Kep’s obvious history

December 15, 2015

Wooden Kanji P

Kep really is fascinating. Not because of the local crab market, not because of the national park, not because of the many temples in the area. All those things are really interesting, but Kep is fascinating because of it’s obvious history.

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When the French ruled Indochina Kep was said to be the Riviera, the highest accolade a coastal town could get from the French. There must have been near to a thousand big villas with grand walls and gorgeous decorated entrances. I say there must have been because now they look like this:

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The reason being the civil war that happened in Cambodia, and the Khmer Rouge who ripped apart and burnt all the villas in this town.

There are walls that guard plots of land with nothing but jungle now.

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Others get used for other purposes; land for cows to graze.

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Fruit plantations.

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The jungle has overtaken the structure of some of the houses. It was once so prominent and proud, now lurk in the darkness behind the shrub. As if the forest will only allow you a little peek of what once was.

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Some walls just lead to nothing at all, a blank space of land, abandoned.

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Since we visited three years ago, there has been more development. A few high end villas and hotels are popping up in the spots that used to be blank.

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You can see the old walls that they’ve kept as the perimeter.

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Other big hotels are being built quickly.

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There’s a few charities that have popped up here. They seem interesting.

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Other houses look like they might not be occupied for a while.

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These examples of fresh hope and wealth are few and far between in this vast area of land, where streets are hardly worthy of the numbers that they’re given to define them.

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Other roads are more evocative.

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Some people are living in these plots. This crumbled house is inhabited.

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Some people have built shacks in the empty plots.

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The other side of that road…

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There are still lots of people who ride about this area though, their routine business seems paradoxical to the emptiness around.

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There a few houses in particular that invoke the memories of a former time, memories that weren’t yours, but obvious memories nonetheless. This house is right on the road and you can get into the grounds easily.

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You can see the kitchen tiles.

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And hear the footsteps on the overgrown stairs.

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It gives you the feeling that history has come to soon to this area. It all seems too recent, like not enough time has passed for things to be this ruined. That’s what war does to places. It’s almost ghostly, but it seems too warm to be scary, too reminiscent. It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine their comfortable lives.

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Or grabbing a newspaper from the end of the drive.

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Talking of driveways here’s an obvious one.

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Except the tree lined driveway is just trees, only suggesting the purpose with which it was formed.

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Some of the villas have been lovingly restored. It’d be interesting to know who by. This villa by Kep beach is called ‘Thomas Villa’. It’s Restoration started on this villa in 2004.

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It now looks like this.

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But it’s still empty.

Empty and crumbling villas are a fact of life in Kep, they’re almost everywhere you look.

This one is by the crab market. Again it seems a paradox to the business of the market.

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Getting a lift in a tuk took you can see them all lining the hills.

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The most spectacular of these has to be the King’s summer residence. The grounds are huge and still seem to be maintained.

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The house is being used as a nursery apparently, although it seems pretty run down and you can still see the bullet holes in the balcony area.

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The government placed this independence monument in the centre of the area. It’s an impressive statement.

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They’ve also started building rows of government department buildings.

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