Khmer New Year in Kep (14-16 April)
Suosdey Chnam Thmey!
A very Happy Khmer New Year to everyone whether in the Kingdom of Cambodia or abroad. This is my first time celebrating the New Year with friends visiting from Malaysia. During this time, the whole country will be closed or on public holiday from 14-16 April which means a long break until the 20th! You’ll need to look at the calendar to know what I mean.
Since the streets of Phnom Penh would be like a ghost town with most of the shops closed until end of the week, we’ve decided to head to the south of Cambodia, to Kep where the white sandy beach awaits. There’s a large crowd in most of the provinces since everyone will be hitting their hometown to spend time with their family.
I’ve also learned that during the 3-days celebration, the Khmers would usually practice the following:
- Day 1 Khmer New Year – Marks the beginning of the new year with locals dressing up in traditional wear, burning incense sticks at the shrines. They would also spend time with their family eating or having parties at home.
- Day 2 Khmer New Year – Marks the Day of Giving where locals would make contributions towards charity purposes.
- Day 3 Khmer New Year – On this day, the locals would wash the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water for luck, prosperity and happiness in life.
Traveling to Kep on New Years Day.
My instinct had told me that day to check the email before our bus came to pick us up and luckily I did. The email stated that there would be no pick up for Khmer New Year (14-16 April) and that we would have to make our way to the Giant Ibis station ourselves. Pheww that was a close one. Lucky for Louise and I, managed to get a tuk tuk from the house to the Night Market. The roads were empty and shops were closed for the day. I could also smell the aroma of food being cooked for their party that morning.
Staying at Brise de Kep Boutique.
There was a slight hiccup in terms of our reservation as the person that we contacted had resigned 10 months ago. This was strange because my friend Sue had been emailing him and he said he would prepare the rooms for us. In the end we had to take to the non-sea view room and switched to the sea view room the next day with a discounted price. The hotel was quite hard to spot as it was further than Kep Beach but it had a nice garden with mangoes and flowers. There were only 5 rooms in the hotel, facing the South China Sea, with a small bridge allowing guests to jump in for a swim.
Expensive lunch at the Crab Market.
I should have known that prices would be increased during Khmer New Year and this was no exception when we had our lunch at the Crab Market. Dozens of people were ordering the crabs, prawns and having them boiled in the hot pots near the sea. We decided on 1/2 kg of crab which came to about 4 crabs and 1/2 kilo of prawns which was less than what we got the last time. No choice then as we weren’t able to get any discounted prices for this day and after having them boiled, we ate at one of the stalls with rice and chili sauce.
That long walk back to Kep Beach.
After lunch we headed out from the market and Louise wanted to walk so we walked all the way to Kep Beach. This was about 2km walk passing by the rows of tents for picnics, hammocks and hundreds of people on the beach. The water here is clearer and we could see the stones underneath it. It wasn’t that hot but it wasn’t that windy either and I could the heat on my arms, beads of sweat off my neck as we walked on. Those who know me would come to realize that I can’t handle the heat as it would give me headaches. After awhile when we reached the mermaid statue I opted for the tuk tuk back to the hotel while she continued walking all the way.
Watching the sun set.
Dinner came with a view of the blue ocean and the sun setting as we sat there quietly looking out into the horizon. Louise made herself comfortable on the day bed propped on white sand while I sat at the restaurant trying to gather some inspiration for this blog. The ocean and sun set won in the end. I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance of watching the day go into night and I knew I had to postpone my thoughts for another day.
Checking out the pier to Rabbit Island.
Yesterday evening we took a walk to the jetty in search of Kep Coffee Cafe. The place was located at the alley behind Sokimex station and according to reviews served good coffee and banana cakes. We skipped out on the cafe because we were still full and went straight for the pier. A poster on one of the offices offered jeep tours around Kep while the popular Captain Chim’s restaurant sat opposite it. Many people were seen arriving from Rabbit Island, towels wrapped around them as they took the tuk tuk back to the hotel. We just enjoyed the breeze and the sound of the crashing waves on the rocks before walking back to the hotel. Perhaps a trip to Rabbit Island can be done the next round.
Dinner at the Sailing Club.
Sue arrived on the third day of Khmer New Year and we had dinner together at the Sailing Club located in Knai Bang Chatt Resort. We couldn’t see the restaurant area much at night as it was outdoors but from the posters, there is a nice dining area for sunset viewing near the small bridge. Many foreigners dine here with their families and friends which means the food must be quite a hit. We chose the seafood platter, crab pasta, papaya salad and Khmer Amok Fish which was quite delicious. It was a good dinner well spent.
Missing out on other spots in Kep.
Our short trip to Kep was mainly to escape the quiet city and we didn’t go on any of the local tours while we were there. It’s always nice to just chill and enjoy the beach view and surrounding. However, if you’re interested to spend more time in Kep, you could always check out these places:
- Kimly Restaurant – For ocean view dining.
- Kampot pepper farm.
- Kampot salt fields.
- Rabbit island – For more blue ocean, sand and blue sky.
- Caving at Kep National Park.
- Mr Maab Restaurant – For the seafood BBQ nights with street food (edible of course).
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.