I have done lots of unique hotels. Now I want to do unique hotels with a purpose.
Between all of us at Selective Asia, we’ve been lucky enough to stay at some truly unique hotels, including a number created by inspiring landscape architect and interior designer, Bill Bensley. However, in all our travels throughout Asia, we’ve never been anywhere quite like his visionary property in south western Cambodia, Shinta Mani Wild: undoubtedly luxurious - some might say decadent - yet with an unrivalled commitment to conservation and sustainability.
After zip-lining (yes really!) over the forest canopy into camp, you’ll start planning the finer details of your stay before heading to one of the tents dotted along the riverbank or perched over the small waterfalls.
Combine your Shinta Mani Wild experience with time in more of our favourite places in Cambodia for an enriching look at this incredible country.
The spaces at Shinta Mani Wild are ‘tents’ in the loosest sense of the word, with facilities to match any luxury safari camp or top hotel suite, all designed in achingly retro style with interior themes including local butterflies and references to Jackie Kennedy’s 1967 visit to Cambodia. Meet your personal ‘Adventure Butler’ (described as part guide, part friend and part magician!), who’ll be a graduate of the Shinta Mani Foundation. This innovative initiative, providing free, world-class training in the hospitality industry for local people, is a major part of what makes this place so impressive.
Those who are willing to foot the (undeniably fairly large) bill for a minimum three-night stay can fully immerse themselves in the experience, safe in the knowledge that they’re helping to preserve of 865 acres of pristine river valley - a habitat for some of Cambodia’s most endangered species - alongside providing vital support for the local community.
Our destination specialists will discuss how to best fit the Shinta Mani Wild into your tailor-made itinerary (it’s what they do!), but here are a few ideas to get you thinking about the shape of your trip…
Whatever you choose to include in your tailored Shinta Mani experience (and ensuring that your stay fits you perfectly is an essential part of what they do), we heartily recommend joining the rangers of the Shinta Mani Wild’s partner organisation, the Wildlife Alliance, on an anti-poaching patrol. Bumping out into the wilderness on the back of a ranger’s motorbike, you’ll accompany them as they study the forest, check camera traps and clear snares, gaining an unrivaled insight into the challenges of protecting this remote region.
You could also include a foraging expedition and cooking class, a trip on one of the Shinta Mani’s expedition boats, or a kayaking or mountain biking trek. Don’t forget to leave time to fit in a sublime treatment at the resort’s signature spa before relaxing over a gourmet dinner. As Selective Asia’s Aaron once said of Shinta Mani Wild, sleeping feels like a waste of time!
Having expanded from remote river valley to vibrant riverside capital, Phnom Penh is certainly an assault on the senses, and an essential stop for anyone keen to gain an understanding of modern Cambodia. If your experience at Shinta Mani Wild has fired your passion for design, indulge yourself with wanders among the city’s diverse architecture, both traditional and modern. Admire the pristine Royal Palace, the Khmer-Chinese architecture of the old merchants’ quarter, and the eye-catching Royal University (designed by renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann) alongside the contemporary style of the city's hippest neighbourhood, Boeung Keng Kang - BKK to those in the know.
Stay amid the slightly faded Colonial glamour of the Raffles le Royal hotel, where Jackie Kennedy rested her head during her whistle-stop tour of the country. It’s an atmospheric base from which to visit the Khmer Rouge sites, tuck into traditional street food, or head to Koh Dach - Silk Island - and the ancient capital of Phnom Oudong.
Having marvelled at the Angkor Temples, what better way could there be to give back to the communities living around Siem Reap than to join the Shinta Mani Foundation in building a house for a local family? You certainly don’t need an architecture degree to take part, and you can be as hands on, or not, as you wish whilst still knowing that your visit has had a tangible, positive impact. The Foundation was set up by Mr Sokoun Chanpreda, a Cambodian businessman who returned from overseas determined to invest in the future of his country, and his business partner Bill Bensley. Working directly with villages in this way is just one of the many initiatives they support.
After a day helping with the build, you can unwind at an exclusive Bensley Collection private villa, enjoy a private dinner cruise on the Tonle Sap Lake, or enjoy an evening’s entertainment at the Phare Circus: a project designed to help deprived young people use theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell their own versions of Cambodian stories.
Board a speedboat and get spirited away to the tropical sands and crystal clear waters of one of Cambodia’s southern islands: Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem or Koh Russey. Although the islands still have a relatively remote feel, and a thriving yet relaxed backpacker scene (Koh Rong was the location for more than one outing of the television series ‘Survivor’), a new breed of barefoot luxury properties have recently emerged that are ideal for pampering yourself at the end of your travels.
Making a decision about where to stay could be tough having started your trip on a high at Shinta Mani Wild, but your Destination Specialist will help you make the right choice for you. There really is something for everyone. We particularly love the spacious, minimalist-yet-indulgent villas of the Royal Sands Resort are our pick for flexibility and wide appeal. Enjoying a prime position on a pristine expanse of Koh Rong’s Sok San beach, there’s very little to impede your progress from pool, to golden sand, to spa, and all the way back again...
We suggest that you compliment your 3 night stay at the Shinta Mani Wild perfectly with 2 nights in Phnom Penh at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, 4 nights based at the Shinta Mani Resorts & Bensley Collection whilst exploring the Angkor Temples and 3 nights at the Royal Sands Resort on Koh Rong Island. This trip would typically cost £11,890US$13,690 per person (not including international flights).
How yours looks is up to you, our tailor-made specialists work with you to create your perfect journey.
Jumping straight in at the awe-inspiring Angkor temples, this journey allows for the perfect blend of Cambodia’s iconic locations and classic highlights, all with a bit of a Selective Asia twist and plenty of time to let it all soak in.