Experience the Luxurious World of Shinta Mani
The first thing that strikes you when you enter the Shinta Mani properties is the touch of local culture in the smattering of artworks and the numerous-shaped lotus flowers lending a luxurious, chic look to the resort. The black and white colour scheme, part of the resort’s designer Bill Bensley’s signature, is evident throughout the properties and is rather appealing to the eye. Acclaimed architect Bill Bensley has been designing resorts throughout Asia and the world since 1984, and his work can be seen and enjoyed in some 190+ resorts and hotels in more than 30 countries.
His three properties in Siem Reap namely Shinta Mani Shack, Shinta Mani Angkor and Shinta Mani Angkor – Bensley Collection appeal to all categories of visitors – for the family, the luxurious and the ultra-luxurious- seeking patrons.
Located in a tranquil and leafy setting within the French Quarter of Siem Reap, the trendy resort is just a short distance from the Royal Gardens, the Old Market Area, the cafes and bars, which are popular with tourists and is only footsteps away from the nearby riverfront. It is also just 15 minutes from the magnificent Temples of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Patrons will be happy to note that a percentage of the daily room rate is contributed to the Shinta Mani Foundation. This contribution is in efforts to support the less fortunate in the community through the education and development of young adults to ensure a brighter future for Cambodians.
The courtyard-style resort’s 62 rooms and 4 suites enjoy a different “Bensley twist” with direct access or first-floor balcony views over the stunning swimming pool and thriving tropical gardens. Two additional Executive Suites have views over the leafy streetscape. Shinta Mani Shack highlights Bensley’s playful and whimsical design notes with signature bright colours, funky off-centre touches and a creative chic lifestyle ambience with a modern vibe. The other ‘Bensley Twist’ to the rooms includes mirrored feature walls, custom designed iron beds and handcrafted light fittings.
This upscale boutique property created by Bill Bensley showcases 39 contemporary designed rooms and public spaces in a Khmer inspired design. One is hard-pressed to leave the room, which seduces with soft lighting, fragrant scents and a mod-Cambodian design. It’s definitely a room to retreat to after a vigorous Angkor temples outing for a delightfully warm rain shower and a short snooze on the inviting King-sized bed with the oh-so-comfy pillows.
The guestrooms offer stylish accommodation with modern facilities. Wake up in the morning and enjoy the inlaid ceiling artwork, which showcases the images of Angkor. All rooms spot the modern, minimalist and chic interiors, as well as feature attractive handcrafted lamp and fascinating accessories. The entry to rooms located on the ground floor is via a mini internal garden and is just at the poolside. The rooms on the first and second-floor offer balcony views of the lap pool. All rooms come complete with wall mounted DVD and LCD TV, sound-bar, iPod dock and complimentary wireless Internet access.
Just across the road from the Shinta Mani Angkor lies the Shinta Mani Angkor – Bensley Collection, which will just blow your mind away in terms of luxurious elegance and service. It opened its doors in December 2017 and introduced a whole new world of style to the renowned temple town. It’s luxe to the max here!
From dramatic high walled sculpted façades with a monumental scale three-dimensional carving portraying the ‘hands of meditation” to signify spiritual perfection to oversized 9-metre private lap pools and gardens with a rooftop living room, the 10 luxurious Khmer-inspired villas will simply delight guests.
You immediately notice the high walled compounds, which ensures its residents’ total privacy in their tropical garden. The other thing that strikes you is the three-dimensional murals inside the living space carved to represent the romantic folds of Jayavarman’s robe – a revered Khmer King, known for his powerful, pioneering spirit. The outdoor bathtub in this opulent split-level villa really tickles the fancy, as does the floor-to-ceiling glass-walled bathroom with views of the garden.
The centre of attraction in the chic monochromatic sleeping quarters is the King-sized bed – all Bill Bensley designed to offer total relaxation. It’s pure heaven to sink your tired body into the cloud-like mattress and allow the luxurious linens, and fluffy pillows lull you into a deep sleep.
The inviting expansive lap pool offers complete privacy. Likewise, the upper deck is the perfect space to unwind under the ancient canopy of Siem Reap’s Palace trees. The outdoor living space with its bar area and oversize day bed offer a second al fresco sleeping option which can be set up by the Bensley Butlers so that you can sleep under the stars. Then in the morning, enjoy a scrumptious breakfast after an invigorating swim.
And yes, the Bensley Butlers, they certainly make your stay at the villa so perfect and immaculate. Every aspect of the Bensley Collection experience is about personalisation and providing the most authentic Khmer immersion. And these butlers can arrange anything you ask of them from tailor-made breakfast-in-bed, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner to even accompany you to the Old Market area and help in the bargaining process. Guests will certainly be spoilt by these butlers who appear like magic whenever you need them and disappear when you don’t. They can anticipate your needs and can work miracles with a smile.
Shinta Mani have two ways to enjoy the Bensley Collection villas, as a bed and breakfast option, or as Bensley likes to travel, full on, wholly immersed in the culture, with nature, and adventure sports with no limits! Guests can eat what they like, drink what they like, see the most exciting sites and never sign a bill. Shinta Mani’s comprehensive service is designed to give guests the best hassle-free experience in Cambodia without being nickeled and dimed. This offering of total immersion is what Shinta Mani calls The Bensley Experience.
A Gastronomic Enjoyment
The Kroya Restaurant has a menu that interestingly blends international cuisine as well as local products, combining fresh ingredients, native herbs and spices to create innovative palette-pleasing flavours. Kroya, which means ‘food’ in Khmer royal language, is located in the Shinta Mani Angkor property and is accessible to guests in the other two properties as well. This the perfect place to experience the traditional Khmer fare. It even has the safe comfort food options if that’s your choice. And upon request, the chef can serve up something equally delicious for vegetarians as well.
Aside from the Kroya Restaurant, the other options include the Bai Tong, which blends international comfort food with tantalising Khmer street food. Interiors at Bai Tong are authentically Cambodian, inspired by the use of living greenery. Diners may choose to sit inside amongst the plants, or outside overlooking Shinta Mani Shack’s new eye-catching, monochromatically tiled pool. The Elephant Polo Club offers a relaxed yet sophisticated ambience serving international cuisine and has an extensive wine/cocktail list.
The Bensley Bar is a cool grey-hued bar offering a laid-back environment for post-temple tour drinks and discussions. It is an airy venue, located on the second floor over the inner courtyard at Shinta Mani Angkor. Guests can also enjoy tropical refreshments at the Pool Bar with the signature Icy Green Ginger cocktail or a thirst quenching fruit smoothie. Drinks and light snacks are served throughout the day.
Guests, who want to learn how to create Khmer dishes, can sign up for the one-on-one cooking classes. The class starts with a morning visit in a tuk tuk to the one of the old market, also known as the Psa Chas. The market reminds you of the ones back home but watching the different vendors ply their trade to the locals is an eye-opening experience.
Interestingly, if you are local, they will readily trade with the local currency, which is the Khmer Riels but if you are a foreigner, nothing less than US dollars are accepted. Essentially, if you are a tourist, don’t bother changing your currency to that of the local Riels.
Following the visit to the market, the cooking class takes place in a private space within the Kroya Restaurant. The dishes taught include the Green Mango Salad with Poached River Prawns and Khmer Dressing, the Traditional Cambodian Steamed Fish Amok in Banana Cup, the Chicken Sour Soup with Morning Glory Scented with Tamarind and Host Basil and finally, dessert, the Sweet and Snowy Rice Dumplings. It doesn’t matter even if you haven’t cooked a single day of your life, the Chef will be on hand to guide you through and teach you how to cut, blend, stir, create a banana cup and finally, even how to plate the dishes in your very own creative style.
Finally, after all the work is done, you can enjoy your creation for lunch either in the air-conditioned comfort of the restaurant or outdoors on one of the Khmer swings.
The Spa Experience
After a tiring day traipsing through the Temples of Angkor, there is indeed a need to visit the Shinta Mani Spa by Khmer Tonics. It is undoubtedly a sanctuary of serenity, and through the use of 100 per cent natural Khmer Tonics products, the body’s well-being and balance are restored. The therapeutic treatments, which are based on traditional and modern healing rituals – will help restore your energy for the next adventure.
If you are looking to experience something different and exciting, try the Phare circus. It is uniquely Cambodian, authentic, daringly modern and an exciting way to spend an evening out. Phare is Siem Reap’s budding counterpart to the famous Cirque du Soleil. More than just a circus, Phare performers use theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and contemporary. The young circus artists will amaze you with their energy, emotion, enthusiasm and talent. The shows are held every night at 8 p.m. at the intersection of the Ring Road and Sok San Road behind Happy Ranch Horse Farm. If you opt for the front row seats, a prime position, you’ll also receive a complimentary beverage and a free gift.
Each night there is a different act performed of unique Cambodian stories, which are steeped in Cambodian culture and popular beliefs. One of the tales is called Sokrias (Eclipse). It is a tale of discrimination. A young man, who suffers from rejection because of his difference, prays for divine intervention. The gods transform him into a beautiful woman who suddenly receives a lot of positive attention until a mysterious plague begins to consume all the villagers.
Throughout the hour, you’ll be hugely entertained by the acrobatics, juggling, balancing, tightrope walking and contortion technique accompanied by exquisite live music using both traditional and modern instruments. Its extravagant characters offer an artistic vision of their society’s evolution through an explosion of virtuosity and humour.
The Shinta Mani Resort first started out as the Shinta Mani School of Hospitality on the grounds of Shinta Mani Shack. The community programmes began there in 2004 and have since then received international accolades for its efforts. The programme, essentially, involved training underprivileged Cambodians in aspects of world-class hotel operations on a free of charge basis providing them with the skills to secure employment.
It was Mr Sokoun Champreda, a Cambodian businessman, who returned from overseas to start the Shinta Mani Foundation. It was his greatest wish to invest in the future of his country. The foundation, guided by his philosophy of “Open Doors, Open Hearts’, focuses on three core areas including education, healthcare and direct assistance. Sokoun later teamed up with Bill Bensley, and together they turned the Institute into a hotel.
According to Brad Atkins, the Executive Director of the Foundation, the whole idea of the foundation was to provide an opportunity for the local Khmers to have a future.
“In 2008, we established a separate charity and expanded our work from hospitality to other areas. Guests were interested in what was happening in people’s lives here, so we were approached to help in different ways,” said Atkins.
He added, “All our students at the foundation come from disadvantaged economic backgrounds. We work with orphanages, women shelters, and organisations that help rescue traffic women. These people lack a social structure around them. We try to bring them into the programme so they would have a future.”
The foundation has a 10-month hospitality programme teaching students English, basic computer training, career development as well as teaching them how to succeed in life. In fact, many of the foundations’ students have gone on to successful careers in the hospitality area.
“We also educate students about healthcare, personal finance and how to navigate their finances in small businesses. There is the classroom part and the internship part with the hotel. At the end of the internship, we help them prepare their CVs and brush up their interview skills,” he said.
All in all, the foundation is hoping to make a difference in the lives of the local Khmers.
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