As we discussed in early 2022 in Episode #147: Most Memorable Hotel Experiences, hotels can make or break a trip. Sometimes they bring you closer to a destination, sometimes they elevate your experience, sometimes they ruin it, and other times they are the destination themselves. Scott and I have been lucky enough to stay at a lot of interesting types of hotels in Asia over the years: today, we’re going to share some of those hotel experiences with you, as well as note various styles of hotels you should consider experiencing while in the region. From hostels to homestays, restored colonial mansions to tented camps, and ones over water, there’s a wide range of options for resting your head while on holiday in Asia. This is Love Motels to Colonial Hotels: Exotic Accommodation in Asia.
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Scott and Trevor walk through a variety of types of styles of accommodations people might want to consider trying and then share a few they’ve tried in those categories —but that doesn’t mean they are still great or the best and suggest you always do your research!
Why stay here?: These are worthwhile if you’re potentially on a budget, have a bit more time and you really place high value on connecting with locals and getting a better idea of what life is like somewhere.
Trevor: Or its the only option: in O’Saom (only option), Banteay Chhmar (one with air-con) and part of a community development/tourism project
Scott: The word ‘homestay’ is a bit too broadly used these days, kind of like ‘boutique’. We stayed at ‘Be Treed’ in Central Cambodia which was very local, we learned about the family’s life but I’d only recommend it if you’re out motorbiking and in the area.
Otherwise, small towns and villages, particularly with something about tourism going on would be worth a shot. There are a couple in Bang Luang, a canal in Bangkok that might be fun for a night. I have enjoyed a Ryokan in Japan, they aren’t cheap but give that homestay feeling
Why stay here?: Really feel luxury, like stepping into the past, and getting a taste of this period in Asia that doesn’t really exist. And the prices are usually a great deal compared to Europe
Trevor: Quite a few in Cambodia: FCC, Relais de Chhlong, Governors Mansion at Terres Rouge, etc.
Scott: Raffles le Royal in Phnom Penh is a winner; The Oriental in Bangkok top drawer;
HCMC: Park Hyatt, The Majestic, Hotel Majestic, there are others – but this is a great place to do it. Hoi An has a few I think too and believe The Anantara took over an old spot
PNH: The Pavilion is neat too.
The Atlanta on Soi 2 Sukhumvit is old, odd, a bit weird, but worth a stay if you fancy semi-bizarre.
Trevor: Retro is another category: Bangkok has a lot of these. I haven’t been to a few in a while so I wonder what they’re like now. The Malaysia near you is a bit dumpy. The Miami was just far enough from Nana to be just dodgy enough, but hip in a retro kinda way. The Dusit Thani that’s now gone of course… but those mid-20th-century properties can be very cool.
Scott: One of two rooms in the former French Administrator’s house on Don Khon in Southern Laos at the Sala Don Khone Hotel was pretty cool and super atmospheric.
Why stay here?: Get a true taste for a different way to sleep and travel – this is Japan – and they are affordable and often have onsen and a lounge to have noodles and a beer too.
Trevor: only ever done like this in Tokyo airport but not quite capsure
Scott: I’ve stayed in 2: one in Hiroshima that was awesome with massive onsen and lounge and one in Kyoto that was neat, small onsen but not quite as good. But at around $30/night, these are worthwhile. Small tvs with porn, just weird and interesting. Becoming more common in airports but not quite the same
“Short term” / “Love” motels.
Why stay here?: Looking for a romantic encounter – either have one lined up or sometimes these places can find people (so my friend told me).
Trevor: Korean layover story: otherwise Bangkok has curtain parking. Many are themed: different rooms such as James Bond or Pirates of the Carribean. Rooms may include plastic guns, fishing nets and boat-shaped beds as well as porn channels, contraceptives, and ice (presumably for both booze and sex?)
Scott: I slept in one along the side of a major highway outside of Bangkok once while cycling and it as getting dark and shared a bed with my friend Todd. How cheap and silly not to get our own. I’d like to have a reason to try one in Japan or Korea, but being married, those days are behind me. But look more closely and you will find these in most Asian cities. Nana Hotel is fun to sit in the lobby and people watch – do it!
Hugely popular in Japan – curious – but I think you literally need to have a reason and another person to go to one. Handy as hell though for those that live in very small apartments and/or with family. These are popular in various capacities throughout SE Asia and Asia.
Why stay here?: It’s all about budget, and/or being in a good central location, and/or meeting lots of other travelers.
Trevor: When traveling solo it’s a good way to meet people. A private room with private bath in a hostel is often a good deal (like the suite in a 3-star hotel): good value for money.
Scott: I’ve stayed in so many over the years and can’t now remember the good from the bad, but use online reviews and seek one out. If you want to be in the center of it, get a pulse, meet people, then give it a go. Best to be in a partying sort of mood when you stay at one. But what I like now is there are a lot more ‘flashpacking’ guesthouses, at about $30/night for people a bit older that want a cool room but not to spend a lot. There are some cool ones around Baghdad Street in Singapore.
Trevor: Spa: Chiva Som – no coffee; Aman – matching clothes.
Scott: Prince Theatre Heritage Stay. Mountain resorts fit in here – those ones that are made of wood, give you a cowboy feeling, seek them out
Tented Camps & Jungle Lodges
Why stay here?: Point here is to sleep somewhere that you hear animals and can see them and not watch TV or use the internet, read books, walk, or get away from it.
Trevor: Quite a few again in Cambodia: Cardamom (nature) to Shinta Mani (luxury)
Scott: The Last Resort in Nepal near the Tibet border was awesome but I think that one is done.
These are getting more popular in Thailand to give people the chance to ‘camp’, often with tents set up. Koh Kor in Petchabun province has lots as does Kanchanaburi.
I really enjoyed Baan Maka Nature Lodge in Petchaburi province, Thailand, near to Kaeng Krachan National Park and the dam. Well thought out, walk, sundowner. Shout out to Games and Ian the owners.
Tiger Tops Nepal. Permai Rainforest Resort is in a tree – cool – mentioned on other episodes
Trevor: Always wanted to do one in Kanchanaburi. Green House in Kampot has on the river’s edge (several do, but these are the nicest, perhaps). Lake Toba had something like this.
Scott: I did 4 Rivers in Tatai which was awesome, luxurious, and tranquil: although it’s changed owners, it’s worth checking out. Also ones over water – eg Maldives, Thailand has some, you’ll have to shell out the cash, but having that right over water experience is pretty neat. There are lots in Khao Sok National Park in Thailand but pricey
- Best Love Motels in Thailand: TIME OUT
- #147: Most Memorable Hotel Experiences
- #141: Asia’s Next-Gen Hotels with Tomo Hamakawa
- #110 – Jason Friedman: Creating a Great Hotel Experience.
- Episode 95: Cambodia’s Evolving Hotel Scene with Alexis de Suremain
- #151: Airport Adventures & Layover Stories
- Episode 81: Tented Camps in Asia with John Roberts and Marius Hermann
Learn more about Scott and Trevor:
- Follow Scott on Twitter: @scottcoates73
- Trevor’s Blog
- Scott’s Blog
- Groovy Map Seoul
- National Geographic Cambodia
- National Geographic Thailand
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