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Founded as a seaside retreat by French colonizers in 1908 and a favoured haunt of Cambodian high-rollers during the 1960s, sleepy Kep (កែប, Krong Kep, also spelled Kaeb) is drawing tourists back with seafood, sunsets and hikes in butterfly-filled Kep National Park. Its impressive range of boutique hotels squarely targets a more cultured beach crowd than the party-happy guesthouses of Sihanoukville and the islands.

Some find Kep a bit soulless because it lacks a centre, not to mention a long sandy shoreline. Others revel in its torpid pace, content to relax at their resort, nibble on peppery crab at the famed crab market and poke around the mildewed shells of modernist villas, which still give the town a sort of post-apocalyptic feel.

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