A Hidden Gem in the heart of ‘Temple Town’: Shinta Mani Angkor and Bensley Collection Pool Villas, Siem Reap
When most travellers think of Siem Reap, they immediately think of the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex. Today we want to introduce you to a luxurious oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the city which offers the perfect place to relax and recharge after a day of exploring the temples.
Designed by world-renowned architect Bill Bensley, the Bensley Collection Pool Villas are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Each villa is a work of art, with intricate details and luxurious amenities. From the moment you step inside, you’ll feel like you’re in another world. And on top of this, the private Bensley Butlers ensure a flawless stay by accommodating to your every need, be it a request for flowers delivered to your room, rose petals in your bathtub to something as simple as ordering you a TukTuk.
The two-level expansive villas themselves consist of a private outdoor pool, jungle-themed ceiling glass bathroom under the shadow of ancient Palace trees, a deep-soaking tub decorated daily with petals in the garden, as well as a rooftop floor with an outdoor bedded area – perfect for romantic movie nights under the stars, late-night gatherings, falling asleep to the sounds of crickets chirping and frogs croaking, or even private massages by the wonderfully trained masseuses of Shinta Mani.
Bensley and his work
None of this would be possible without the inspiring Bangkok-based architect and designer Bill Bensley, who collaborated with Shinta Mani Hotels to launch the ‘Bensley Collection’, a chain of luxurious, uniquely-designed, ambitious upmarket hotels – including a new collection of ten villas situated in Siem Reap, which we had the privilege of experiencing. The Shinta Mani Angkor – Bensley Collection, opened in November 2017, and to read about Bensley’s other projects and hotels, you can opt to purchase the book: ‘More Escapism: Hotels, Resorts and Gardens around the World’, which encapsulates the sheer chic elegance, diversity and enormity of his life’s work.
The artistic vision of Bill Bensley truly takes you by delight when you walk into the art-deco inspired villa: it can be described as an exquisitely curated gallery, where you refrain from touching anything in case it breaks (there are literal sculptures displayed in the living area). Described in one article as oozing ‘modern Cambodian design.. [with] minimalist chic interiors’, the rooms are adorned with dark wood furnishings and Cambodian art on the walls; the hotel in general oozes imagery and symbolism reflective of the Angkor Wat temple, which is just minutes from the resort. Furthermore, the villas are situated within walking distance of Siem Reap’s main tourist area, Pub Street, making them perfectly located as a base for exploring all that the city has to offer.
There are plenty of dining options too: the signature Kroya Restaurant with both indoor and outdoor oversize Bensley designed swing seating, Baitong Restaurant for all day dining, the iconic Bensley’s Bar for irresistible cocktails, the Pool Bar, or room service in the comfort of your villa. The Kroya Fine Dining set menu by Chef Chanrith was truly incredible: we tried both the six and four course menus, with our favourites being a gorgeous chicken roulade with green mango salad with cashew nuts and dehydrated seaweed, and a classic rib eye steak served with a selection of three sauces: Kampot pepper lime sauce, spicy tamarind sauce and Prahok sauce. For dessert, mango and sticky rice log was served with coconut and chilli ice cream, and by the end of the dinner it felt like we felt like we would never want to eat anywhere else.
Chef Chanrith, a local of Siem Reap, specialises in French fine dining and Italian food with rich Khmer flavourings, and has worked all over the world before returning back to Shinta Mani as executive chef, where he started.
It would be a crime to finish this review off without mentioning the spa: the wonderful Shinta Mani spa offers a rejuvenating range of treatments based on traditional Khmer herbs and healing rituals to reduce stress and reset inner balance. Whether a traditional Khmer massage, an invigorating body treatment or soothing reflexology, the Shinta Mani Spa offers an indulgent oasis for guests to relax and rejuvenate.
While there’s no denying that Angkor Wat is a cultural must-see, there’s so much more to Siem Reap than just its temples. Case in point: Shinta Mani Angkor and Bensley Collection Pool Villas. In the end, Shinta Mani for us was not just a place but more of an experience, one that we wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else in the town. The property is made up of many accommodation options, sections and rooms; yet the real star of the show is the Bensley Collection Pool Villas — a one-of-a-kind experience that left us feeling like royalty. From its luxurious accommodations to its traditional setting, Shinta Mani offers travellers a glimpse into another world—one that we’ll never forget.
Shinta Mani Foundation: Open Doors, Open Hearts
Now, onto something very important. Last but certainly not least, we would like to tell you a bit about the life-changing humanitarian work that Shinta Mani does for the community. During our stay, we were lucky enough to visit the Shinta Mani Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation funded by the hotel, which seeks to eradicate poverty in Cambodia through education, health care, direct assistance and small loans. Founded by Mr. Sokoun Chanpreda, a Cambodian businessman who returned from overseas to invest in the future of his country, the Shinta Mani Foundation is guided by his philosophy of Open Doors, Open Hearts. By encouraging those in rural areas, particularly girls, to attend school, the foundation works to improve the lives of Cambodians.
In 2006, they began projects to support rural families, empowering these families through education, health care and direct assistance(such as coming to the village and building homes). The programs have achieved measurable success resulting in meaningful changes to the lives of families and the community.
So far they have provided: 1800 water pumps, 3600 bicycles(primarily donated to school-children who were struggling to travel to school), 79 micro-loans to local Cambodian entrepreneurs. Additionally, the Shinta Mani School of Hospitality has trained under-privileged Cambodians in hotel operations and has helped graduates find employment for a bright future, free of charge.
To make a donation to the foundation please visit http://shintamanifoundation.org/
Guests of Shinta Mani can choose to visit the foundation, and participate in their CSR programmes. The Foundation has been internationally recognised for its programmes focusing on health, education and development for the less fortunate in the community. Furthermore, the total of all sales from Bill Bensley’s ‘More Escapism’ – which we mentioned earlier in the article – contribute to funds for the foundation.
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Consider staying in Shinta Mani or supporting the foundation? For more updates about Shinta Mani and Bill Bensley Projects please click here.