April 5, 2016

Kep, The Crab Capital of Cambodia

Crab Fishermen - KEP - The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

If you’re going to get your ‘cruise on’, I can totally vouch for the luxurious healing and restorative powers of many weeks at sea in exotic waters, and the friendships you build that take up a warm treasured spot in your heart that live on forever.

After a month cruising on our decadent floating home, we had well and truly established firm friendships with many of our fellow travellers, and much to our delight some of the cruise staff that happily slotted into the rhythm of our days too.

Each evening at dinner we were assigned the same waiters, our bubbly Balinese boys Dian and Sandy, and The Prince, apparently his name loosely translated was Prince but his position as Dining Room Manager and glamorous white uniform did lend itself to a princely status! Each evening as we dined on exquisite food, he’d tell us our trip to Asia was not complete without a visit to his home seaside village of Kep, the crab capital of Cambodia.

Crab Fishermen - KEP - The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

Having a few days to explore Thailand or beyond and being just a hop, skip and jump from Cambodia, we booked a quick flight to Phnom Penh and boarded a mini bus loaded to the hilt with around 20 locals for our journey to Kep.

After checking into our hotel with stunning views out onto the Gulf of Thailand, and making cheeky monkey friends, it was time to explore The Prince’s hometown.

Monkey Business - Kep, The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

Life in Kep is completely laidback, but the first thing we noticed was it had it’s own time and operated like it’d probably done forever. Cambodia itself is standing again and recovering after war brought the country to its knees, Kep was a small French colonial town before the war, and the place is touched but not yet spoiled by tourism.

Durian - Kep, The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

Kep is famous for delicious crustaceans with all the population based around the beach for efficiency or practicality, as the best place to find these tasty morsels is at the Crab Markets along the shoreline.

Crab Fishermen - Kep, The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

As The Prince so rightly promised, Kep is a foodie’s paradise in Cambodia – with rich pungent spices and deliciously fresh seafood. The crab market itself wasn’t much more than a hundred square feet, part covered – part not, at a pier that runs parallel to the shore. This is where the fishermen’s wives and other family members rule.

Woman fishing - KEP - The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

The woman clean the caught crabs, package them up and ready them for vending, selling fresh or grilled, along with mouth-watering squid and shrimp and fish on rice.

Crab Fishermen - Kep, The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

This is Kep’s biggest claim to fame and a fun place to visit for lunch or dinner. The market is about 2kms west along the coast from the beach, and here you’ll find a strip of beach-hut restaurants and a fantastic (albeit a tad dirty by western standards) the seafood market.

BBQ Fish - Kep, The Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

The idea here is to bargain hard with the women for your fresh crabs, squid and stingrays, and pay a dollar or two to have the catch cooked for you by one of the many stall-owners who are adjacent to the restaurant strip. Cheap, delicious and fun, this is one of the best meals you’ll probably have in Cambodia. 

BBQ Fish - Kep, the Crab Capital of Cambodia - Anna Johnston - www.shenannagans.com

The market remains open until late afternoon as the local women do their shopping for the day, the market place sounded a bit like a lazy seagull caw embracing the whole market, hawking and negotiating and buying and chatting and inspecting. The crab market is life as it is lived here, a peek into the inner workings of this society, a snapshot of resources, culture and the beginnings of tourism.

It’s not just the deliciousness of the crab, it is the raw authenticity of the market and it’s people that had me in awe. The genuine friendliness and the humbleness of life here that was so intriguing. Will I return to Kep, the crab capital of Cambodia? Probably not, but I’m grateful for the amazing people and places I come across in my travels.

Tell me dear reader, what magical parts of the world have you found yourself in because of friends you’ve made on your travels? 

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Anna

shenANNAgans is Anna Johnston, a 30 - something Aussie gal with an unwavering passion for the Hospitality industry. I love the quirky and unusual, designing events, travelling far and wide and eating food from all around the world. I am coffee blooded, a craft beer enthusiast, wine drinking yogi who enjoys writing about her adventures.

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Indrani - December 20, 2016 Reply

I am a fish lover and these pics made me so mad with hunger. It must have been interesting to see the local women packing the crabs.

Sue Slaght - April 21, 2016 Reply

Anna I want to go right now! Between the gorgeous photos and lovely description I felt I could smell the seafood cooking. Can you believe we have not been to Asia? Really we shall need to live to be 150 to fit all these wonders in.

    Anna - April 21, 2016 Reply

    With your zest for life and fun spirited attitude, I wouldn’t expect anything less then living to 150. 🙂
    Is Asia next on your list? Australia is just a hop-skip & jump away, revisit… yes. That is a good idea. Ha

Prateek - April 16, 2016 Reply

Those grilled seafood look delicious. Excellent write up , just curious in the pic below the monkey are those durians or jackfruit? They look too spiky to be jackfruit but rather large for a durian! Wonder if you tried those! 🙂

    Anna - April 16, 2016 Reply

    The seafood was out of this world delicious Prateek, and thank you, I am so chuffed you enjoyed the post. The fruit is durian, I have not heard of jackfruit before, to google I go. I did try the durian, it isn’t really to my taste, bit stinky which took away from enjoying it.

Sarah - April 14, 2016 Reply

I am so envious of your traveling style! I dream of doing something as spontaneous as meeting “Prince” and letting him show me around. 🙂 The fish market looks just great and I can only imagine how delicious that fish is, fresh from the water.

    Anna - April 14, 2016 Reply

    Honestly, it isn’t how I normally travel, much more planned normally. But the Prince did make a good point about being so close to his home, and sometimes that little bit of craziness is worth the memories. So I say… Just do it.
    The market was wonderful, and delicious too.

Trisha Velarmino - P.S. I'm On My Way - April 13, 2016 Reply

Love it, Anna! The pics look stunning! I hope you had the chance to catch the crabs yourself!

    Anna - April 14, 2016 Reply

    I didn’t get in and catch me some seafood, not sure the locals would have enjoyed a crazy Aussie doing that, but if I ever get back, I will certainly ask if I can next time. 🙂

evan kristine - April 13, 2016 Reply

Oh man, this is absolutely the kind of place I’d be so damn happy to live in! I love seafood and this place is perfect and cambodia is amazing!

    Anna - April 14, 2016 Reply

    Agreed on all counts except the living in full time bit, think I would find that way of life just a little bit slow, plus the wifi wasn’t too good. Lol! Priorities right! I do hope you get to visit some day soon.

Brooke - April 12, 2016 Reply

So many times people I meet list off recommendations and I don’t write them down. Then when the time comes to actually plan to go, I can’t recall the details. I love your do it now or never do it attitude on this one 🙂

    Anna - April 14, 2016 Reply

    I was finding my list of places to visit was getting well out of control, so decided to give that free spirited ‘just do it’ thing full time travellers rave about, and wow, am I pleased I did. It was wonderful. Can def recommend giving it a go. 🙂

Raymund - April 12, 2016 Reply

Those are durians, they are smelly but I love them. Have you tried it?

    Anna - April 14, 2016 Reply

    Hey Raymund, yep, durians seemed to be the go to fruit there, they even served them in cocktails. I have tried them, but the smell is off-putting and makes me enjoy the taste much less. Think I need to try them again, perhaps in other forms.

Liz - April 12, 2016 Reply

Oh, how I would love to have freshly caught seafood cooked before my very eyes! Sounds like a very fun holiday!

    Anna - April 12, 2016 Reply

    It was incredible Liz, some of the freshest seafood I have ever eaten. 🙂 And yes, it was a wonderful holiday, wish I could do it all again.

Jem @ Lost in Utensils - April 12, 2016 Reply

Beautiful pics Anna. I need to visit a place called the crab capital of the world!

Nisha - April 11, 2016 Reply

Oh How wonderful was your experience. I lived in Cambodia for 3 months doing volunteering but no, didn’t go to this place. Now I know what I missed.

I must head there soon before it gets commercialized.

    Anna - April 12, 2016 Reply

    Wow, what a cool experience to live in Cambodia for an extended period of time, and volunteering too. I would very much enjoy doing something similar. I hope you get to Kep too. 🙂

Katharina - April 11, 2016 Reply

I took my first trip to Asia last year. We loved Japan. Now we want to see what other countries there are to explore. We were considering Vietnam for our summer holiday. but Cambodia sounds amazing. And maybe a little less know. Things to ponder other!

    Anna - April 12, 2016 Reply

    Japan was wonderful indeed! But very, very, very different to what you would find in south east Asia, I’d pick Cambodia to travel to next, mostly because it really hasn’t been to touched by tourism and the experience would be so authentic. But Vietnam is amazing too, especially the food. 🙂 Good luck deciding, can’t wait to read about your next adventure.

Jenna - April 11, 2016 Reply

It’s so fun to build connections like that when you travel–it’s nice when you get recommendations and encouragement to visit spots you might not have considered otherwise. Kep looks like a neat area. All of the seafood looks so delicious!! The cruise sounds pretty awesome too, especially with all the great people you seemed to have met!

    Anna - April 14, 2016 Reply

    It is, it totally is Jenna. 🙂 So many wonderful friends made on that cruise, the recommendations were really not anything like we would have considered, or in this case even heard of. Kep is a lovely little village, the seafood is delicious and the people so welcoming, def recommend a visit.

Kris Johnston - April 11, 2016 Reply

O wow. I come close to visiting Cambodia, but didn’t know much about it at the time. After seeing this, and knowing that it is one of those untouched places, it would be wonderful to see. Thank you for sharing. Another great read with excellent pics. 🙂

    Anna - April 11, 2016 Reply

    I love how easily you can get to another country, literally just a couple of hours and bam, we were in this beautiful hidden gem. Cambodia is becoming a go to destination for travellers, so will def need to get back before it becomes commercialised. Glad you enjoyed. 🙂

Bam's Kitchen - April 10, 2016 Reply

Awesome shots Anna! Seriously your photography is getting better every day. Love these action shots of Cambodia in action. I actually have never been yet. will have to add to my travel bucket list.

    Anna - April 11, 2016 Reply

    THANKS lovely one! Yes, I do have luck sometimes with my photography. 🙂
    I really haven’t seen Cambodia either, this was a very small snippet of the awesome that the country is. Will need to get back myself. See you there.

Eileen | The tood Avenue - April 10, 2016 Reply

Oh wow, seafood that fresh sounds like some kind of magical dream!

anto - April 10, 2016 Reply

I’ve been to Cambodia before it became somewhat (or very?) touristic but never heard from Kep before. I do love crab though, so if I ever manage to get back to Cambodia, I’ll definitely keep it in mind!

    Anna - April 11, 2016 Reply

    Yeah, it is one of Cambodias hidden gems, rather out of the way, not touristy at all. Perfect really! Hope you get back and are able to check out this lovely little fishing village, especially before it becomes commercialised.

Mansoureh - April 10, 2016 Reply

A month cruising!!! wow, this is something I have never imagined doing, but since I read your article, I am thinking about that. I think if I go through all of your stories, I will do it, maybe not a month, but a week

    Anna - April 10, 2016 Reply

    It was incredible, the perfect way to really relax and unwind after an epic year of work. The forced switch off (wifi is bad) was a delight once through the withdrawals too. Please do let me know if you get to that extended cruise. 🙂

Lotte - April 10, 2016 Reply

Exploring a place with a local is the best! All the food looks so delicious:-). I actually visited Kep, unfortunately I did not visit the market (stupid me) but went hiking instead (which was very nice, I just should have done both;-). That’s what you need local knowledge for!

The coolest place I traveled because of friends I met when traveling is Paris. We actually stayed with the friends we made during a hike in the Philippines and were shown around the less touristy places in Paris:-)

    Anna - April 10, 2016 Reply

    Totally and absolutely agree about travelling with a local, although cannot believe that you didnt get to the fish markets when you were in Kep, the entire village is focused on it. Guess you will have to get back to enjoy that too. 🙂
    How wonderful you were able to see Paris like that, it is my dream to visit Paris and would love to experience it like the locals do.

Hugo Cura - April 10, 2016 Reply

I love seafood! That really looks like a place I would definitely enjoy visiting.

Great tips!

    Anna - April 10, 2016 Reply

    It was amazing, especially fun seeing my food get plucked from the ocean and on my ‘plate’ soon after. Hope you get to visit some time soon.

Amanda - April 9, 2016 Reply

What a fascinating travel experience! I’ve never been to Cambodia. All of that fresh seafood looks incredible.

Vicki | MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld - April 9, 2016 Reply

I didn’t make it to Kep on our visit to Cambodia and I am so sad I missed it! I love seafood and am a definite foodie so this place would have been a paradise – and obviously the cute monkey’s are just a bonus!

    Anna - April 10, 2016 Reply

    I guess it is one of the countries hidden gems, be sure to add to your foodie list for next time you are ‘in town’. The monkeys were very cute, but so, so cheeky, stole my food and headband too.

Rosemary - April 9, 2016 Reply

Wow, all that street food…the seafood, crab, sting ray…can we just say “welcome to my stomach.” Never heard of Kep before, it sounds like a great off the beaten path location. Would love to visit sometime!!

    Anna - April 10, 2016 Reply

    Hahaha… our tummies speak the same language. 🙂 Kep is most def off the beaten path, but well worth making the time to visit. Hope you get to visit one of these days.

Elaine Masters - April 9, 2016 Reply

A month sailing sounds incredible. About to embark on my first live aboard in the Philippines. We’ll be diving for 5 days and then on land for 3. Aren’t we all fortunate?

    Anna - April 9, 2016 Reply

    A month at sea was a truly wonderful experience, so rejuvenating and such a fun way to hit up a bunch of new destinations too. 🙂
    How wonderful, your week sounds perfect. I can’t wait to read about your adventure. And yes, we really are very fortunate.

Denise Browning - April 8, 2016 Reply

An exciting life of yours, full of adventures… Thanks for showing us Kep in Cambodia and also Thailand (a must in my travel list). I recognized jackfruit in one of your pics… did you taste it?

    Anna - April 9, 2016 Reply

    Thank you my friend, I am so pleased you enjoyed the post, thanks for adventuring with me. 🙂
    If jackfruit is durian, yes, I did taste it, not really to my liking tho. The smell is very off-putting.

Krista Bjorn - April 8, 2016 Reply

What an incredible adventure. The seafood looks absolutely amazing. 🙂

    Anna - April 9, 2016 Reply

    It was a whirlwind adventure for sure, one I am so pleased I took too, its probably a part of the world I otherwise would not have got to. 🙂

Serina aka Ms Frugal Ears - April 8, 2016 Reply

Wow, this looks fabulous. I loved the pictures of BBQ squid – reminded me of my time in Taiwan.

    Anna - April 9, 2016 Reply

    It was VERY cool Serina. 🙂 And the BBQ’s and street cooking was amazing too. 🙂 Such a wonderful experience.

My Inner Chick - April 8, 2016 Reply

Awwwwwwwwwwwww,
the life of Anna.
Decedent. Exciting. Movie Star-ish.
Gorgeous photos.
And that monkey is FABULOUS.
I’d go crazy lovin’ him up!!! WOW, to run free must be liberating.

xxx

    Anna - April 8, 2016 Reply

    Your comments do make me SMILE! 🙂
    My visit to Cambodia really did highlight just how awesome life can be if we are open to opportunities and say YES from time to time.
    I am glad you enjoyed the post and the photos too.
    I think the monkey is pretty rad too, although he was very cheeky, stole my fruit and headband. Ha!

cityhippyfarmgirl - April 7, 2016 Reply

Gorgeous photos Anna. I haven’t been to Cambodia but I’d certainly give it crack…actually I’m free this afternoon, right after baking some bread 🙂
As for monkeys?….shudder.

    Anna - April 7, 2016 Reply

    Thanks lovely one! And yes, the very quick visit to Cambodia certainly suggested it was a country filled with a whole lot of awesome to see. If you are headed this arvo, be sure to leave room in your luggage, I wanna come too. Monkeys are so cute, maybe not a good place to visit if they scare you. :/

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella - April 7, 2016 Reply

I love that you made this stop based on someone that you met. And you were very well rewarded it looks like! 😀

    Anna - April 7, 2016 Reply

    We decided a few years ago that we would say YES to experiences (even scary & totally unplanned experiences), because they rarely disappoint, especially when travelling. We are so, so pleased we hopped a plane and checked out this little village, because we prob would NEVER have got there otherwise. Well rewarded indeed. 🙂

Hotly Spiced - April 7, 2016 Reply

A month of cruising! I’d be pretty relaxed after that. I’ve never been to Cambodia but it does seem to be becoming a very popular tourist destination for Aussies. Your photos tell a wonderful story xx

    Anna - April 7, 2016 Reply

    CHARLIE!!!! 🙂 Yeah, a month of cruising was just what the doc prescribed, such a great way to unwind and rejuvenate, reconnect with you because wifi is not an option. We really only flew in for a quick visit to our friends village, and didn’t get to experience anything more Cambodia had to offer, but yes, it really has become a place that Aussies seem to frequent. Glad you enjoyed. Good to see you back. 🙂 xo

John/Kitchen Riffs - April 7, 2016 Reply

I’ve never been to Cambodia. Well now I have, virtually speaking, because you’ve taken me! Fun read, great pictures — thanks.

    Anna - April 7, 2016 Reply

    Awesome John, glad I was able to assist with that virtual passport stamp. 🙂
    I really only experienced the fishing village in Cambodia, but next time, next time I plan to see a whole bunch more, more, more. Thanks for stopping by, hope you are well. 🙂

Tim UrbanDuniya - April 6, 2016 Reply

Wow – those fish and prawn and crab sticks!! I’m so unwell at the moment, and on a really basic diet. I would kill to eat something like that right now – and fresh out of the ocean, the sunshine… looks like paradise right now 🙂

    Anna - April 7, 2016 Reply

    Oh no friend, that’s a bummer you are feeling crook. Glad my post lifted spirits and you could soak up some virtual Vitamin D too. The seafood was out of this world delicious. Never experienced anything like it. Take care of you. xo

Tandy I Lavender and Lime - April 6, 2016 Reply

Nothing can beat freshly caught and cooked seafood

    Anna - April 7, 2016 Reply

    I absolutely agree Tandy, watching as our tukka was plucked from the ocean and served to not too long after was incredible. 🙂

Amanda (@lambsearshoney) - April 6, 2016 Reply

I’ll be in Cambodia in June and am looking forward to it. I won’t get to Kep, but can’t wait to see what Siem Reap has to offer.

    Anna - April 6, 2016 Reply

    Awesome Amanda, I can’t wait to read your posts about Cambodia, I hear amazing things about Siem Reap. I really didn’t see much more than Kep, so a return visit is indeed in order. 🙂

CamelMirror - April 6, 2016 Reply

Haven’t been to Cambodia before. Didn’t know there are lots of seafood. I love fresh seafood and Cambodia is now on my traveling list!!

    Anna - April 6, 2016 Reply

    Yes, in Kep, that was really the only thing that the village is known for. Delicious and so fresh coming straight out of the ocean to you. 🙂
    Please let me know what you think of Cambodia when you get there.

Mandy - April 5, 2016 Reply

Remind me again why I didn’t join you on this trip. What a magnificent experience Anna!
Some of it reminds me of when we lived in Mauritius.
Have a beautiful day hon.
🙂 Mandy xoxoxo

    Anna - April 6, 2016 Reply

    Haha! Now that would have made the trip totally and absolutely the best experience ever. 🙂
    It was pretty wonderful, I have found that ‘roughing it’ when I eat on my travels often makes for some of the best food experiences, the crab market certainly stuck with me. 🙂
    I remember when you lived in Mauritius, yes, I remember some of your posts.
    You have a wonderful day and week ahead too my friend. Lots of love. xo

Mabel Kwong - April 5, 2016 Reply

This looks like such yummilicious trip, Anna! Look at all the food you discovered and the markets where the locals go. With so many crabs around, there must have been many different styles of crab dishes, different ways of cooking and flavouring it and all.

Love the last shot of the squids and prawns being skewered fresh out in the open. It must have smelled great and who doesn’t like food over a grill and on a stick 😀 It would be so tempting to eat quite a few sticks at one go…

Awww, you made monkey friends! That one you took a photo of doesn’t look very happy. Maybe he just woke up and found all the tourists annoying 😀 Hope you are well big sis. Big hugs your way as usual, and kiss kiss xx

    Anna - April 6, 2016 Reply

    It was amazing Miss Mabel, I always surprise myself the way I just seem to be able to fit ALL the food in my belly. Good thing seafood is pretty healthy huh? The Prince directed us to the all the best places to go, it was fun as english really wasn’t helpful, so lots of hand gestures were used to make eating a thing. Lol!

    The market smelt divine and totally disgusting all at the same time, but that for me is what makes a travel experience, especially food related travel so wonderful. Watching as the crabs and other seafood were so quickly cleaned and packaged and or sent across the road to be cooked was fascinating.

    I made monkey friends, they were everywhere, super cheeky too stealing my food and headband. The little guy in the picture had been domesticized, so was on a chain like a puppy. Guess he wasn’t too pleased that he couldn’t terrorise the tourists for their food. But, really, the monkeys were happy roaming the streets.

    I am great little sis. Hope you are kicking goals too. Lots of love and hugs headed your way. Mwah. xo

Liz - April 5, 2016 Reply

Those monkeys! And the seafood. Wow.

    Anna - April 6, 2016 Reply

    The monkeys were so, so, so cute, there was a lot of them too, they would just grab your food and belongings like they owned them. Ha!
    And yes, the seafood was delicious and some of the freshest I have ever eaten.

Hannah - April 5, 2016 Reply

Kep looks AMAZING!!!

I want to try all the foods on a stick!!!!

    Anna - April 5, 2016 Reply

    They were SOOOOOOO good! 🙂 And it’s a pretty seaside village, and worth visiting, but not for a long period of time. Also, wifi is almost nonexistent. #nodeal

mjskitchen - April 5, 2016 Reply

Having never been to Cambodia I appreciate this post. Very interesting and great shots. Thanks!

Queen Suebah - April 5, 2016 Reply

Kep was stunningly beautiful & I imagine in another few years commercialism will find this paradise & build a lot of touristy places. The seafood is the freshest you’d ever find too.

    Anna - April 5, 2016 Reply

    It was huh? The slow pace of the village was delightful too. I hope that tourism doesn’t destroy Kep, and only enhances it.
    Agreed, the seafood was spectacular, and so awesome that we watched as it was hauled in, cleaned and then cooked right there in front of us. So much deliciousness. 🙂

The Hungry Mum - April 5, 2016 Reply

You had me at crab. And hey there monkey friend #squee That sounds like my ideal dinner: choose your fresh seafood and have it cooked to order, in an exotic locale. I need to do this trip!

    Anna - April 5, 2016 Reply

    It was a pretty incredible to watch as the woman cleaned the daily catch, and you could pick right there and then what you wanted to eat. Yarm!
    And the monkeys were everywhere, cruising about the street, sleeping and begging for food. Cute huh?
    I do hope you get to Kep, it is def worth visiting at least once. 🙂

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