Step into Cambodia and you will feel as though you have stepped back into time a little bit. It has the feel of how our country used to be, maybe two decades ago. It’s a nice feeling, though. As the pace is a bit slower, you don’t feel the stress of everything moving way too fast.
The place visited in Cambodia is Siem Reap and maybe other parts of the country may be different but here, it is like a small township peppered with interesting shops and buildings.
Of course, one of the main reasons people visit Siem Reap is to see the world famous Angkor Wat, a Unesco World Heritage Site. And, they should too! Awe inspiring with its temple structures which have stood the test of time, when you go to the area, you can feel how people used to live many years ago. Tales from history books come to life too as you remember how the Khmer empire used to be a magnificent one with their ruling kings and their many different ways of running the empire.
For instance, when Angkor Wat was first built, it was by a Hindu King and all the structures were in line with Hinduism and its many beliefs. Then came a king who practiced Buddhism and as he was a moderate and kind ruler, he tried to incorporate both religions into the lives of the people. This can be seen through the many Buddha statues in the complex. The only sad thing is that quite a few don’t have their heads due to “thefts” during the time the country was in strife and the heads were hacked off to be sold as antiques.
Then came another king who followed Hinduism and some structures and statues were again changed or rebuilt. All this will be shared by a guide, and if you are lucky to have hired a knowledgeable one, it makes the whole experience much more rewarding and exciting.
What many will also realise is that there is more to the Angkor Wat complex than just the main monument. There are many temples within the whole area. In Angkor Thom, the Bayon temple with its over 200 faces is almost as fascinating and then there is another temple called Ta Prohm that one of the kings is said to have built for his mother. To some, this place is even more memorable. Here, the gigantic trees have grown into the structures and their roots are everywhere with the trees shooting tall, reaching up to the sky. The trees are hundreds of years old and you feel pretty “small” when you stand there and realise that these trees have seen way more than you have and would have many an interesting tale to tell, if only they could talk.
Of great interest to many is also the fact that this was a location for the movie Tomb Raider which starred Angelina Jolie. Some of you may recall that she adopted her first child, Maddox from an orphanage in Cambodia.
Of course, holidays are also about staying in a wonderful resort, relaxing and enjoying good food plus resting. Shinta Mani Shack and the other properties under the Shinta Mani group are a good choice as you can be assured of great service and an overall unforgettable experience.
What’s even more commendable is that part of their profits go into CSR projects that help the poor there. Delve a bit deeper behind the sunny smiles and warm welcomes of the people and you will know that poverty is a big part of their lives here. The unrest, political strife and horrors suffered during the Khmer Rouge and turbulent times have left a big mark and many work for more than 10 to 12 hours a day just to earn a few US dollars for their families.
Much of the help given to the poor is on a voluntary basis and mainly done by caring companies and foreign countries which have decided to lend a helping hand to the children and people here.
Shinta Mani Shack is a trendy boutique resort centrally located in the leafy French Quarter between The Royal Gardens and the Old Market Area. A peaceful resort full of greenery, you can easily take a tuk tuk ride to the ancient Temples of Angkor Wat from the resort.
There also are vibrant cafes and bars not too far away where tourists from all over the world can be seen enjoying drinks and the nightlife. The night market also offers attractive items and souvenirs at good prices. Try to bargain a bit to get the best deals.
If you want to, you can also walk along the tranquil river front in the morning or evening and the Royal Residence isn’t too far away either.
There are different types of rooms that suit different needs in this courtyard-style resort. The 62 rooms and 4 Suites enjoy direct access or first floor balcony views over the stunning swimming pool and flourishing 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 ambiance with a modern vibe.
If you’re wondering why the rooms feel different and are so appealing, it’s because the rooms enjoy “a Bensley twist” including mirrored feature walls, custom designed iron beds and hand crafted light fittings. Accommodation is available in King or Twin-share and this includes a wall mounted LCD TV/sound bar, blue tooth and complimentary wireless internet access. Rooms also feature artwork exclusively created for Shinta Mani by Bensley Design Studios, Bangkok.
The Junior Suite room is located on the first floor of the resort with balcony views of the swimming pool and tropical gardens. The 78 sq meter suite comes with a separate shower, toilet and bath.
Located at Shinta Mani Angkor, there is a lovely Spa worth a visit as it is a sanctuary of serenity and a haven of refuge where the body is restored to exuberant well-being, good health and wholeness. After a session here, you feel as though your mind is opened to creativity and your spirit uplifted. Their therapeutic treatments, based on traditional and modern healing rituals help to boost concentration and awareness. Stress is also reduced.
For an even more luxurious experience, opened not too long ago, is the Shinta Mani Angkor – Bensley Collection. This is for the high flyers and truly rich. They comprise 10 exquisitely designed villas with landscaped gardens, personal pools, rooftop lounges and Bentley butlers. You will feel like you are living like a king here.
For those who love food, Cambodian cuisine has a special, memorable taste all of its own due to the many spices and ingredients used. At Shinta Mani, Bai Tong offers all day dining. Guests may choose from International comfort food as well as Khmer street food. Enjoy indoor and outdoor seating in this cool green space.
At Shinta Mani Angkor hotel, the Kroya Restaurant and Bensley’s Bar are places to visit. Kroya means “food” in the Khmer Royal language and the Kroya Restaurant is Shinta Mani Angkor’s unique dining place inspired by Shinta Mani’s heritage. The menu blends international as well as local produce, combining fresh ingredients, native herbs and spices to create innovative, palette pleasing flavors. Those seeking an unforgettable Khmer culinary experience can savour the authentic taste of traditional cuisine with a unique seven set Khmer Tasting Menu which follows the seasons and the local harvest. Meals may be enjoyed indoors or outdoor on one of the Khmer swings, depending on what you prefer.
Of interest are the extremely fun cooking classes you can decide to go for when staying at the Shinta Mani properties. This includes a visit to the wet market to pick out the fresh produce, after which a talented and friendly chef will teach you how to cook your own yummy food which will be served to you later.
For those who love their drinks, the Bensley’s Bar is where to head to. Named after the hotel’s world renowned architect Bill Bensley, the cool grey hued bar offers an inviting laid back environment for drinks and discussions.
Then of course there is the Pool Bar where you can enjoy fabulous refreshments. Maybe try the signature Icy Green Ginger cocktail or perhaps a thirst quenching fruit smoothie. Drinks and light snacks are served throughout the day.
Another place that is a must-visit is the Phare circus. Go there to give your support to the talented children and young people who perform to the delight of their audience’s hearts.
The tale is heartrending when you hear that many of them are the children separated from their families during the horrendous times of unrest in their country. Some went through massive emotional trauma but with the help of caring people and NGOs they have slowly come out of this hellish existence and today have a future that is bright and has the promise of laughter and peace.
Just seeing them perform lifts your spirits as you wonder how they can show such joy on their faces after undergoing all the hardships of their past.
Shinta Mani with a culture of “Open Doors, Open Hearts” reflects their commitment to responsible tourism. They say that during their visit, they hope people will open their heart to the beauty of the Kingdom of Cambodia, its gentle people and its fascinating culture.
As mentioned earlier, at Shinta Mani they are proud to support the less fortunate in the community – especially through the education and development of young adults. Your stay will help them to achieve their goal of creating a lasting and positive impact and to ensuring a bright future for the people of Cambodia. A percentage of your daily room rate will be contributed to the Shinta Mani Foundation to support their activities.
Do try to visit The Development Centre during your stay at Shinta Mani or ask their team how you can make a difference. Visit the official website for more information.
The Shinta Mani foundation and what they do for the people of Cambodia made me admire them for all they stand for. Founded by 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. The Foundation operates today in the three core areas of education, healthcare and direct assistance. Their vision is, “To see a strong prosperous Cambodia where each individual has access to education and opportunities for the betterment of their lives and to become globally recognised for our community sustainability programs as well as to be an organisation that people aspire to work for and partner with.”
Shinta Mani’s community activities began in 2004 with the opening of the Shinta Mani School of Hospitality on the grounds of Shinta Mani Shack which is owned by Sokoun. This innovative program, which received international recognition for its efforts, trained underprivileged Cambodians in aspects of world-class hotel operations on a free of charge basis, providing them with the skills to secure employment and to enjoy a brighter future.
Since 2004, more than 229 Khmer students have graduated from the Shinta Mani School of Hospitality and still enjoy employment in the immediate township and local countryside. When staying at Shinta Mani properties, many of the staff are from this school and it is really heartening to see that their dedication and attentiveness to give guests the best experience possible is of world class.
This successful blending of non-profit work alongside the hotel’s award-winning for-profit operations attracted such interest and support that by 2006; Shinta Mani began to explore ways to give back to the greater community. They did this by engaging in community development programs targeting rural families. Shinta Mani decided to empower these families through basic assistance. Over a four-year period, guests of Shinta Mani sponsored livestock, school supplies, 1330 water wells and 97 homes.
In its first six years, The Shinta Mani Foundation achieved measurable success in education and livelihood assistance resulting in meaningful change in the lives of individual families and for the community. The resort can help to arrange visits to the poor villages and this is something to experience as the real situation of the lives of the poor Cambodians can be felt and seen. The conditions some of them still are in, can bring tears to the eyes. On the brighter side, when you see what the foundation has managed to do for many families, it gives you hope and makes you feel grateful that there are organisations which are doing something to help.
In September 2013 the Shinta Mani Foundation expanded its training program by setting up the Farming Development Center with the goal of enhancing the lives of young Khmer villagers living in the countryside surrounding Siem Reap. The Shinta Mani Foundation Farming Development Center is currently collaborating with the US government’s Feed the Future Initiative in coordination with the World Vegetable Center and USAID (United States Agency for International Development). They said that their goal is to research the best varietals of vegetables to be grown in Cambodia’s harsh climate and then use that information to teach local villagers to grow their own home garden.
The Shinta Mani Foundation also supports medical and dental professionals to provide check-ups in rural areas. The Shinta Mani Foundation welcomes short-term volunteers who would like to contribute their time and skills to their organisation. Short term volunteers can assist students of The Hospitality Training School to become more confident in their interaction with foreigners.
Volunteers can teach short lessons, play educational games or have a conversation with students outside of classroom hours when students relax in the Bill Bensley Library and Computer Lab. Longer stay volunteers are sought for medical guidance, culinary instruction and staff training.
Contact the Director at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about volunteer opportunities. Generous donations from current and former guests of Shinta Mani Siem Reap represent the primary source of support for The Shinta Mani Foundation.
Cambodia is indeed fascinating, as is its history and its people. Do visit, whether it is for a holiday or maybe to contribute to humanity a little bit more.