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“Great place to get away from it all”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of The Vine Retreat

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The Vine Retreat
Ranked #19 of 50 Kep B&B and Inns
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Level Contributor
12 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Great place to get away from it all”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 21, 2014

Sometimes you just need a hammock and a view. At least that's how I felt after six weeks of life as an ex-pat in Phnom Penh back in 2011.

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.

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.

In all, a quiet, lovely escape at a place that is committed to building up the community around it.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank Jessica M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Emma F, General Manager at The Vine Retreat, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
Thank you for your kind review. We will be developing the menu when Our new chef arrives in 2 weeks time. Hope you enjoy the rest of your travels.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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110 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (15)
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English first
London, England, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 20, 2014

This is exactly the kind of place you tend to be unable to find when you're on a backpacker's budget.

It's secluded and out of the way, so you get to enjoy the quietude of the Cambodian countryside, which I cannot recommend enough as an antidote to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.

The restaurant is a floor up and has stunning views over pepper plantations. The pool and setting are just stunning. I thought it all looked a bit too good to be true from the pictures posted here, but they're not. If anything they don't do it justice. You'd expect to pay double for this kind of thing, easy.

Jay Fountain had just come in as the new manager and he has a fantastic attitude - first rate service. I'd had a card stolen and could only use Mastercard, but they could only accept Visa. The nearest Mastercard cashpoint was several hours away, so Jay offered to let me transfer the money straight into his personal account. It's just a little example of helpful, thoughtful service, with him going above and beyond.

The only small let down for me was the food wasn't fantastic when I was there, but I understand Jay's sister was soon to take over the kitchen so i suspect that will no longer be the case.

The rooms in the basement are pretty basic, but there's so much space about the hotel - hammocks, by the pool, and the restaurant area is great to chill out in, that it's not an issue.

Also, you can't rent a motorbike with them so if you're there for more than a day or two and want to explore around, I'd hire something in Kep to get you about.

This place is a gem, run by a class act. Go there if you're anywhere near the area.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Oliver W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Emma F, General Manager at The Vine Retreat, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
We are glad you enjoyed your stay with us at The Vine and glad you got your credit card issues sorted out. Yes, our new chef will be with us in 2 weeks time, so expect some wonderful things to come out of the kitchen!
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Phnom Penh
Level Contributor
54 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 20, 2013

we had lunch. it was wholesome food which was well cooked. the staff were very nice and attentive. the place has a really nice vibe to it. and the view....it felt like being in Tuscany. beautiful! and make sure you try out Sothy's pepper farm on the road up there!

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank MonsiourRabbit
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Emma F, General Manager at The Vine Retreat, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
Thank you for your comment about our guesthouse and retreat. We are very pleased you enjoyed your stay with us.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 20, 2013

The building and surrounds are nice especially the pool water and stone surfaces, which are perfect for recovering at the end of the day, and the second level bar/common area for unwinding with a nice outlook (although the coast is distant).

However, we felt really let down by the service (even keeping in mind the price):

Fish and chicken were unavailable our first night and chicken was still missing the second. The blackboard lists available seasonal vegetables and fruit but most (all?) were not served during our two dinners and breakfasts, not even with the Stir Fried Vegetables with Tofu (which was nearly all tofu with a little carrot, onion and capsicum).

Drinks are comparatively expensive: $1.75 Angkor can, $4.5 gin & tonic. Given the location, you can't go elsewhere. The menu said Cambodia beers and "ask for guest beers" but neither were available.

On arrival, we weren't checked in (there is no obvious reception) and no one asked for our names. Afterwards, looking lost wandering around, an Englishman offered to help without introducing himself (turns out he was the owner, still unknown the following day, we asked him directly).

Although minor, given the location and setting, it would've been nice for someone to (quickly) brief us on the available (complimentary) pepper tours, walks and orientation. E.g, walk here, ride there, look at this. We found the booklet which describes some of these on top of the wardrobe before checking out.

Our toilet bin was not emptied and we had to track down a staff member ourselves.

Basket bikes are listed at $2 half-day and $4 full-day. We thoroughly road-tested these riding 70+ minutes into Kep before returning again later that day (the pool came in handy!).

After riding hire bikes in Cambodia for three weeks, Vine Retreats were by far the worst:
- No bikes have locks (luckily we had our own lock, otherwise I'm not sure what you'd do in town...)
- Missing or broken bells, essential for safely riding in Cambodia!
- Broken brakes: my front brakes were practically useless and back brakes stuck *on*.
- Baskets were missing on all bikes except one, which had a useable basket but was still broken, the wire puncturing our water bottle (and the trade-off was a missing stand on this bike)

It's worth noting the location, it's farther out of Kep & Kampot than anticipated:

Our tuk-tuk took about 70 minutes and cost $15 from Kampot, apparently longer and more expensive due to the national highway 33 (NH33) roadworks - make sure you grab face masks, our tuk-tuk driver stopped and bought them for us. Yay. I think Vine Retreat can organise a tuk-tuk for you for $12 from Kampot.

Also, it's a $7 one-way tuk-tuk to Kep town which have to be arranged with Vine Retreat. We had to wait 45 minutes, and the driver charged us an additional $1 to the National Park.

We ended up leaving one night early disappointed, and to help catch an early bus to PP from Kep the next day. We were not even asked about our stay.

We keep reminding ourselves it was only $30 (excl. food/drinks) and the negatives we experienced can be fixed (cheaply) but it was definitely the most inhospitable (unwelcome, uneasy) place in Cambodia that we stayed.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank SamuelAndKatie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Emma F, General Manager at The Vine Retreat, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
We are grateful for your honest feedback of your stay with us. We have highlighted and discussed these points with all of our staff members and now have customer service training taking place so that all of our guests have a wonderful stay.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Inverness, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
35 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 2, 2013

They say that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. That's the Vine Retreat.

Our first reaction was very much a case of 'What have we booked into?'. This impression was not improved by the room which was very cramped (nowhere to sit except on the bed), a broken mirror on the wardrobe, and perpetually dark. We were very, very, tempted to simply turn around and go and find somewhere else.

We're glad we didn't.

It really is 'in the middle of nowhere' so you need to be prepared to either spend about $16-20 for every trip into Kep (or rent a moto [in Kep] for $7 a day.) or simply stay put but, as somewhere nice and quiet to rest and relax, this hotel takes some beating.

There is nothing to do. Nothing. Don't misunderstand, you can go in the pool, wander around the gardens, etc to your heart's content but if you want 'entertainment' you're going to be gravely disappointed (unless you count making your own bed, because the staff haven't done it, as entertainment).

Sit on the veranda at night and watch the sun go down over the mountains while listening to the wild-life is wonderful. The down-side is that it is too easy to rack up a huge bar bill in the process – and the VR charges Phnom Phen prices for alcohol. Having said that, we spent two nights serving ourselves after the staff went home early - good job we're honest! (oh, and make sure you have a GOOD bug-spray!)

The pool is wonderful and yet another way to relax. It is (certainly for the room we were in) also, unfortunately, the only way to get wet. The shower can only be described as dire: the water was warm enough (eventually – just) but you practically had to run around in the shower to get wet.

The food, while not a la carte standard, is more than acceptable – though if staying for more than 4 days or so you may find the menu to be a bit limited.

Was the VR perfect? No. Far from it.
Was it the best hotel we stayed in whilst in Cambodia? Again, No. Far from it.
Was it the worst hotel we stayed in? No. Far from it
Are we glad we stayed? Actually, yes.
Would we recommend it? If you can live with the dire showers etc, then yes.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank HappyOgre
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
25 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 13, 2013

i have visited the Vine Retreat a couple of times while traveling around Cambodia and it was great. A lovely place to unwind after the hectic Phnom Penh, while in Phnom Penh ate at a lovely cafe called artillery.This was owned by Emma and Jay Fountain sister and brother the food was excellent the owners where great, so now they have sold artillery to go to the vine it will only get better and better under this dynamic duo. I'm now planning another trip to Cambodia and will definitely get in a visit to the vine retreat and see what they have achieved, good luck to the both of them .

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Dee J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Emma F, General Manager at The Vine Retreat, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
We are very pleased you enjoyed your stay with us that you have come back time an time again and we look forward to welcoming you again in the future.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Level Contributor
9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 10, 2013

We stayed at the Vine Retreat for just 1 night (although I wish it had been longer) to enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. Our room was lovely, with proper fluffy white towels, hot-water shower, and freshly picked flowers scattered over our bed. However, we spent most of our stay out on the terrace by the bar, overlooking the saltwater pool, organic farm and endless stretches of forest. You can even catch a glimpse of the Gulf of Thailand if you look hard enough! The excellent food was by far the highlight of our stay - all food is prepared from scratch and this is definitely reflected in the taste; everything was so fresh. We especially liked the homemade bread, masala tea with Kampot pepper and the tofu skewers marinated in honey and pepper. We will definitely be escaping to the Vine Retreat the next time we need a break from city living!

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled with friends
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank alysha_88
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Vine Retreat

Property: The Vine Retreat
Address: Pepper Road | Phnom Voar, Kep, Cambodia
Location: Cambodia > Kep Province > Kep
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #19 of 50 B&Bs / Inns in Kep
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Vine Retreat is an eco-conscious yoga retreat centre and guesthouse with an organic garden and pepper farm in Kep, Cambodia. Set on 30 acres of peaceful natural countryside, surrounded by lush green mountains, it's the perfect place for relaxation and rejuvenation. Chill out by our salt water swimming pool, indulge in healthy, fresh, organic food directly from our gardens (we cater to meat eaters and vegetarians) or take a bike ride to explore the local villages. We also have a fully equipped yoga studio which fits up to 25 people. We rent our whole facility for exclusive use for yoga retreat. Please contact us for more information. ... more   less 

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