Meraki – to do something with soul, creativity, love. To put something of yourself into what you are doing. About five kilometres north of Kampot town, surrounded by tranquillity and ancient fishing villages, a garden oasis has become the new getaway of choice for those looking to escape Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Its name is Meraki, and the escape is real. With the layers of stress and worry sliding off you as you walk through the front gates.
Set over acres of luscious green land and nestled against a bend in the idyllic Kampot River, Meraki was purpose built to bring people together, to encourage new friendships, while also giving home to a number of garden hideouts for the quieter types to sneak away and swing in a hammock, enjoy the selection of replenishing teas or just stare across the river at Bokor Mountain, which becomes the sun’s hiding place each evening as the sky turns pink and a fleet of old wooden fishing boats rumble out to sea.
“The initial concept was all about community and collaboration,” said Tahanee Al-Khalifa, the woman who put the personal touches on Meraki. “Because tourism peaks and dips in Kampot, we purposely created a place where people that live in the area can come and feel as comfortable as they would in their own home.”
Indeed, the vibe at Meraki is like one big family. There are special family meals, movies projected onto a giant screen, garden games such as pétanque, kayaking trips, an outdoor billiards hall and an open yoga pagoda, which has the river breeze running through it during dance classes and yoga sessions.
Rarely will you be away from the fresh river air at Meraki, including when you retreat to your lodgings, with treehouses and riverside bungalows opening up on to the river. The kitchen offers a select menu of western and Cambodian favourites and the bar serves fruity cocktails to accompany a true hair-down, riverside music playlist. And there is real coffee!
“We want anyone who comes to Meraki to feel they have made a connection, not only with the natural beauty of Kampot but also with the warm-hearted people that belong here.”