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places to visit in phnom penh

Kep is a seaside tourist city located 173 Kilometres south west of Phnom Penh. Visitors from Phnom Penh take National Road 3 via Kampot province or National Road 2 via Takeo province. In addition, the train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville stops at Damnak Chang Eur Station, about 7 Kilometers from the city. Foreigners coming from Vietnam can enter Cambodia via the Ha Teang Prek Chak border checkpoint, about 40 Kilometers from Kep, or they can travel by boat from Vietnam or Sihanoukville to the Kep City Port.

Kep is a small city. The beach, which is suitable for swimming is only 1,000 metres long, and the sand is not white as in Sihanoukville. However, Kep is a big seafood market.

The city was founded in 1908 during the French colonial times. It was renovated into a beautiful seaside resort in 1960s during then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime. The name Kep is derived from the French words le cap, or cape in English. A cape is a point of land that just into water, especially a headland significant for navigation.

Khmer legend offers another explanation for the name. There once was a prince named Sakor Reach who possessed great magical powers. One day, Sakor Reach used his magic to hypnotize a commander of Angkor Thom before stealing the commander’s horse and escaping to the southwest part of the country. While Sakor Reach was relaxing at the seaside, the commander’s troops caught up with him. Nervous, the prince suddenly hopped on the back of the commander’s horse. The horse reared back, however, and fell on the prince losing its saddle1 in the process. The prince got back on the horse and rode off, leaving the saddle there. Hence, the area was called Kep Seh. Later it was shortened to Kep.



places to visit in kep

rabbit island photo

Rabbit Island (Koh Tonsay)

Koh Tonsay is located about 4.5 kilometres southwest of Kep. Tourists are drawn to the two beautiful white sand beaches. The sea here is shallow and has a long slope, making Koh Tonsay excellent for swimming. On the sea-bed are a variety of corals, sea animals and plants which attract researchers and ecologists.

The name Koh Tonsay is derived from the word Rumsay. While trying to avoid the commander’s troops, Prince Sakor Reach grew hopeless because his own troops began to tire. He led his remaining troops across the sea to an island in front of Kep city, where the troops spread out. Accordingly, the island was called Koh Rumsay, the Koh Ormsay or Koh Ornsay, and the Koh Tonsay, as it is known today.

Koh Tonsay is 2 square Kilometres. During then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangku Reastr Niyum regime, it was used as a place to rehabilitate criminals, who were also used to defend the island. Horse cart paths and wooden, thatch roofed motels were also constructed during this time. Most of this infrastructure has been destroyed by weather and decades of war. Today, seven families live on the island. They earn their living by fishing and growing coconut trees.




kep beach photo

Kep Beach

Kep Beach is a famous seaside resort with twelve months of sunshine. The beach is different from that of Sihanouk Ville because it has black sand, and is 1,000 metres in length.

Visitors can see attractive Rocky Mountains and winding lanes toward the beach. A sightseeing tour of the city is very popular. Additionally, they can sunbath, swim, and picnic there.



From Kep, it takes 30 minutes to reach the nine other islands located on its opposite side by boat. Over there, one can enjoy splendid mountainous scenery and beautiful sea birds.




crab market photo

Kep Dining - Crab Market

Kep is known for its fresh seafood, especially the crab, which is absolutely excellent - literally straight from the ocean to your plate. No visit to Kep is complete without at least one fresh seafood lunch or dinner at the oceanfront. The Kampot Pepper Crab is a local culinary classic - fresh crab fried or steamed with generous bunches of fresh green and black Kampot pepper corns.

Traditional dining venues include the Crab Market and pockets of dining gazebos strung along the ocean front. The Crab Market is made up of a dozen rustic oceanfront crabshack restaurants, most with a very local, friendly atmosphere offering a wonderfully unsophisticated dining experience at the water’s edge. As the Crab Market has become more popular over the last few years some of the restaurants have become a bit too accustomed to tourists, reducing portions and raising prices. Generally speaking, the touristy places are easier but the scruffier places more authentic and down-home.




phnom sar sear photo

Phnom Sar Sear

Phnom Sar Sear is a nature and cultural site located about 14 kilometres southwest of Kep city. this mountain is called Phnom Sar Sear because when Prince Sakor Reach led the troops to this place, he got off his horse and moved furtively ahead of his pursuers along the mountainside, where at that time there was an island to which he fled. Thus, the mountain was called Phnom Sar Sear.

Phnom Sar Sear is composed of three small mountains about 1.5 square kilometers. It is about 40 meters high. The site features two natural caves: Phnom Dorei Sar and Phnom Ach Prochiev, which tourists can explore. In Phnom Damrei Sar cave, there is a beautiful mountain well called Viel Sre Muoy Roy. In the past, this site was also popular with filmmakers.

At the foot of the mountain are a number of small halls where clergymen and nuns meditate. Along the way to the mountaintop, there is a Buddhist pagoda where monks live. On the mountaintop sits a colorful, finely sculpted stupa built in 1964 by Prince Rasmei Sophoan. A place of worship, it also houses a Buddha relic.

The fresh air and beautiful natural scenery make Phnom Sar Sear popular with tourists throughout the year. From the mountaintop, visitors have an excellent view of rice paddies, the islands and the sea below, as well as the distant mountains. Buddhists go there to pray for good fortune.


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