The four hour coach journey went quickly. Again on arrival at Kep, the Tuk Tuk drivers jostled for position, even if it meant bashing into us to get to someone.
The town is spread out sparsely along a 4km stretch of coastline. At one end are the swanky 5 star resorts, in the middle sits Kep beach and toward the other end lies the crab market. Between each of these landmarks, there is nothing except a picturesque coastal road linking them all.
We arrived at our hotel, a two minute walk from the beach, it was beautiful. Set in a lush tropical garden, there were numerous fruit trees (durian, mangostine, mango, passion fruit, soursap to name just a few) plus a huge variety of sweet smelling flowers, that as the day went on emitted a stronger and stronger perfume. These plants provided a perfect habitat for geckos, lizards, frogs, butterflies, it was a garden of Eden.
Our room had a 360 degree view of our surroundings, at the back we could just about sea a stretch of the sea and toward the front, we looked out across Kep mountain, which rose out of the small national park.
We wandered round the town, the coastal road to the crab market was lovely, a light breeze blew off the water, keeping in check the afternoon sun. The local kids practised their English on us as we passed and were thrilled when we stopped to talk.
Local families sat on patches of grass, eating freshly boiled crab, prawns or clams. They chat and laugh a lot, it's their day off and they are absolutely making the most of it.
As we approached the crab market, we saw the crab pots, being walked 15 metres into the sea, then released so they drifted to the seabed. After as little as 30 minutes passed, someone would wade back to the numerous pots and tow them back to dry land, more often than not with a decent clutch within. hauling the catch onto the jetty looked hard work and seemed to be done by the youngest (and smallest) female family members, they strained as they pulled up the pots from the sea. As the crabs were landed a crowd of people rushed over to look at goods, they quickly hurried toward a weighing station (an old lady with a set of scales) and got a prime place for the auction. The catch was sorted, weighed and bid for by housewives and restaurateurs alike. There was a 15 second frenzy and it was all over, crabs sold, people happy.
The market is neighboured by a string of dirty looking wooden shacks. The shacks back on to the sea, directly in front of the setting sun and serve the best tasting food we'd had in a long time. Kep and Kampot (about 20km down the road) are famous for their fresh crabs and pepper, it was difficult if not impossible to have a meal that did not incorporate one or the other.
The Kampot pepper really is superb, the young green peppercorns are hot, sweet and slightly medicinal in flavour and can be chowed down like there's no tomorrow, the dried black ones are plain hot but equally delicious. Definitely one for our shopping list when we get home.
For breakfast the hotel owner made Kampot pepper bread. We were all over it like drunks on a kebab, I'm sure we were given the evil eye on our third helping.
We headed out for a walk around the national park, the looping path is just 8 km long, however an extensive network of side trails means that you could wander round for days. We headed up the Nun's path, a zig-zagging leafy trail, fortunately covered overhead by dense forest. The trail led to Sunset rock which juts out in a clearing of the west side if the mountain. The view across the two bays was stunning. The clouds raced across the sea, the shadows cast looked like shoals of fish darting through the water.
We took a different path back, as we rounded a bend we heard a whooshing noise above us, monkeys? No, the top of a tree came crashing down just a few metres ahead of us. It got caught on the upper branches of surrounding trees and hung there, swaying in the wind. We darted past as quick as we could, it didn't look like it was going to be suspended for very much longer.
Danger dodged, our walk back was an enjoyable one, we saw monkeys, hoopoes (very common in Tenerife apparently) and a a variety of colour-changing lizards. Snooze time.
We were headed to Sinahoukville, Cambodia's party town, we were just passing through before heading to Koh Rong.