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Kampot Pepper and Crab in Kep

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Somehow, when I think about my stay in Kampot and Kep, I think about food. We did a lot of things there, and most of them didn’t have anything to do with food.. But somehow food has taken the upper hand in my memories..

Let’s start at the beginning:
We stayed in Kampot for 3 days, renting a motorbike to see the surrounding area, including Kep.

There is an abandoned village on a mountain in the middle of a National Park, which is called Bokor. We drove up there with my motorbike.. Just before we entered the National Park, we passed a gas station.. Looked at my tank, and saw that we still had half a tank left.. no need for gas then! But as we progressed up the mountain, the dial on the display started lowering rapidly! Hmmm, this could be a bit of a problem!

But as always in Asia: there is always a solution. In this case, there were local people in a random parking lot selling random things, including bottles of gasoline (at a fair, increased price of course!) We were running on fumes, but it turned out to be just enough fumes to get us to the parking lot. Cool! No complaints here 🙂

So we gassed up and continued to the actual village. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a village: there are some buildings scattered here and there, but pretty far apart: a church, hotel and casino, some old homes.. But nothing grouped together and obviously not very old (the hotel and casino kinda gave it away) It was fun and there was an amazing viewpoint from behind the church! But I honestly enjoyed the drive up there (mountain road with plenty of bends and good asphalt) more than I enjoyed the village itself.

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We also visited a place called Elephant Cave.. Everything in Asia has a purpose to their name.. so if it’s Elephant Cave, you expect to see a massive cave, or an elephant in the cave, or in front of the cave, or whatever.. no, in this case there is a formation of rocks that can possibly look like an elephant, if you’re particularly cross-eyed, drunk or just have a very lively imagination. It makes for a lovely 5 minutes walk up the hill and another 5 minutes of walking inside the cave, and that’s about all there is to it. Luckily it’s kinda free (although locals will pressure you to give a donation for the monks nearby)..

But this was the ‘boring stuff’. Then came the fun! Kampot is known for its pepper. Kampot Pepper apparently is a well-known product in the culinary world. (I had no clue, really!) My cousin really wanted to visit a plantation, so I went along for good measure (and because she can’t drive a motorbike 😉 ) We got to Sothy’s Pepper Farm: one of the bigger plantations in the area.. There are so many plantations, that we chose based on Tripadvisor ratings.. You have to get your information somewhere, right?

Anyway, you can get a free tour around the farm. Together with a few other tourists we first received information about pepper, the different types and heat. Really fun, because we got to eat whole pepper corns from all the different varieties. Can you imagine biting down on a full white pepper corn?? It was a bit daunting at the start, but it really tasted amazing! Yes, your mouth feels like you could be a substitute dragon for Game of Thrones, but after the first heat subsides, it is definitely very good!

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After the intro we went into the plantation, with more information and more pepper to try out. It’s really different when you’re eating pepper that’s not ripe yet, or not dried yet.. I loved the experience! In the end you were also offered the opportunity to buy some of their pepper. I considered it for a minute, but figured it might be a bit over the top to start travelling everywhere with my own pepper grinder of Kampot Pepper. Imagine me sitting in a Vietnamese noodle bar and pulling out my fancy pepper grinder.. that would cause a few awkward glances and hateful stares I would think! So no pepper for me!

After the pepper farm, we drove to Kep. First, we drove up to a viewpoint on a hill near the city.. It was definitely dry season, because the waterfall that was supposed to be there, was non-existing. It wasn’t even just a little stream or anything, it was completely gone! The view from the top was nice though! When we drove back down, we passed a guards station. Apparently we should have paid to go up the hill.. Hmmm, too bad.. If we’d known this, we would have taken the other way back and avoided the guards altogether 😉

We were pretty hungry after that, so we went looking for lunch. Kep is a harbor-town and is especially well-known for their fresh crab cooked with pepper (from Kampot). There was a national holiday in Cambodia, so the town and beach were overrun with local people having fun. We didn’t want to be stuck in a big crowd, so drove a little bit out of town until we found a restaurant overlooking the sea. While we were eating, there was a group of about 10 local men, eating and drinking next to us… Their table was filled with seafood and the floor was strewn with empty beer cans. They were rowdy and seemed to be having an excellent time!

When we finished our meal, one of the men in the group beckoned us to join them.. I really can’t say no to such an invitation! So we joined them and immediately received a beer and a plate full of crab! I really can’t say no to that either 😉 So we sat there, drunk a beer, ate some crab and tried some raw prawns (which are absolutely disgusting by the way and I’m happy I didn’t get sick from eating them) We didn’t really talk to the men at all, because their English was just as good as my Khmer: non-existent. We figured out how to cheers with every drink, and how to open up a crab, but that was it.

After our first beer, we got up to leave. The men offered me another beer, but I said I couldn’t, because I’d already had 1 and I still needed to drive. One of the men stood up, pointed to all the men around him, and to all their motorbikes parked on the street, and said:
“Is no problem, we all policemen, is no problem!!

Damn, I love Asia!

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