Coastal holidays tend to attract two types of people. There are those who want to while away their leisure time in fits of all-night drinking, dancing and decadence, and those who want to lazily sprawl out under the sun, their only movements for days being the slow trudge from sand to sea and back again.
Those needing a change of pace from life in the capital, rather than the same after-hours party in a beachside location, would greet the islands off Kep with open arms.
Despite its history as a French colonial resort town, the imminent development of nearby Mount Bokor and the immense natural beauty of its forests, Kep province remains relatively untapped as a holiday and tourist destination.
There are no blaring car horns, no raised voices and daily life appears to the outsider to be so serene and tranquil that time slows to a standstill.
One of the province’s most popular destinations is Rabbit Island, a lush green landmass that takes up a reasonable portion of the horizon looking out from Kep Beach.
Besides the mile-long stretch of white sands and still, shallow waters, visitors can spend an hour or two roaming a path through the jungle and catch sight of the monkey colony living at the base of the hills.
Like other beaches in the region, visitors rent out space from the restaurants and cafes lining the shore.
The real estate itself is free if people stay for lunch, a reasonably priced assortment of shrimp, squid, fried fish and the provincial specialty of crab, usually for US$3 to $5 per serve.
Most of the island’s visitors choose to stay in Kep Town, ferrying across early in the morning and returning in time to catch the sunset back on the mainland.
This is a more cost effective option than going through a driver or travel agent: Hotel and guesthouse managers can organise groups of guests to travel together, usually costing $5 to $7 per person for the ride to and from the pier as well as the half-hour ferry journey to Rabbit Island Beach.
There are a number of other islands littered across the coastline, all within about 20 minutes journey of each other. Anyone who can’t abide resting in one place at length can take a day-long ferry cruise of half a dozen of the islands for $20 per pax.
More enterprising souls can spend a night in the thatched hut bungalows along the beach.
Accommodation on the island is quite Spartan, with no electricity late in the evening and very basic washrooms, but the experience is worth it for anyone craving a good night’s sleep with only the sound of crickets and the tide. These bungalows are usually $5 to $10 per night, depending on negotiating skills.
The most sublime part of a Rabbit Island sojourn, however, is arguably the journey itself.
A gentle cruise on a long wooden motorboat across the coastal waters offers beautiful views of the jungle-dappled mountains of Kep and the Gulf of Thailand at its calmest.
After months on the slog amongst busy traffic and moto horns, it’s a fine antidote to the ills of the big city.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sean Gleeson at [email protected]