuk drivers and grab another one for a cheaper price. The bonus, was we knew there was a statue of a crab somewhere in the water. I spotted it ahead so we walked towards it, only to discover I am getting older as the crab turned out to be statue of a women and was still on land. Around the next bend was the crab so we continued on, took a touristy photo and hailed the next Tuk Tuk. He was a quarter of the price, and after a quick phone call to a friend to ask for directions, he took us to the hostel. The owner, a french native is the most helpful man in Kep, if not Cambodia. His hostel is nice and relaxed, if not just a bit far from town.
We had previously no real idea about what Kep had to offer, we had just planned to use it as as stepping stone into Vietnam. However, we had those few hours waiting for the shuttle to read up. We learned that the peppercorn from Kampot is considered the best in the world, and teamed up with the local Kep staple of sand crab is said to be a delicious morsel of food. We were also informed from the UK that a rerun of Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey was tracing our very own footsteps and was showing the Kep episode. Of course, Rick confirmed these food statements. We asked the owner where to get the best crab and he said head strait to the Crab Shacks, there is at least a dozen restaurants that serve fried peppered crab, so choose one you like the look of and order it.
We jumped in his handyman’s Tuk Tuk, were handed over to his mate on the main road, as he was busy, and headed to crab shack alley. Once there it is hard to make such a decision. We had one night. One dinner. One chance to get this right. Eventually we decided on one and walked in. It was to be an alcohol free day, but in anticipation of a delicious crab meal, we ordered a glass of white in preparation. When it finally came out (7 minutes later) we ate one of the tastiest dishes yet. Top Ten fo’ sure. We spent longer sucking the sweet peppery goodness from the little crustacean then it took to cook it. Satisfied, we headed home to bed.
The shuttle to the border of Vietnam was booked for 11am so at 9 am we decided to grab another Tuk Tuk back to the crab shacks where at one end the Crab Market took place. Driving though the town in daylight took on a different light. It was once the playground for the rich and famous in Cambodia, but the ever-present result of the Khmer Rouge showed huge former mansions and hotels now dilapidated and decaying along the beautiful coastline. When we got to the market and saw how small it was, we wondered why we bothered. But a few steps amongst the stalls and you saw fresh food being cooked, crowds bargaining over fresh crabs amongst the wooden traps, while flames engulfed huge pots boiling water, cooking the crabs. We spent as long as we could before a quick transaction for small parcel of the best pepper in the world and jumped into the waiting Tuk Tuk. He offered a trip into a pepper plantation and the surrounding hills but we had a bus to catch. In hindsight, one more day at least would have been good so we could have headed to the pepper farms, had a swim and eaten at least one more Pepper Fried Crab while watching the sun set on our Cambodian adventure.