Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are enjoying your holidays wherever you are. Here in Cambodia, it’s been freezing. There has been a record-breaking cold spell for the past week, and it has become sweatshirt weather. Normally we only wear a t-shirt and shorts, but this past week has been in the 60’s, when normally it’s the 80’s. It’s not quite below zero, but a big enough change for us!
We stuck around Cambodia this holiday season; we have two sets of visitors here. (First our friends Abby and Kyle from Kuwait, then my Dad and sister from America. My mom will come later—again with my dad—at spring break.) As a consequence, I am able to type this blog post with a cup of coffee and a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, in the comfort of my own apartment. It’s mega tourist season right now in Cambodia. While the weather is perfect for travel, everywhere you go in Cambodia is now full with tourists. However, I discovered one of Cambodia’s hidden places a few weeks back. This is one of those quiet, secret, beautiful places, that you hope never changes. It’s a little town called Kep, located on the Gulf of Thailand just three hours south of Phnom Penh.
Where Kampot has “Bokor Mountain National Park”, Kep has “Kep National Park” which contains Kep mountain. We had heard stories that you could hike around the mountain, but I wasn’t expecting this type of signage….
We felt like we were in a National Park in the United States! There were at least ten different hiking routes you could take around the mountain. Each was sign posted with elevation, distance, and sights along the way.
As we began to climb up the side of Kep mountain, I immediately fell in love. Kep not only has rolling hills that slide right up to the coast, it has a beautiful shoreline that stretches on for miles, with small islands dotting the horizon. It felt like Hawaii!
We found a few creatures on our hike… This was the husk of a bug, just stuck on a tree.
This guy did a whole photo shoot for us; we were snapping photos for at least ten minutes, and he didn’t move a muscle!
We were determined to find the summit of Kep Mountain. We think we did…?
After the summit, we had decided to make a loop to get back to the trailhead. We took the “jungle hike” trail on the way down. Without a doubt, it was the toughest hike we’ve done so far in Cambodia. The trail began to drop off over large boulders, sticks, fallen logs, and streams of water. We had to use the ropes that were tied onto the side of the trail to lower ourselves down. I think going up that side would have been fine, but trying to maneuver backwards down a slippery jungle mountain is no fun!
But we weren’t without our rewards.
We emerged on the other side, with sweeping views of Kep’s countryside.
It reminded me of both Maui and Sri Lanka.
Then we found this massive guy on the trail! Luckily, I have never seen this type of bug before, and hope I don’t have to again. He was as long (or longer than) my forearm.
After our hike, we met up with our friends who also went to Kep for the long weekend. They told us about their favorite seafood place, as Kep is famous for seafood, caught right off the shore.
I got the crab with Kampot pepper. I am getting hungry just looking back at this picture!
We had crab, shrimp, octopus, and squid. It was a feast fit for a king. (Or a Chihuahua?)
After lunch, we were all feeling a bit adventurous. So, we decided to look for a small beach we saw on the map, supposedly hidden from the main area in Kep.
After much driving, the only thing we had found was a lot of red dirt on our cars, and suntans on our faces. We asked a few people, who eventually pointed us in the right direction. However, this was exactly the type of trip where the journey was just as beautiful as the destination. I loved the Kep countryside!
We found the beach at dusk. Just enough time to walk along the shore, hunt for shells, and watch the sun sink lower in the sky.
We were happy we endured the off-roading and mis-directions; we found an incredible sunset!
Back at our lodge the next morning, Sean found two critters near the bathroom.
This spider was hanging out on the wall of the bathroom! It was larger than my palm!
Sadly, we had to head back to the city of Phnom Penh the next morning. It was a four-day weekend, and we had school the next day.
I left the coast knowing that I will return to Kep— or in my eyes—Cambodia’s secret. It is a small town, with unbelievable shore line, mountains, sweeping views, seafood, and endless trails to get lost between the palm trees and fragrant flowers.
We will be taking our family back to Kep when they come visit, and I can’t wait to share it with them. We just finished a trip to Siem Reap to see the temples of Angkor Wat, which I will blog about soon. I am really behind with the blogging; there is so much in Cambodia to see and do, I can’t keep it with it all. What a great problem to have, huh?
Enjoy your holiday season, and your new year, and I will write again as soon as I can.