Originally intended as inexpensive overnight accommodation for travellers who could not afford or did not require the services of conventional hotels, capsule hotels first appeared in 1979 in Osaka. Clothes and shoes were exchanged for a yukata robe and slippers on entry. Luggage was stored in a small locker and simple washrooms were communal. In our increasingly shared economy, it makes sense that this intimate genre has taken off for a new generation of travellers keen to spend less time in private spaces. These compact, usually stacked sleeping pods are popping up around Asia like never before.
Capsule by Container
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Located at the Malaysian capital’s international airport, this industrial-chic pod spot is designed for transit passengers. Among the 120 wood-lined capsules with plump duvets and reading lamps are female- and male-only options, as well as mixed quarters and a premium category with wider mattresses and extra pillows. Similar to the Japanese originals, guests leave their shoes at the entrance and are given a locker key and towel upon check-in. Thoughtful upgrades here include a complimentary amenity bag for carrying personal belongings and walls hung with original works by up-and-coming local artists. Capsule Bar provides a spot for socialising over beers between takeoffs and landings. Earplugs and a wake-up call are available upon request. capsulecontainer.com
It’s an eco-friendly and stylish solution to Hong Kong’s lack of space. Conceived at Harvard University by two students seeking to address urban population problems through design, the city’s first capsule hotel opened earlier this year in the gentrifying Sheung Wan neighbourhood. Available by the hour or on a nightly basis, these eight metal-wrapped capsules feature minimalist wood-clad interiors. Each offers individually controlled circadian lighting and air supply designed to optimise sleep quality. Set to be the world’s first LEED v4-certified capsule hotel, the operation is paperless and uses all LED lighting, a heat recovery system for its rain showers, towels made of organic cotton and locally sourced bath amenities. Luggage lockers are distinctly roomy (and there’s a separate space for oversize baggage), the complimentary slippers are extra plush and no more than the eight guests share the toilets and shower rooms. sleeep.io
This Chinatown address combines the oh-so-now concepts of communal living and co-working, and its inviting surroundings will make you want to linger longer. A self-described posh hostel, it’s built on the site of an old pawnshop and teahouse. Behind its art deco facade, the lobby is filled with vintage finds and tropical furnishings on herringbone wood floors. Those on the tightest budget can opt for tri-level dormitory beds, and the capsules are all placed behind blackout curtains for maximum privacy. They come pimped out with 350-thread-count linen plus down pillows and duvets. Single and double pods are available here, as is female-only accommodation. Guests may lack the space of a traditional hotel but other standard amenities are included, like free breakfast, high-speed Wi-Fi, a local smartphone and laundry service. adlerhostel.com
Time Capsule Retreat
Not all capsule hotels are found in urban settings. This independent, family-operated version in eastern peninsular Malaysia is decidedly unconventional, from its lush location at the edge of a protected nature reserve to its capsule rooms upcycled from concrete pipe cylinders. Surrounded by dense greenery, these futuristic circular capsules are fitted with a queen-size mattress, freshly laundered sheets, air-conditioning and good lighting. Unlike most of their city counterparts, these funky pods are large enough for two people. Shared bathrooms are found along the well-marked paths. The site also has glass-clad two-bedroom units fashioned out of upcycled shipping containers that confer spectacular jungle views. The owners provide a hand-drawn map of nearby Sungai Lembing, a quaint 19th-century tin-mining town, marked with local restaurants and the trekking path up Panorama Hill, a popular place to watch the sunset. timecapsuleretreat.com