What is it about Asia that throws up strange and unusual places to rest your head? It’s as if there’s some inaudible signal being broadcast causing architects and hoteliers to try and one-up each other in a race towards the weird and wonderful. Hey, I know, let’s make them sleep in a giant elephant! No, why not in tiny cubicles stacked like sardine tins! It’s like Lewis Carol and Gaudi decided to get together and start a small interior design business.
Whether you’re after a hotel with rich with history, where every floor has been worn smooth by the passing of thousands of ancestral feet, or whether you just want something weird and seedy to make your friends gawk on Facebook, Asia has something for you. So join us on a tour through accommodation both sublime and surreal. Please note: Check-out is half-past yesterday.
1. Tokyo’s Love Hotels, Japan
What an optimistic title for the world’s most bizarre version of the No-Tell Motel. Tokyo’s infamous Love Hotels are some of the coolest accommodation you’ll find anywhere, and you don’t have to be on a mission of love to stay. The somewhat seedy reputation means these rooms are extra cheap, with many priced at just JPY 6000 to JPY 10,000 a night, depending on the quality.
No booking required (that’s kind of the point) just head down to the trendy Shibuya or Shinjuku districts, find a neon wonder that looks suitably random, and in you go. With themed rooms encompassing everything from Under the Sea and Hello Kitty to Pokemon and Star Wars, there’s a little love out there for everyone.
2. Waterholes at South Bund, Shanghai, China
This hotel is like something out of a Hitchcock movie. Your room comes with several small, glassed apertures (peepholes) where other guests can look in and see what’s going on. But don’t worry, you can do the same to their rooms, so that’s totally fine and not weird at all in any way.
Luckily these little windows do come with blinds for the more modest travellers. The interior design firm behind the hotel claims the voyeuristic view harks back to traditional Shanghai residential alleyways called longtangs, where neighbours could peep into each other’s apartments.
3. Yurt camp, Kyrgyzstan
Finally, an establishment with a bit of good old-fashioned respectability about it. These camps are a throwback to that traditional form of Kyrgyz accommodation: the yurt. Not the sexiest of names, but a yurt is a pretty impressive architectural feat nonetheless. Made from eco-friendly wood and felt, each yurt stands without the aid of a single nail and, with the aid of a small stove fire, does an amazing job of keeping out the tundra’s night-time chill.
Intrepid gives travellers the chance to experience this ancient form of accommodation (for those hardy enough to rough it on the steppes of central Asia that is). Who needs a warm shower when you have the crisp clear waters of a mountain stream to wake you up?
4. Capsule Inn, Osaka, Japan
Capsule Inn does exactly what it says on the tin. Each guest is packed into a neat 2m x 1m x 1.25m capsule stacked alongside dozens of duplicates. Inside, you’re given a blanket, a coin-operated TV, a pillow, sleeping mat and an alarm. For some reason they’re popular with local businessmen who have had a big night on the town, and capsule hotels have sprung up in New York, Singapore and China too, although we’re not sure why.
Guests say they’re surprisingly comfortable, despite the snug fit. They’re a good option for solo travellers on a tight budget too, with each capsule usually priced between USD 20 and USD 50 per night. That’s pretty easy to swallow.
5. Neemrana Fort Palace, India
Built into the side of a huge jungle-covered hill on the highway from Delhi to Jaipur, this ancient 16th century stone fort doesn’t lack for drama. It’s among India’s oldest heritage resort hotels, but the owners haven’t let tradition get in the way of having the country’s first hotel zipline, or installing two infinity pools with spectacular views out over the valley.
Located smack in the middle of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, it makes a great base for exploring the surrounding region, and is perfect for visiting the nearby Sariska tiger sanctuary.
6. Tulou village, China
Flying over the beautiful rural Fujian province in southern China, you might spot a strange sight from the air: enormous circular spaceship-style structures, dotted throughout the landscape. Five stories high and up to 70 metres in diameter, these enormous wooden structures are actually an ancient form of Chinese community housing called tulous.
Built between the 12th and 20th centuries to defend against raiders, some are veritable fortresses with 1.8 metre thick walls, gun holes and iron portcullises. Fancy an overnight stay? Intrepid can take you to a real tulous village, giving you a chance to sample this ancient form of accommodation for yourself.
Image courtesy of Kevin Poh, Flickr