Out with the old and in with the new. Last week saw the hoarding around Siem Reap’s longest-running building site finally come down as Shinta Mani hotel opened its doors once again.
Cars and bikes have been slowing down all week to catch a first glimpse of the impressive monochrome structure. The 39-room property (more of a cousin than sister hotel to de la Paix) has received a dramatic redesign by Bill Bensley of HDLP fame. Bensley’s vision does include touches of de la Paix décor; clean lines, airy spaces, the same grand door mouldings and swinging dining tables.
The chic designer feel has his stamp all over it, and is far from the humble Post Office beginnings of the building, and indeed further again from the simple 18-room guesthouse feel of the old Shinta Mani.
Marpha Domingo, director of sales and marketing for Shinta Mani said all eyes are on them following the news of de la Paix’s closure.
“They will always compare us as a mini de la Paix but our concept is Shinta Mani,” she said.
With the slogan ‘Open Doors, Open Hearts’, Marpha said that the hotel’s community projects are the core of its concept.
“It is part and parcel of being a Shinta Mani property right from the very start.”
When Shinta Mani opened in 2003, Mr Sokoun, the founder and owner of Shinta Mani and Hotel de la Pix, had the concept of a hotel that is a business but at the same time provides and gives back to the community.
“So that concept came to this new, more modern hotel,” explained Marpha, “With a higher level of service, a higher level of facilities, a very designer element, but still with the community aspects.”
The opening of the hotel will see the Shinta Mani Foundation, which was founded last year, formally get under way with its work including the on-site hospitality school, it’s mobile health program, and its micro-business initiative.
The management hopes that this will be the first among a collection of do-good Shinta Mani hotels around the Mekong area.
After an ill-fated Luang Prebang venture, in which Shinta Mani pulled out following a disagreement with the owner over the concept behind the hotel, Mr Sokoun is on the lookout for new locations.
Marpha stressed that the opening of the property is soft in nature.
But after a two year closure – one year of which was wasted due to contractors who failed to get the job started – Shinta Mani was eager to get the doors open.
Plants still need to be planted, menus printed, and certain parts are still under construction so Marpha said there will be an official bash later in the summer.
From outside, the complex looks larger than its 39-room capacity. Two new buildings either side of the original comprise a range of facilities. Guest rooms, which come in a variety of lay-outs, are all immaculately designed, gloriously air-conditioned and doused in lemongrass fragrance.
The spa on the top floor consists of several treatment rooms, a gym and foot massage area, with treatments ranging from $40-$60 for a wide array of facials and massages, (though Marpha says an expat membership will be set-up).
Marpha cites the 90-minute stone body healing massage as a hotel signature.
Below is Bensley’s Bar, lovingly named after designer and now part-owner Bill. “He is very into the community aspect. He was one of our sponsors so it was natural in terms of ownership for him to be part of it, he is very much involved,” explained Marpha.
Other facilities on the second floor include a meeting room and the Bonalai library. “The idea of the owner is to have a library where we have a comprehensive collection of books about Angkor and Cambodia here for the guests.”
Up top is a blank canvas roof area than can be used for parties and events, while the long lap-pool with its bar on the side makes for a cool afternoon hangout, which could double up as chic cocktail hour location.
But it is Kroya (which means food in royal language) that will be the biggest draw for Reaper’s.
“The menu will be a modern interpretation of Khmer food,” said Marpha. “It’s open to outside guests. Kroya doesn’t exist because we have a hotel, we are here because we want to be a dining destination.”
Unlike many hotel eateries, Kroya is strategically positioned road-side to entice non-guests to dine as if it were a stand-alone restaurant.
Its urban design gives it a big-city feel, but closer inspection sees carefully disguised hints of Angkor, like a ceiling covered modern-day architectural plans for the ancient Bayon temple.