A visit to the seaside town of Kep

Cambodia Kep 080
I visited the crab market in Kep with the intention of ‘just looking’ before grabbing a couple of baguettes for a late breakfast. Following the steps of the locals I found myself surrounded by bamboo baskets hoisted out of the sea by ladies in gum boots and thick gloves, bargaining for my breakfast.

Crabs for breakfast may seem a bit odd, but by the size of the crowd gathered here on the promenade, I am not the only one with the appetite. Kep, a small seaside town in Cambodia, is famous for its crabs and here at the crab market, where all they sold were the day’s catch, you get the freshest of the fresh.

More than just crabs

Cambodia Kep 021Besides the name bestowed on it, the market had a lot more than the nippy creatures. Mud crabs, tiger crabs, cuttlefish, variety of clams and fish are sold in abundance. Those who don’t have the facilities to cook can purchase the same items grilled, and the smell of grilled shrimps on banana leaves tickled my nostrils but, ignoring the distraction, I headed for the prize: the blue swimmer crabs. I paid three dollars for five crabs weighing just under a kilo, and an extra 80 cents to have them immediately poached at the open kitchen. Within ten minutes of purchase I had a bag full of freshly poached critters to munch on.

A serene seaside town

I chose a secluded spot two minutes walk along the newly paved footpath towards Kep beach to have my meal. Mansion ruins dotted the hillside, displaying the once prosperous region under French rule and, at the beach, families from Phnom Penh enjoyed picnics made of everything fried on a stick while their children splashed around in the sea.

You know what’s the best thing about fresh crabs? The flesh is juicy and easily removed from the shells; requiring no seasoning, it tastes naturally sweet and absent from any artificial flavoring. If I lived in the region, I would come here just to feast on the crabs. So with no surprise on my behalf, I had crabs for lunch and dinner as well.

In search for the ideal seaside town

Cambodia Kep 105It’s no wonder that Kep is a popular weekend getaway for the middle class city dwellers who can’t afford to venture further beyond their country’s borders. They happily share this small piece of paradise with the number of the independent travelers who forego the luxuries of nearby Sihanoukville in an attempt to find a more authentic experience. I sat facing the calm waters of Gulf of Thailand where fishing families gathered to mend nets, chew on the crabs and reflect about life.

Then I realized that I didn’t really know too much about life outside study, work and play, and those who live in Kep must know a lot more, for they all seemed so happy. Everyone I met in Kep, from the crab ladies to Durian sellers to the children whose only toys were skipping ropes made of rubber bands; the smiles of these people convinced me that I’ve got it all wrong, and perhaps a slow paced life in a seaside town with crabs for diet should be my ideal life.