Given the abundance of hotels in Siem Reap, it’s hard to imagine that when the Shinta Mani opened in 2003 there were few—if any—comparable boutique properties in town. It set the bar for those seeking a smaller-scale, personable, and indulgent experience, from the traditional Khmer decor to the cuisine. And like any great hotel, there comes a time for a change. Enter Bill Bensley, the Harvard-educated, Bangkok-based architect and landscape designer behind many of the world’s most arresting properties, who led a two-year total renovation of the place completed in 2012.
Using cues from Angkor—columned passages, Buddhist shrines, maps and photos of the temples—Bensley dramatically transformed the Shinta Mani into a contemporary haven with a touch of whimsy, now called Shinta Mani Club (the family-friendly Shinta Mani Resort is across the road). Interiors use a stark palette—white subway-tiled floors and walls; heavy black armoires; charcoal-gray terrazzo partitions; stainless-steel light fixtures—offset by tangerine accents, in a nod to the orange-clad Buddhist monks who meander the temples’ time-worn sandstone structures. From the sugar palm tree–fringed, black granite lap pool to the dangling daybeds where you’ll enjoy the decadent breakfast buffet, the Shinta Mani offers just the right mix of drama and comfort.
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The hotel sits in Siem Reap’s old French Quarter. It’s a sleepier part of town, but just a quick walk to the town center with its many bars and restaurants. Stop by Hap Guan Street along the way; it’s the town’s first hipster block, offering coffee, old-school haircuts, and cute boutiques. Angkor Wat is just 15 minutes away by tuk-tuk.
Need to Know
Rooms: 39 rooms, from $162 for a standard double. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Diners at Kroya Restaurant swing on suspended daybeds while sampling local delicacies. To experience the full range of local flavors, opt for the seven-course Khmer tasting menu, which varies by season. Upstairs, Bensley’s Bar specializes in house cocktails using local ingredients; try an Open Heart—rum, passion fruit, mint, palm sugar—and settle into one of the cantilevered booths. The pool bar offers homemade coconut ice cream to guests after a long day at Angkor. Spa and gym details:The spa incorporates local healing rituals into its treatments, like the Khmer Coffee Scrub, adapted from a remedy practiced by a northeastern hill tribe. No gym, but climbing the temples all day will keep you in top form.
Who's it for: Couples who appreciate whimsical interpretations of traditional motifs and have a taste for impeccable service without the trappings of a five-star hotel. Our favorite rooms: If throwing on your swimsuit and hopping right into the pool is a priority, opt for a poolside room. For more privacy, head upstairs to the Deluxe rooms. Market wares: On weekends, check out local goods at the hotel’s Made in Cambodia market, where you can purchase fruit wine and necklaces beaded from seeds.