Sunday, September 7, 2014

July 2014 Travel Adventure: Part 3 (Shinta Mani Resort Review)

I had rarely stayed in any luxury accommodation for they are really expensive but I decided on giving my wife and the kids a special treat by booking a nice resort for my Siem Reap trip in Jul 2014, instead of our usual budget hotel or AirBnB finds.  I knew they would like to enjoy some comfort after our planned temple runs.  I googled and I cannot help but notice that the online reviews for one particular hotel, Shinta Mani Club was overly positive.  It was only a 4-star hotel but it was the #01 hotel in Siem Reap on Tripadvisor and it had FANTASTIC reviews that made it unbelievable actually.  Nevertheless I took the bait, hook and sinker.
I got in contact with the GM on the room booking and he actually recommended another place called Shinta Mani Resort instead.  It was a new resort that they took over recently and is located just opposite the hotel. Knowing that I will be there with my family and 3 kids, he had informed me that all of us would not be able to fit in one room (due to some regulations maybe?).  I thought holy shit, that meant me paying double just to add one more room for the kids.  But guess what?  He kindly issued the family 2 adjoining rooms, but for the price of one!  How cool is that?
The kiddos with a few of the friendly resort staff!
The moment we arrived at the resort on our "free" tuk tuk (read Part 2 to know why it’s free), the resort staff welcomed us with the friendliest smiles I have ever seen!  We were handed wet towels to freshen up and our luggage and pram were "forcefully" taken away from me immediately!  I had wanted to handle them myself but the staff wouldn't let me and instead, asked all of us to relax and drink the welcome drinks.  We were then shown to our resort and we could smell the wonderful scent of lemongrass the moment we stepped into the lobby, making us feel really relaxed.  It felt like stepping into a big spa sanctuary.

What were the kids looking at while seated in the bright airy lobby?
There is this large teddy bear hanging from the ceiling.  You can't miss it.
The nice smell of lemongrass filled the lobby area and really helped to soothe one's senses.
Our room is the first on the left at the end of this passageway.
There were lots of lotus flowers used in their decorations.  A nice touch to the overall resort feel.
The kids’ eyes lit up and they went wow when they were shown the first room.  The room was huge, with a king-sized bed and lots of walking (running) space.  To me, it was like a super luxurious chalet room!  The glass sliding door at the front opens out to a big balcony and lo and behold, the salt water swimming pool was in clear sight just metres away!  The GM probably didn’t know the size of my kids, for the room was definitely big enough for ALL five of us!  

The kids were super duper happy with their own room for the next few days!  Really comfortable bed and pillows!
The kiddos relaxing in the balcony, with Steffi and Leroy tapping on the hotel's free WIFI.
That was only the first room, for my wife and myself.  There was a door at the corner of the room that led to the second room.  As usual the kids were the first to get there and I heard them scream that there was a bed for each of them!  Yes, they had prepared for the kids beforehand and that delighted the kids!  The kids started jumping up and down their own bed and I must say that the pillows were really comfortable!  Each of us got our own toiletries and slippers.  It's these little details that really makes the difference, to me at least.
There were fresh fruits in our room and welcome drinks served when we arrived. 
There were the usual welcome fruit baskets, the beautiful flower arrangements and even personalized letters in the rooms.  From the moment we stepped into the resort into the beautifully decorated reception lobby and wonderful ambiance, we felt absolutely relaxed and on holiday.   However the real gem of the place has to be the staff, for ALL of them were really friendly and attentive. 

The usual range of pastries available at the breakfast buffet line.
Colorful breakfast cereals and toppings, but nothing fantastic though.
The first time I tried their breakfast, I was alone as the wife and kids were still sleeping.  I walked straight to buffet spread and was thinking to myself that although the food wasn't that much, it still looks alright lah.  There were the usual pastries and bread, some noodles and congee with the various sides, fruits, cereals and the usual stuff.  Wasn't that impressed actually.  That's until I sat down and the staff showed me the menu and asked me what I wanted for breakfast!  They had eggs benedict, smoked salmon whatever, braised beef noodles, pancakes and waffles!  I had tried everything over my stay and the eggs benedict is really NICE!
You need to order their mains for breakfast through the staff and this is smoked salmon on top of toast and topped with their special sauce.  Really yummy!!!
Eggs Florentine with bacon strips.  I would prefer Eggs Benedict but this tastes great too.  I only wished I had more room in my stomach.
A nice family photo taken in the café by one of the staff.
Normally when I visit any food establishments with my kids, I always fear that they are not welcomed. You know, the dirty look of someone who isn't too happy with kids around really spoils the day. Here at the resort, that's the least of my worries. All the staff seemed genuinely happy to see the kids and would welcome and high-five them with their widest smiles. There was one particular morning when Stacci wasn't feeling that happy during breakfast and started crying. A lady staff walked pass, asked Stacci what's wrong and proceeded to calm her down by carrying her and walking around the resort! The kids can really run about without any fears.

Happy Stacci with Ms Saven who plaited her hair!
On another separate occasion, another staff saw Stacci, found her cute and decided to start plaiting her hair there and then. The whole family felt really welcomed in the resort and we knew all our request would be taken care of, as long as it's possible. We had great help from the reception on their recommendations and bookings of restaurants. All you need to do is ask.
One can simply laze around by the pool the whole day long.  The staff are so attentive that they would even serve you ice water and bring you beach towels!
This is the salt-water pool that the kids demanded a swim in EVERY day!
Swimming is a family affair. 
The layout of the resort is such that the swimming pool is right at the centre and there are rows of 2-storey colonial styled rooms at 3 sides of the pool, with the restaurant occupying one side. So each of the rooms on level one have sliding door that opens out to the balcony and with direct access to the pool! The kids looked forward to a swim every day we were there, followed by a leisurely bath in their own big bathtub!

One of their favorite highlights of the day would be soaking in the big bath tub after a long day of play and sightseeing!
The resort is conveniently located within 15 minutes ride of the famed Angkor Wat temples and is also within walking distance to the famous pub street. But I would suggest taking a tuk tuk out if you are not too keen in walking. It should cost about usd$2 one way. Have a look at the recommended eateries on Tripadvisor, and many of them are located along pub street. There are also lots of massage palours along the way and it's really affordable! I didn’t feel the pinch even though Steffi wanted to do it every day. She was totally addicted to it and would fall asleep during the sessions!
A nice gesture by the hotel management, a tasty treat by the hotel chef!
My birthday happened to fall during our trip and management had actually gotten the chef to bake a special birthday cake for me.  A group of 5-6 staff turned up at my room just before midnight on my actual day, to surprise me with the cake.  They probably had wanted to sing me a birthday song but I guess it was really too late and they didn't want to disturb the other guests.  So they just wished me a happy birthday and left us to celebrate on our own.  I thought I would have to make do without a birthday cake this year, but am really happy that I still got one in the end. 

The staff bidding farewell to the family as we made our way to the airport on our tuk tuk.
I would personally recommend this place to anyone who wishes to visit Siem Reap, simply because my own experience there was truly amazing!  Great location, awesome rooms, superb customer service and affordable prices.  This is not a sponsored review by the way. 

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