The spirit of Shinta Mani

The Shinta Mani Club Siem reap, an award-win­ning, eco-lux­ury bou­tique ho­tel, is a short ride away from angkor Wat, and prom­ises the weary trav­eller more than just a good stay.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TRAVEL - By DINA ZA­MAN star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my

THE sight of Shinta Mani Club, a lux­ury eco-bou­tique ho­tel which truly prac­tices an ad­mirable CSR pro­gramme un­der its foun­da­tion, took my breath away. The 10-year-old ho­tel, de­signed by Bill Bens­ley, has won many awards for re­spon­si­ble tourism. Time mag­a­zine placed Bens­ley, the king of ex­otic lux­ury bou­tique re­sorts, among the top 100 de­sign­ers in the world:

“Bangkok-based, Har­vard-ed­u­cated ar­chi­tect and land­scape de­signer Bens­ley is known as the king of ex­otic lux­ury re­sorts; his prop­er­ties num­ber more than 100 in 26 coun­tries. With his firm, Bens­ley De­sign Stu­dios, he trans­forms wild land­scapes into so­phis­ti­cated en­vi­ron­ments. One of his re­cent projects is the Anan­tara Re­sort & Spa Koh Sa­mui in Thai­land.”

Shinta Mani is a fine ex­am­ple of his work. Its blue-grey, white and (some) black tones point to a min­i­mal­ist de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture, but it is un­doubt­edly wel­com­ing. Art­work is hung on ev­ery wall, ap­plaud­ing Cam­bo­dian cul­ture and artists. The smell of pep­per­mint per­vades ev­ery cor­ner, and lo­tus flow­ers greet guests. Wa­ter el­e­ments also make up the in­te­rior of the ho­tel; the re­cep­tion wait­ing lounge is ac­com­pa­nied by a wa­ter foun­tain trick­ling dis­creetly in the back­ground.

Room 212 faces the Shinta Mani Re­sort, a new ex­pan­sion of the ho­tel, and the main road. The ceil­ing above my bed fea­tured a paint­ing of ap­saras dancing, and ev­ery morn­ing I woke up to a gen­tle sun­rise.

I was pleas­antly sur­prised that my bed had a down mat­tress top­per, and the down pil­lows the bed came with, sup­ported my neck well, mak­ing for a bliss­ful night. We writ­ers spend way too much time on the com­puter and have all sorts of neck pains. Pil­low qual­ity can­not be ne­go­ti­ated. The ho­tel passed the Bed Test with fly­ing colours.

WiFi was easy to ac­cess, and over­all, I felt pretty much at home. More of­ten than not, ho­tel rooms are ster­ile and rather bland, de­spite at­tempts at bed­room in­te­ri­ors. This time around, I didn’t want to leave the room. Per­sonal touches like the daily fruit bas­ket (with fruits which were fresh), and “night­cap” of­fer­ing of bis­cuits made the room even more wel­com­ing.

Sur­prise, sur­prise – Shinta Mani has its own “daily paper”. It’s ba­si­cally a roundup of global head­lines and news, fo­cus­ing on pol­i­tics, the econ­omy and life­style, and printed and sta­pled on A4 paper (!). While it may not be a proper tabloid or broad­sheet, it cer­tainly puts the ho­tel at the fore­front of ser­vices.

The choice of news clearly showed a sharp edi­tor who keeps abreast of cur­rent af­fairs. How many ho­tels do you know that makes such an ef­fort for its guests?

Kroya, the ho­tel’s cof­fee house, is heav­enly. It of­fers in­door and out­door din­ing, and the lat­ter is rather unique: guests sit on a huge swing that al­lows them to sit or re­lax as they dine. A note of cau­tion: don’t swing too hard. You’ll ei­ther get ver­tigo or nau­sea and won’t be able to fin­ish your din­ner.

Kroya’s menu is also stan­dard ho­tel fare, but of­fers a tra­di­tional Kh­mer din­ner set menu which changes ev­ery night. The menu of­fers about seven dishes, in­clud­ing dessert, but they are fill­ing. All dishes are cooked in tra­di­tional Kh­mer spices, and may be ex­otic to those who pre­fer their food safe. Snail, ver­mi­celli and sil­ver mush­room salad? Turmeric mar­i­nated prawns wrapped in banana leaves?

My rec­om­men­da­tions would be the le­mon­grass mar­i­nated mack­erel and young tamarind dip, which was a de­light to the senses. The fish was fresh and its flesh plump, and just as I tasted the salti­ness of the dish, a whiff of le­mon­grass teased and played with the taste­buds.

The beef salad with lime juice and mixed herbs is not the usual beef salad you get at packed Thai restaurants here. It was a play­ful yet sen­sual feast, with a kick. The

Pala­tial: the lav­ish and classy Shinta Mani Club in Siem reap has all the crea­ture com­forts you de­sire.

the cosy re­cep­tion area

the swim­ming pool calls out to you to dive in.

the invit­ing first floor gallery

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