Eco-tourism is taking off on the Southern shores of Cambodia.While reading local brochures and guide books, buzzwords like 'solar powered', 'naturally filtered', 'organic' and 'home-grown' are on the increase.
We went to check out The Vine Retreat near the coastal town of Kep, an area that may one day be Cambodia's answer to New York's Hamptons.
Krong Kep seaside resort and the neighbouring French colonial riverside town Kampot are also home to a number of Kampot pepper plantations. Rich minerals in the soil, lots of rain and traditional growing methods help to make Kampot pepper some of the best in the world, and Kampot Pepper is the first Cambodian product to be given the status of Protected Geographical Indication.
Order a plate of grilled beef or Cambodian Lak Lok (grilled strips of beef with onion and green pepper) and you'll likely be served up a sauce of freshly ground black pepper with salt and lime juice on the side. Simple, but simply one of the best zingy pepper tastes I've ever experienced.
The Vine Retreat is 12km off the beaten track from Kep, down a windy road into the Krong Kep countryside. We took a wobbly Tuk Tuk past farmland with the looming Phnom Vor mountains in the background.
The Vine Retreat is an eco-guesthouse and organic farm with its own Kampot pepper plantation. Organic vegetables, chillis, salad and fruits are all grown in the surrounding gardens and served on the outside terrace in communal dinners.
Manager Suran chooses the daily menu inspired by the foods in season. We all shared a dinner of beef Lak Lok, tomatoes stuffed with minced pork, morning glory and steamed rice followed by the freshest papaya I've ever tasted for dessert.
The retreat is solar powered, organically farmed and thoughtful energy consumption is encouraged during your stay.
A 'naturally filtered' pool (a hollowed out space which will collect rain water) is planned for next year and local builders have assured the operations manager Dan that this will work a treat.
The Vine Retreat is roughly half an hour in a taxi from Kampot or 3-4 hours from the capital Phnom Penh. Check in to chill out: www.thevineretreat.com