Sometimes travelling can lead you to natural beauty, man-made wonders and cultures that inspire you. It can lead you somewhere miles off the beaten track learning about ways of life you never even knew existed. Occasionally travelling can lead you to that once in a lifetime experience you’ve been dreaming of your whole life…
Sometimes travelling can lead you to Kep.
There’s nothing in Kep.
We wanted to sail through in a day to get to Rabbit Island but a party on the island forbade us from staying there. We’d already bought our tickets to Phnom Penh so we were stuck in Kep for 2 nights whether we liked it or not. We just needed something to do…
“There’s a big crab here” we were told by a local who was looking a bit too proud considering his statement. I will admit however that Guy (who featured in the last blog so you probably already feel like BFFs), Gemma and I were quite excited by the prospect of a large crab given the circumstances.
On the tuk tuk ride to our hostel we saw the big crab. It was gowned in scaffolding. Although ‘gowned’ makes it sound quite beautiful, I urge you to focus on the word ‘scaffolding’. I can’t deny it was big, but due to the work being carried out, it didn’t look much like a crab and had the local said “There’s some big scaffolding here” I’m not sure we would’ve bothered.
You have to expect places like Kep when you’re travelling. Not all the world is for adventure, some of it’s just for living in! What you can do though is make the most of it. There are so many aspects of travelling that are overshadowed by the large tourist attractions and it’s places like Kep which are perfect for revelling in them. Here’s how to enjoy those vast areas of nothing whilst travelling:
- Talk – The first night in Kep was spent relaxing on hammocks. Gemma and I are English and Guy is from Israel. This lead to fascinating conversation about the differences in our cultures, what life is really like in our respective countries and how our media depicts the others. It’s amazing what other people have to say.
- Eat – This one’s important because if you don’t eat, you die. It’s science. But instead of straight noodles or rice or whatever the staple is where you are, dead end towns are perfect for experimenting with local food. We were told that locals in Kep enjoy ‘crab on ice’. It’s basically cold raw crab. It’s not on any menus but everyone has it if you ask. It felt adventurous, like we knew a local secret… It FELT adventurous, but it tasted like a cold fish.
- Watch and enjoy the weather – There’s a good chance the weather where you are is very different from home. In Kep we watched 2 tropical storms, both quick to start, both dramatic and both strangely relaxing.
- Watch the locals – Gemma and I love to people watch, and when you’re in an unfamiliar country it just gets better. Khmer families in Kep were enjoying picnics on seafront bandstands whilst others bustled around the small town stalls. And if they were watching us they’d have seen us doing what westerners do best – sitting. Oh, and pulling faces at a cold dead crab.
- Get drunk – Yeah, I know, you don’t have to tell travellers to do this, they’ll be doing it already, but when there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, enjoy a beer. We were offered a free meal by a local bar owner in Kep. We went to save on money but ended up spending loads on beer and wine. We had a great night and the hangover took up some more time the next day!
“Did you see the big crab?” our bus driver asked as we were boarding to leave.
“Scaffolding” I corrected, “you mean big scaffolding.” But he just looked confused and wandered off. Tourists eh?! Don’t know what they’ve got when they’ve got it.
The local’s seem to think that the crab is all Kep has to offer, but it’s not. There may not be much natural beauty, and it certainly isn’t a man made wonder (although the crab did make you think) but if you make the effort Kep can be whatever you want. We’d learnt about the local food, what life is really like in Israel and what it means to join their army, we’d seen genuine Khmer life away from the tourist trail and we’d even met a few local dwellers along the way. To me that’s why Kep is beautiful. And anyway, it’s certainly more than a big crab…
It’s big scaffolding too.