I found respite at The Vine Retreat, a rustic eco-friendly hotel in the southeastern Cambodian province of Kep. There, simplicity is the name of the game. With little to do but relax, read, and enjoy the scenery, The Vine offers a peaceful getaway from inland Phnom Penh, without the drunken beach bum backpacker scene of nearby Sihanoukville.
Tucked away in the rice paddies near the Phnom Vor mountains, The Vine Retreat is constructed from natural, locally sourced materials and powered by an off-grid, low-carbon power system. A highlight of the property is the recently completed naturally filtered swimming pool – a great way to escape the mid-afternoon heat. Meals are taken at a communal table with a revolving menu that includes organic produce from the garden and fresh seafood from the nearby Bay of Thailand. Kampot pepper, widely said to be the best in the world and grown in a small plantation on-site, is always on the table.
%Gallery-158764%The Vine’s rooms are simple, but well-appointed, with canopy beds and handwoven textiles. Hot water is provided by a solar heating system, and the provided coconut-scented soap is handmade by a local women’s cooperative. The guesthouse is also committed to economic development in the surrounding villages. In partnership with a local non-profit, they offer sustainable tourism excursions, including trekking, biking and tours of nearby Chamcar Bei village, and they reinvest all excursion fees into community education and training. I opted for a bicycle tour of Chamcar Bei’s craft cooperatives, which create home and lifestyle items out of coconut shells and recycled plastic bags.
Rooms start from $25/night for basic accommodations, but off-season Facebook specials offer deals as low as $10 (yes, you read that right). To arrive at The Vine Retreat, hire a tuk-tuk (about $8) from nearby Kep or Kampot, or a car from any of Cambodia’s major cities.