The Shinta Mani Club offers tired temple-trekkers and loved-up couples a central Siem Reap retreat dedicated to delicious details and the development of the Kingdom
By Jemma Galvin
The temple “is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of,” said the Portuguese friar Antonio da Magdalena of Angkor Wat back in the 16th Century.
One of the first Westerners known to have visited Angkor Wat, Da Magdalena found himself lost for words when trying to describe the structure – a feeling many visitors could still relate to today.
However, in Da Magdalena’s time the temples were filled with women wearing swathes of floral fabrics and fresh flowers in their hair. Today, eager tourists from near and far clamber for the perfect picture of the ruins, as rust-coloured dust drifts in the sweltering afternoon sun.
An icky combination of said dust with sweat calls for a breezy tuk tuk ride home and a moment to breathe. And cleanse. And relax.
The Shinta Mani Club is an urban oasis that pays attention to the little things, which all add up to create one big, luxurious treat. From the ice-cold, perfumed towels guests are offered each time they return to the grounds to the jasmine-scented air and complimentary frozen poolside treats, the 39-room boutique hotel has left no detail unattended.
The rooms are contemporary – dark wooden floors, crisp white linen, all the mod cons – and also showcase genuine attention to Khmer arts and architecture. Designed by the world-renowned architect Bill Bensley, the hotel is home to Bensley’s Bar, which has cosy seating nooks that overlook Kroya restaurant below and where happy hour can be enjoyed to the sounds of live jazz each night.
The fragrant Shinta Mani Spa is the ideal haven to unwind, especially with that special someone in one of its double treatment rooms. Therapies are based on traditional Khmer healing rituals, fused with modern techniques, and aim to restore inner balance. The Khmer Coffee Scrub uses beans sourced from the lush hills of northeastern Ratanakiri province, providing an aromatic revitalisation to help combat any jet lag blues.
It is the hotel’s commitment to responsible tourism, however, that is at the heart of the Shinta Mani. This spirit is reflected in its “Open Doors, Open Hearts” ethos, which sees $5 from each room, each night, going to the Shinta Mani Foundation, which is focused on the education and development of young Cambodians through vocational training and numerous community projects.
The Shinta Mani Club and its sister property, the Shinta Mani Resort, employ hundreds of staff, most of whom have been trained by the foundation, which has been operational since 2004 and recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary.
A decade of community development has resulted in an authentic commitment to hospitality, making the Shinta Mani Club a place that needs to be experienced, whether after a sweaty day of temple touring or simply as a romantic destination in itself.
Tried and templed
Just 15 minutes from the Shinta Mani Club is the Angkor Archaeological Park, home to the ruins of the Khmer Empire, that ruled the area from the 9th to the 15th Centuries. The glorious temples of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon can be explored in a day. It’s best to begin at dawn to experience sunrise over the majestic structures.
Like a king
Delivered in-room each morning at the Shinta Mani Club is a delightful run-down of what the hotel’s restaurant, Kroya, will dish up that evening for the nightly seven-course Khmer Tasting Menu. These delicate dishes are chosen according to the season and the local harvest and are best enjoyed al fresco on the swing terrace.
On the road to Banteay Srey temple – a 10th-Century shrine also known as the Citadel of the Women – is the Angkor Butterfly Centre. A quaint setup alive with blooming bougainvillea, orchids and jasmine, it trains local farmers to breed native species of butterfly, creating a sustainable economic incentive for them to conserve the area’s natural habitat. Lepidopterists can spend hours here and pay just $4 for the pleasure.
Romance is at the top of the list of things that the Shinta Mani Club does to perfection. Take a tuk tuk to the verdant Cambodian countryside with your sweetheart to enjoy the hotel’s Country Dining. A private chef will prepare an authentic Khmer meal with paired wines to be enjoyed beneath the stars in a lemongrass-scented, torch-lit gazebo.
Tel: +855 6376 1998. Website: shintamani.com/club. Rates: from $300 for a superior room to $365 for a deluxe living room. Suggested accommodation: deluxe room with a pool view, from $327 per night inclusive of a breakfast where the champagne runs just as freely as the perfectly poached eggs.