Cambodia, not the first place that I thought of when I pondered my Asian bucket list, but what I found on a recent trip impressed me much more than many of the recognised tourist destinations in the region have. Less discovered, with a faded colonial charm and the nicest people you’ll find virtually anywhere, it really is a place you need to visit before it ends up at the top of everyone’s hit list. I was lucky to visit with a friend who used to live there and got to see it through the eyes of a local, the best things to do and all the secret haunts. She also educated me on the tragic history of the country under the Khmer Rouge, which makes the warmth and hospitality of the people all the more astonishing. On our trip, we visited the capital Phnom Penh and the virtually secret seaside town of Kep which is a couple of hours drive from the city. Next time I’ll definitely be visiting Siam Reap!
The pier at the Sailing Club in Kep (heart eye emojis)
Guide to Cambodia, Phnom Penh & Kep
A great little stopover on the way to wherever you’e going (whether it be Siam Reap or a beachside getaway), I loved the quaint feel of the capital, with tree-lined streets, faded French-colonial buildings and hectic markets.
We stayed at Raffles Hotel, with it’s colonial vibes it’s the perfect place to kay your head. If you’re on a budget The Pavillion or Plantation are both lovely too.
Eat & Drink
Have dinner at The Common Tiger for something a little more modern. We loved! Have drinks and bites downstairs at Chinese House. Have late night drinks at Bar Sito. Have a delicious lunch or dinner at Romdeng (part of the Friends Alliance charity that trains staff – so you’re eating for a good cause!). Have happy hour at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel.
See & Do
Wander the waterfront during the early evening. Visit the Killing Fields Memorial just outside the city for a heart wrenching, truly chilling look at the recent history of the country. Take an afternoon to explore the French Quarter and imagine your life in one of those ramshackle french style houses. Go crazy shopping at the Russian Market – make sure you pick u some gorgeous crockery and drink a strong iced coffee.
Good to know
Restaurants shut around 9 in Cambo, so stop taking selfies in your hotel room and get out there!
The beautiful colonial architecture of the city.
Mornings in Phnom Penh
All the amazing art deco architecture dotting the hills of this seaside town is a tribute to the area as a weekend haunt of rich French colonialists up to the 1960’s. However, during the Khmer Rouge’s rule the town was cleared out and destroyed. Whilst some redevelopment has happened in the last decade or so, the area still retains a melancholy atmosphere – crumbling mansions and wide, quiet streets. It was this sense of history and almost ghost-town-ness that intrigued me about the place. It’s a great as a place to relax as the pace is slooooowwwww (and there are limited things to do).
We stayed at the rather pricey Knai Bang Chatt, a hotel on the water set across a series of art deco mansions – it had those Wes Anderson’y vibes that you guys know I love so much. Up in the hills, The Veranda is another option if your budget is a little less.
Eat & Drink
Seafood is where it’s at in Kep. Eat much. My friend swears by Kym Ly as the best place to eat amongst the seafood restaurants on the water. Up on the hill, the Veranda is a great spot for dinner and drinks, or go in the day for yummy croissants! My number one place for eating, drinking and general hanging out is The Sailing Club, a true gem amongst a fairly meagre set of dining options in the area. Have a top up at Kep Market, fruit and snacks perfect for taking on a little excursion.
See & Do
Take a day trip to Rabbit Island, you can easily get a boat from the Kep Pier and set up at one of the restaurants there. We both got somewhat aggressive massages at the little stalls there, we had the stress literally beaten out of us! Organise with your hotel to do a took took tour of the local area, if you get someone good they’ll take you to all the hidden mansions that are crumbling since the Khmer Rouge let the area go to ruin. Take a full afternoon to enjoy the sunset at the sailing club, it was heaven!
Good to know
My friend is a foodie so helped me order the good stuff, number one tip is to have everything with the local Kampot Pepper – so so delicious. I also absolutely loved the traditional Amok dish, the prawn one at Knai Bang Chatt was next level.
The pool at Knai Bang Chatt
Simple holiday outfits… DIY shorts and Her swimsuit
Time to take a load off!
The perfect place to watch the sunset.
I loved all the details at Knai Bang Chatt.
Travelling with friends is the best (especially ones who say yes to lunchtime drinks!)
Exploring run-down villas in DIY shorts, Club Monaco white shirt, J Crew Bag
Enjoying the sunshine in this.
Squid with campot peppers – amazing!
This is what I wish every weekend looked like…
Dawson’s Creek vibes get me every time.
The sunsets were utterly amazing.
The gorgeous Sailing Club. Every single detail was perfect.
Gorgeous bungalows at Rabbit Island
Grab a boat to Rabbit Island. A great day.