Sometimes it seems as if all hotels are made the same. You know the feeling—you walk into your room, throw your stuff down, look around and realize that you could be anywhere. Bangkok, Hong Kong, even Ohio for that matter. Which is a shame, because if you know where to look, Southeast Asia is full of interesting, unique and artistic hotels that are so much more than just a place to rest your head. Why stay in a cookie cutter hotel chain when you can stay in one of these fabulously unconventional hotels and villas?
Hang Nga Guesthouse AKA Crazy House
Walking into the Hang Nga Guesthouse is like entering into some sort of bizarre dream, where Gaudi meets Alice in Wonderland, with a splash of Swiss Family Robinson and Salvador Dali thrown in. This spectacular array of wood, wire, glass and concrete buildings features imaginative ladders shaped as tree roots, mysterious cubby holes, towering treehouses with jagged peaks, and even an bizarre Indonesian/Swiss style chalet. Add to this spiderweb patterned windows, wooden kangaroos, bears and giraffes, and an explosion of tropical foliage and flowers just for good measure, and you’ve got a feast for the eyes. The architect and owner, Ms. Hang Viet Nga was trained in architecture in Moscow, and considers her Dalat guesthouse to be a masterpiece of curved lines that fuse nature and people. While the locals might think the guesthouse is a tad on the crazy side, tourists from around the world flock here to see this fantastic fusion of architectural styles and imaginative whimsy.
The Imperial Boathouse Hotel
Originally real rice Thai barges that used to ply the Chao Praya River and the open seas, these 34 wooden boats have been renovated into unique luxury suites. Each suite offers a breezy outdoor wooden deck, a spacious living room inside, sky-lit bathrooms, and a master suite below deck. Following the nautical theme, even the pools here are shaped like boats. As an added bonus, the Imperial Boathouse Hotel is surrounded by lush tropical gardens and just steps away from the gorgeous Choeng Mon Beach on Koh Samui.
Koh Samui, Thailand
Elephant Safari Park Lodge
Many people who travel to Southeast Asia make a point to see some elephants on their holiday, but how many people do you know who actually stay in the midst of these beautiful creatures? The Elephant Safari Park Lodge is set in the middle of the Elephant Safari Park in Taro, Bali, and it offers guests an up close and personal experience with the 30 rare Sumatran elephants that roam the grounds. Eat breakfast while overlooking the forest and the elephant trails in the Mammoth’s Head Bar, have your own private elephant chauffeur pick you up at your room for a day of trekking with your elephant guide and bathing, feeding and petting the elephants. End your day with a spa treatment and a four-course dinner before retiring to your luxurious safari lodge room.
Taro, Bali, Indonesia
4 Rivers Floating Lodge
Far from the well-traveled backpacker trail of Cambodia, Koh Kong is an intoxicating mix of pristine rainforest, deep blue rivers, and untouched mountain ranges. Intrepid travelers can make the trip up the Tatai River to the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, an environmentally friendly collection of luxury tents, floating on a platform along the river. Each tent features a private sun deck with views of the river in front and the Cardamom Mountains behind, as well as plush double and twin beds, flat screen televisions, Wi-Fi and mini-bars. But with so much nature and serenity outside, the chances that you’ll use these modern amenities is slim, as you’ll be much too preoccupied swimming, canoeing, trekking, and enjoying the spectacular sunsets from your deck.
Tatai, Koh Kong, Cambodia
Once a 1920s schoolhouse, this experimental boutique hotel is the result of a collaboration between four of Singapore’s award-winning design agencies. Each agency was given free reign over one level of the Wanderlust hotel, creating rooms that are funky, modern and unique. Take for example, the Eccentricity Floor by :phunk Studio, with its colorful neon lights, rainbow hallway and vibrant mosaic-tiled jacuzzi; or the Creature Comforts floor by fFurious, which makes use of friendly monsters, spaceship sculptures and twinkling star lights. Even the communal area and bar is cutting-edge, with walls painted in abstract patterns, shag rugs and futuristic furniture.
Little India, Singapore
Do you know of any other unique or eccentric hotels, guesthouses or villas in Southeast Asia? If so, feel free to comment below.