Kep is a humble little town in southern Cambodia. Situated right on the coast, it enjoys a variety of delicious seafood, but is known largely for one specialty: the amazing fresh crab from the infamous Kep crab market.
The crab market isn’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 women, fishermen’s wives and other family, clean the caught crab, package it up and ready it for vending.
Other women sit at the tables prepared in the square selling the crab, fresh or grilled, along with mouth-watering squid and shrimp and fish, served with rice and ready to eat. Among them are women frying pastries – waffles and cakes made from batter, sesame and sugar, as well as tables loaded with pepper, the other specialty in the area, in various colors and sizes and packs.
At other stands still, the women smile and show off plastic knickknacks and toys, feather dolls, shells, and jewelry: the perfect place to get a souvenir of woven wood and sea shell bracelets, particularly fitting and prominent in this beach side town.
Right beside the market runs a sidewalk lined with restaurants that open out to the gulf. They all have nearly identical menus with rice and noodles, and fish and squid and crab and shrimp (for $5!!), and are a wonderful way to hide from the sun or watch it set over the water, and let the time go by.
The market remains open until late afternoon as the local women do their shopping for the day, their sound a steady seagull caw covering 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, tourism, and culture.
It’s not just the deliciousness of the crab – touched but not yet spoiled by tourism, it is the raw authenticity of the market, the genuine friendliness of the people, and the humbleness, the humbleness of this life – that is the specialty of Kep.