Our Country Manager in Cambodia shares his latest insights on what’s hot in the Kingdom
I love Kep
Find the freshest seafood on Crab Beach in Kep
Heading up Insider Journeys’ Phnom Penh office, John Black has been living and working for Insider Journeys in Cambodia for the last 5 years. Once a month he provides our offices in Australia, the UK and North America with an update on new tours and goings on in The Kingdom. Here’s a copy of his email from February 2014.
I recently spent a weekend down in the sleepy seaside town of Kep with Rohan from Insider Journeys’s Saigon office and Chien, a former Insider Journeys colleague. I seriously can’t get enough of this place; it’s just so beautiful, peaceful and relaxing. It has an atmosphere like no other town in Cambodia. With all the crab shacks and their amazing cheap seafood it’s the ultimate seaside getaway, or relaxing addition for any visit to The Kingdom. It’s just a quick three-hour drive from Phnom Penh through some stunning countryside on excellent roads and it’s one of the best reasons to stay another few days in Cambodia
During our trip, Chien posted on Facebook “I hope the world does not find out about you Kep”. Well I agree to a certain extent, I hope that only Insider Journeys clients find out about Kep! There are many levels of accommodation in this one-time retreat of the colonial French. This visit I stayed at Mealea Resort, formerly known as Champey Inn. This little gem is ideally located and has undergone a facelift with the new owners turning the pool into a salt water pool and sprucing up the property. When I say ideally located, it is right opposite the crab shacks and is a 10 min walk to Kep beach. Inside, the bungalow style rooms all have open-air private bathrooms, air conditioning and a lovely rustic finish. There are no TV’s and that’s a good thing in a place like this. For a more upmarket option, you can’t go past Knai Bang Chat. What I found great was the fact that Kep is still as it was five years ago when I first visited and the crab shacks are still serving the same fresh seafood at the same prices ($10 for a hearty portion!).
Going to Vietnam, Thailand, Laos or Burma?
May to October is the wet season in Cambodia. While prices are lowest, many people think this is not the best time to visit Cambodia so choose to omit it from their itinerary. However, with the scenery bursting with color and The Kingdom’s key sights generally crowd free this remains my favorite time to visit. It is also one of the best times to add a trip to Cambodia to your Vietnam, Thailand, Laos or Burma trip…..yep Burma. Getting from Burma to Cambodia has never been easier. There are now direct flights between Burma’s largest city Yangon and both Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh and its second city, Siem Reap. Insider Journeys have some amazing low season offers that make adding Cambodia to any trip just that little bit easier. And of course, you will not be disappointed!
Deserted French villa in Kep
Of all our small group tours to Cambodia, the 11-day Cambodia Revealed has had the most changes in 2014. One of the biggest is moving a 2 night stay on the south coast from Kampot to Kep. This change makes this incredible tour even more so. Compared to some of Travel Indochina’s other small group tours, the Cambodia Revealed does stay in more modest accommodation throughout and includes an authentic and unique home stay at a small village called Takeo; a noted highlight for our passengers through 2012 and 2013. Designed for people who want to see more of Cambodia, this truly memorable small group tour showcases parts of Cambodia that not many people get to see but which I really can’t speak to highly of. It’s got beaches, seafood, boat rides, meet the people experiences, farms (of the salt and silk kind), caves and of course temples that take you righ off the beaten path.
Kayaking, Hiking and Bird-watching
Prek Toal Village as seen on bird-watching tour by Nick Butler
In 2014 we have our best offering yet in Cambodia, with something for everyone and for every budget. We have two new hotels in Siem Reap, some new boutique style hotels in Phnom Penh and for those on a leaner budget we have a range of join-in day tours. Probably the most exciting and newsworthy story for 2014 is the range of kayaking, hiking and bird-watching tours we have added to our tailor-made vacation collection. While these come at a premium price point, this is top quality product and something 99% of travelers to Cambodia never experience. Operated by a new conservation tour company, each tour has both a local expert and a Western expert. These are adventurous trips and are for people with a real interest in nature and those travelers up for a more physical challenge.
Siem Reap and The Shinta Mani Resort
The lobby of the brand new Shinta Mani Resort in Siem Reap
I was recently in Siem Reap for the first time in a few months and had the privilege of staying at the new Shinta Mani Resort. I had not seen this since it was finished and it really has that WOW factor. The gardens are lush and the rooms are so tastefully appointed. The amazing breakfast includes the choice of an A La Carte menu and a full continental style buffet. This hotel is now featured on our Highlights of Cambodia, Highlights of Indochina, Laos and Cambodia Experience and the Cambodia and Thailand Revealed small group tours for 2014, to either start or end the trip somewhere very special. Of course this little oasis is not just for these journeys, it is the perfect hotel for travelers on an affordable luxury on a tailor-made vacation. It was such a treat to visit Siem Reap again; I was reminded of all the great restaurants and bars, like Miss Wongs, that Siem Reap has to offer. It is the ultimate vacation destination on the door step of the magnificent temples of Angkor, and anyone traveling in the region should spend three to four days here.