When my two-month stint of being a yoga teacher (English teacher, computer whiz, receptionist) finally came to an end I decided it was time for a visit to the beaches. I spent two months listening to travelers either rave or complain about the enigma that is Sihanoukville, seedy overrun tourist town or outlet to gorgeous beaches, diving and paradise - that was up to each traveler to decide. Having bypassed the area completely on my last visit to the country I decided I should at least pay a visit and attempt to answer this question for myself.
After falling head over heels in love with the city of Kampot I had a tough time trying to decide where to next. My original plan was Sihanoukville, the touristy beach town to the west, but I started having second thoughts. After hearing that the city was overrun with loud hostels, bars and tourists looking for a party I decided that's not the scene I was looking for. Another option was Kep a sleepy beach town to the East which boasts delicious seafood, a small natural park, close access to the pepper plantations and even a little beach, much better. I considered doing a one day tour to the city which included a boat trip out to Rabbit Island but since the tour wasn't running the day I wanted to go I decided to spend a few days there instead. Cambodia does a really good job of being accessible for their tourists offering many different maps, visitors guides and 'pocket guides' for dining and nightlife. It was through my Kampot/Kep Canby Guide that I found great guesthouse and restaurant recommendations including the Tree Tops Bungalows in Kep, a Khmer family run hideaway tucked into the side of the hills of Kep National Park
Only recently has this country shown up on the SE Asia tourist route. With a dark, harrowing past it's amazing to see the smiles spread across the locals faces. I've met travelers with mixed impressions, but if you're lucky enough to connect with a few locals I'm confident you'll fall in love.