Travel Picks: Top 10 hotels with a heart
LONDON (Reuters Life!) - If you like the idea of a luxurious holiday while salving your conscience, you might be enticed by eco-chic getaways, hotels twinned with community projects or those which support shelters for children and animals. Boutique hotels expert Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com) provides a list of its top 10 hotels with a heart. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Community help: Hotel de la Paix, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Sleek Siem Reap stay Hôtel de la Paix within easy reach of majestic Angkor Wat, is actively involved in the local community through a multi-tiered charity and social scheme. Hôtel de la Paix supports the Life & Hope Academy Sewing School, teaching disadvantaged women basic seamstress skills, and funds the Green Gecko Orphanage. Guests can share the love by not only sponsoring, but visiting these projects, or donating life-enhancing items, such as toys for children, school equipment, sacks of rice, water wells or even a pair of pigs.
2. Eco-chic: Azura, Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Located in a national marine park, Mozambique eco-escape Azura is a covetable collection of 16 thatched villas overlooking the Indian Ocean. It's also Mozambique's first carbon-neutral hotel, and is committed to sustainable and responsible fishing, as well as building projects to help the local community. The Rainbow Fund was used to build the island's school, and there are plans for a clinic. Azura also sponsors the island's football team, and provides English lessons as part of its Khani Kwedho, or 'Our Home' programme. A non-compulsory charge of US$10 a room a night goes toward the Rainbow Fund.
3. Animal encounters: Anantara Golden Triangle Resort, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Chiang Rai boutique retreat Anantara Golden Triangle Restort & Spa plays host to the northern branch of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC), a park for both wild and domesticated pachyderms. Guests can take elephant-driving classes from a local mahout, go on eye-opening jaunts through the jungle, and even join in at bath time (don't wear your best beach kit). Its sister resort, Anantara Phuket Villas in Phuket, turns its focus to the sea, supporting the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which protects sea turtles that lay their eggs on the beach. The hotel donates $1 a room a night, and participates in the turtle-releasing festival in February, when babes are ceremoniously released at Mai Khao Beach.
4. Carbon-neutral: Urbn Hotels Shanghai, Shanghai, China
China's first carbon-neutral stay, Urbn Hotels Shanghai wears its eco cred with pride. Fashioned from reclaimed materials, including hardwoods, house bricks and even antique leather suitcases, this cutting-edge urban retreat uses energy-efficient technologies and organic cleaning products. It further keeps its carbon footprint in check by planting trees through The Million Tree Project. On-site eatery Downstairs with David Laris has jumped on the bandwagon, using largely organic food, free-range meats and sustainable practices - even the waiters are kitted out in patchwork aprons made from recycled fabric. Continued...