Our good time in Kep continues. Between the food (Robert has eaten crab, crab, and more crab, and I even found good pizza at a place called Kep Coffee run by some quirky but nice expats), the scenery and the activities, we are loving this town.
Today, we hopped on the scooter and headed to Plantation Ranch for a quick horse back ride. The ranch is right in town and abuts the Kep National Park. I thought the ride was fantastic. We rode dirt trails up into the park and to a temple. The horses were energetic and had spirit (ok, maybe spirit isn’t quite the word I am looking for — my horse nearly kicked another horse and then nearly kicked Robert — but no harm, no foul). The guide (if you can call her that as she really didn’t do much except show us the way) had us trotting more often than walking, and even let us canter. I could have ridden for hours and was thrilled to know that I can still keep my seat. Although the muscle aches tonight make me pretty glad we didn’t ride any longer than we did.
Robert, on the other hand, wasn’t a huge fan. The ranch uses English saddles (or, as he puts it, half a saddle). He had never ridden English before and wasn’t exactly comfortable in the saddle. But, as he likes to say, by the end of the ride he did win the most improved rider award — keep in mind his only competition was a 7 year old who had clearly ridden before.
After cooling down from the ride, we explored Kep by scooter. Kep is one strange city. Back in the early to mid 1900’s, it was a thriving resort town, popular both with the well-to-do Cambodians and the French. However, during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, much of Kep was abandoned. We have heard numerous theories about what happened to the French colonial mansions during the Khmer Rouge period, including that the Khmer Rouge destroyed them, that the locals destroyed them because they were sick of the foreigners, and that the locals stripped them for anything and everything of value in order to survive. We have no clue which theory is accurate.
In any event, today much of Kep still lies in ruins. There are the skeletons of French colonial homes all over town and it seems that many of them, but not all of them, are now occupied by squatters. There are also fenced plots of empty land all over town — we read that the law here is that unfenced and unused land reverts to the people so that could explain all the fences. It does make for an interesting drive around town, especially when there appear to be more vacant homes than occupied homes and more cows in the street than people.
We also rode along the beach front. Sundays in Kep are quite the big deal. Lots of locals came to spend the day. They arrived on scooters and packed into vans and in the back of pick-up trucks, spread a blanket on the sidewalk, and pull out oodles of food from coolers and bags, and enjoy a day in the outdoors. Interesting, most of the locals swim fully clothed.
Finally, we went back to see the monkeys. I just can’t resist monkeys…We watched a few monkeys jump right on top of a scooter and steal someone’s lunch, including a can of orange juice.