Shinta Mani Wild (www.shintamani.com/wild.php) is the newest addition to genius Bill Bensley’s collection of extraordinary properties in South East Asia. His design aesthetic is so unique and fresh that he garners attention from all over the world. This project is really his baby. He worked for years to get the permission to build a tented camp in the wilds of the most beautiful National Parks of Cambodia- Bokor, Kirirom and Cardamom. The natural beauty is truly beyond description.
The buzz surrounding the opening has been non-stop- with many prestigious publications including it on their Must Visit in 2019 lists. We were lucky to be tipped off by our travel agent months ago- and really booked our trip around the opening. We were fortunate to be among their first visitors, arriving just three days in.
The trip is like a dream from the moment you arrive in to Sihanoukville airport. The journey from Siem Reap to SMW takes about three hours by car. It is remote. There is also an option to arrive via helicopter, but as that is one of my real phobias- we opted for a luxury van. The ride may have been as harrowing as the helicopter though. As the highway is one lane each way, our driver wove in and around all the many trucks who were going slower in order to expedite our trip. We we relieved to have made it to the entrance of SMW, where we were met by smiling staff and vintage Land Rovers.
We loaded in and continued down the narrow unpaved roads.
For visitors who arrive now, you can zip-line directly into the bar for a welcome drink. Unfortunately for us, this was still being worked on while we were there.
As we entered the open air reception area we were met by the GM Sangjay who is just terrific. He is young, enthusiastic, energetic and entertaining. You couldn’t possibly ask for anyone better to guide you through your stay. We sat with him as we sipped our special welcome drinks and got the lay of the land.
The first thing we received from Sangjay was a scroll wrapped with a leather cord. It was a map of the property.
Currently only 5 of the 15 tents have been completed, which allows SMW to become acclimated with a manageable guest count. Hopes are that the next five will open in the Spring, and the last five completed before the year is out.
My boys were assigned tent 5, and we were in tent 4. The walk is considerable to the farther tents, so it is something to keep in mind if you are booking.
We enjoyed chatting with Sangjay, and learning about what he had in store for us.
It looked pretty fabulous. First things first- we wanted to see our accommodations, and we were starving!! We followed our Butler Roth down to take a look.
Pretty awesome! For some reason I didn’t get any pics of the inside of our tent, but it was equally as wonderful. We washed up, left our bags, and headed to the really spectacular open air dining area.
It so happened that Patricia Yeo, the Corporate Chef for the Shinta Mani Hotel group was visiting the property as well, and she whipped us up a spectacular welcome lunch- a delicious and healthy salad and then a huge pan of Croque Monsieur. It was perfection.
Everywhere you turned there was some incredible detail to discover. The decor is so light hearted and fun. The restrooms off the dining room were spot on as well.
After lunch we changed into our bathing suits for a swim (and drinks) under the waterfall. We met the nicest people- particularly a mother daughter duo from Texas, a great couple from Singapore, and a seriously cool girl from London. I didn’t dive off the rocks, but my boys did.
The weather was hot, and the water was perfect. You could also watch from big day beds up above- my choice.
After tons of fun fun in the water we all showered off and gathered to celebrate Christmas Eve in the Jungle. SMW has an amazing mixologist, and a menu of innovative cocktails. We managed to taste test each and every one.
At SMW you can elect to dine alone, or with a group. As the other guests were so fun, we tended to eat all together.
On our first night we had an unexpected visitor. I think he was reminding us not to lose sight of the fact that we were dining in the Jungle.
The food at SMW is fabulous, and the chef is an expert in creating dishes from completely local ingredients, which I imagine is a challenge as they are so remote. the dishes we enjoyed were all innovative and delicious. One of my favorites were these glass noodles with crab served the fist night.
Breakfast on the other hand could either be french inspired pastry
or unbelievably good Cambodian Soup with pork meatballs. Heavenly.
After breakfast on our second day we prepared to go into the National Park with the Wildlife Alliance in an attempt to find and destroy traps set up by poachers. We hopped on motor bikes behind machine gun toting guides in order to do our work. No helmets, dirt roads, machine guns…you realize when you are on vacation you don’t exercise quite the same caution as you do at home.
Off we went- it was about 400 degrees and incredibly humid, but we were able to journey on local roads, amidst tiny villages complete with oxen, small children, and many dogs. It was a perspective we never could have gotten otherwise. Once we actually reached our destination we left the bikes and hiked in.
We managed to disable about 16 traps, and luckily had no confrontations with the actual poachers. It was a fun experience.
When we came back, we had a little down town and sat amidst the butterflies (there are tons of butterflies!)
Next up, a swim! We ventured off to the pool, which as you approach looks like a giant witches cauldron.
In reality, it is a completely relaxing oasis.
My boys stayed by the pool, but I chose to go for a massage. At SMW all spa treatments are included, as is laundry! What could be better?
The spa pavilion is small and simple, but the massages (and facials) were very good.
We ended the day with more delectable food, including what may have been the best Tiramisu I have had in my life.
Unfortunately my husband was under the weather for dinner (and much of the following day) and the staff was amazingly concerned, preparing tea for him, and being as accommodating as possible. I think it may have been the lingering effect of eating too many crickets in Siem Reap.
The next day was our kayak excursion down the river. I made sure our Butler Roth (who actually had never been on a Kayak before) was prepared to warn me if he saw any snakes hanging from trees. It was spectacular. We saw lots of birds, but thankfully no snakes.
We got off the river, had some snacks, and then walked back through acres of Mango trees.
Our last activity for the day was fly fishing. The setting, and serenity really cannot be adequately described.
One final dinner with our new friends, and then a very early morning exit to head to the Phnom Penh airport to make out way to Chiang Mai. The entire staff was never with out a smile. It was sad to say goodbye.
Off we go into the Sunrise
We felt so lucky to be one of the first guests at SMW and to experience this incredible property before everyone else. It is truly sensational. If you have any plans to be in Cambodia, you must consider a visit.