“It used to be good enough to design a hotel that was nicer than one’s home,” says Bill Bensley, Asia’s best-known luxury hotel designer. “Now we need to zip line guests into the Landing Zone Bar and save the world in the process for anyone to even bat an eyelash, never mind book a room.”
Bensley, 60, has done precisely that with his most recent project, Shinta Mani Wild, a super-high-end luxury tent resort in the Cardamom Mountains in southwest Cambodia, an endangered biodiversity hot spot, which aims to show how luxury tourism can help to preserve the world’s remaining pristine environments while aiding local development.
Getting there is half the fun, they say, but the nearly five-hour, 120 km drive from Phnom Penh along Route 4 is excruciatingly slow. Long stretches of special economic zones, garment factories and dusty slums, often clogged by fume-belching grid-logged traffic, give wealthy travelers heading to Wild a sobering dose of development reality on their way to paradise. For those who want to save time, an hourlong helicopter ride is a snip at $3,200 one-way from Phnom Penh.