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Bed, breakfast, bizarre: Asia’s quirkiest guesthouses

Looking for a hotel with personality? Get to know Asia’s quirkiest guesthouses and meet the passionate people who make it all happen

Book and Bed Tokyo

‘It’s a hostel all right, but it would be a waste to come here just to sleep. We hope guests will come here to experience the theme that makes it special,’ says So Rikimaru, who left a 15-year career in the advertising industry and now runs Book and Bed Tokyo.

Rikimaru decided to open a unique hostel in Nishi-Ikebukuro, an out of the way location, in the hopes that guests would be willing to go farther for its special attractions. Soon Book and Bed was born, billing itself as a bookstore you could live in. Global news outlets descended to check out this unusual concept.

The hostel features bunk beds built into well-filled bookshelves. The idea was to offer what Rikimaru says is ‘the best thing in life’: being completely absorbed in a book, followed by a good sleep once tiredness sets in. Rikimaru, oddly enough, isn’t a big reader.

A lot of hotels have quiet reading areas or libraries, but they’re mostly for solitude. Rikimaru wants Book and Bed to be a meeting place for book lovers, where they can share their thoughts. ‘As children we grow up listening to stories told to us, but now as adults we can use books as a way to connect to other people,’ he says. ‘Our staff love to talk about books with customers. Lots of people come here to meet other avid readers, and they’ve become our returning guests.’

Rikimaru recently built a bar in his establishment. He laughs, ‘I thought it would be fun to add another B to B&B.’  –Shie Iwasa

Crazy House

Crazy House, Dalat, Vietnam.
Credit: Quinn Ryan Mattingly

When rain falls on Da Lat, a city in the highlands of southern Vietnam, the Hang Nga Guesthouse, or the Crazy House as it’s affectionately called, turns even stranger. Its mad designs take on new life: stone creatures grimace, faux stalactites darken and drip, wiry spiderwebs glisten ominously.

After getting her PhD in architecture in Russia, Dang Viet Nga returned to Da Lat wanting to design something that was like no other. The buildings that came about years later are now guesthouses for adventurous visitors and curiosity seekers in this quiet city.

It’s a maze of whimsical creations: melting buildings, gold-flecked stalactites, caves with facades recalling brush strokes in Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Staying here offers a return to one’s childhood fantasy books, a mix of Alice’s Wonderland and Tolkien’s landscapes for elves and goblins. Nga’s original purpose, however, was to bring a sense of wonder back to our relationship with nature.

‘We’ve destroyed so much of our natural environment, so I wanted to bring people to know more about it, to bring them to stay inside a tree or a cave. People could walk on branches connecting one tree to the next,’ she says.

Nga notes its effects on those who return to the site and become regulars. ‘One person told me that he’s stayed here 10 times. Each time, he notices something new. So I feel obligated to keep building. I feel like my work is never done.’

According to Nga, the site is only two-thirds complete. The child in each of us can only hope that Nga, now well into her 60s, will keep on creating. –Tuan Phan

Bangkok Tree House‭ ‬

Bangkok Tree House, Bangkok, Thailand, 2017
Credit: Jason Michael Lang

Bangkok is a city of neon glitz. But you’ll feel miles from the capital at Bangkok Tree House, a hotel built amid lush greenery. It doesn’t skimp on modern comforts though, offering a sleek, stylish, eco-themed setting for urbanites to unwind.

‘The original idea, as set out by the founder, Jirayu Tulyanond, was to offer urban dwellers a tranquil haven from the hustle and bustle of the city,’ says Tanaporn Wittayasiripaiboon, the hotel’s manager. ‘But this same haven must be fitted with all the modern comforts urbanites would expect. So there you are, a hotel that combines the best of both worlds.’

Situated at Bang Krachao, a tree-covered island known as Bangkok’s green lung, the hotel is accessible via ferry from Bang Na pier. Typical guest rooms are boxy wood-and-glass cabins perched on stilts, but you can opt for the room that’s an unenclosed platform in a tree. The eco touch is everywhere, from organic vegetables grown on-site to the solar water-heating system. The whole complex, in fact, was constructed with recycled materials. To fully enjoy the green surrounds, guests may rent bicycles from the hotel for a day of exploration.

The hotel also aims to be of benefit to the surrounding community. ‘Our jobs are opportunities for the area’s residents to work near home rather than in the faraway, expensive urban areas,’ says Tanaporn. ‘We give them hospitality training, and they have a chance to give classes to guests on folk crafts like batik dyeing. This is a win-win where guests have fun and our employees can make some extra income.’ –Anshel Ma

Sato Castle Hotel‭  ‬

Credit: Sean Marc Lee

Sato Castle Hotel carries an air of grandiosity unusual for Taipei, vaguely resembling a European manor – if a kitschy one. Indeed, the hotel looks more like a theme park castle, in part thanks to its drawbridge and moat, hinting at the fantasy world behind the gate.

Receiving incoming guests is Sam Weng, who knows this boutique hotel in Neihu district inside out. ‘Our founder Lin Ming Huang wanted to do something one of a kind so that the hotel would stand out from the pack,’ says Weng, who has been working in hospitality for six years.

Each room is themed after a different fantastical world – that makes 51 unique experiences. Themes allude to Japanese cartoon Doraemon, football star David Beckham, the animation Mazinger Z, mermaids, Superman and more. ‘Every room is its own dream. Like Disney, we try to let people dream. Whether it’s feeling immersed in a comic book, on the stage or in a TV scene, being able to conjure some memory and to place yourself somewhere else is a dream come true,’ says Weng.

And dream chasers are many, it seems; this fantastical hotel has proven popular among both domestic and overseas tourists. Weng is proud of the success. ‘Our guests want to enjoy an extraordinary stay and by giving them just that, we have fulfilled our aim to delight.’  –Corinne Chao

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