Unusual hotels in Asia

Sheraton Hot Spring Huzhou Resort
PHOTO: MAD Architects

Travel is all about pushing boundaries and immersing oneself in new experiences.

Accommodation is an important element of any trip, with hotels still the most popular choice of accommodation, according to a study conducted last year by travel data platform Adara, which polled 3,000 millennial travellers aged between 18 and 34 years old in various countries, including Singapore.

It found that 90 per cent of respondents have stayed in hotels.

In contrast, only 42 per cent had stayed in a house or apartment rental from home-sharing online platforms such as Airbnb.

From bizarre to downright strange, here is a guide to choosing the most unusual hotels in Asia, including a glowing horseshoe to treehouses shaped like fruit.

Even if your trip does not turn out to be all that exciting, you can bet that your hotel will more than make up for it.


A glowing horseshoe casts its reflection on Taihu Lake in Huzhou, forming a bright figure eight, which is auspicious in Chinese culture for its phonetic similarity to the Chinese character, fa (fortune). The inspiration for its shape came from traditional arched Chinese bridges.

Completed in 2013, the 282-room resort was designed by Beijing-born architect Ma Yansong, 42, and features a richly decorated interior that boasts a gleaming floor made of golden-brown Brazilian Tiger's Eye Stone and luxurious Afghan white jade.

However, the most stunning part of the 25-storey building lies in its sleek facade of aluminium and glass, which lights up at night to illuminate the Taihu waterscape.

A deluxe room starts at $359 plus tax a night.


Tulou Fuyulou Changdi Inn (Yongding, China). Photo: Fuyulou Changdi Inn

Constructed between the 15th and 20th centuries, tulou are earthen buildings native to the Hakka clan of the Fujian province. They were built as sturdy defensive structures to guard against intruders and can house up to 800 people.

In this tulou in south-west Fujian, run by sixth-generation landlord Stephen Lin, guests can enjoy activities such as cycling. Tourists can also dine on authentic Hakka cuisine with the locals who live there and cook for the hotel restaurant.

Though this tulou has more than 160 rooms, only 18 are used as hotel rooms. The rest are home to farmers.

Mr Lin, 32, says the tulou receives up to 4,000 guests a year. Of these, only 1 per cent are Singaporean.

The inn is in the Hakka Earth Dwelling Folk Culture Village, which functions as a miniature museum for Hakka buildings.

Getting there is a 31/2-hour bus ride from Xiamen, but fields and mountains are scattered along the way, making for a scenic journey.

A standard room costs $24 a night, but prices vary according to size and type.


Mazbro Village (Malacca, Malaysia). Photo: MazBro Village

Located in Paya Rumput, Malacca, MasBro Village is a homestay operated by owner Mazfazil Ali and his family. Whimsical rows of triangular huts come with their own oval lawns, calling to mind the colourful houses of Brighton Beach in Melbourne.

Although the huts look small, the ground floor of each one comes equipped with a mini kitchen, sofa-bed and television set. The first floor holds two queen-sized beds comfortably.

The homestay is 7km from the city centre and is near attractions such as the Gadek Hot Spring and Tanjung Bidara beach.

Mr Mazfazil, 50, plans to open a halal cafe and provide four-wheel motorbikes for rent in May. The price for a room starts at RM280 (S$88) a night.


CaptionPhoto: Credits

A former 1930s Japanese army headquarters, The Waterhouse at South Bund was transformed by architecture and design practice Neri&Hu Design and Research Office into a four-storey, 19-room boutique hotel, which sits on the banks of the Huangpu River.

The hotel blends old and new effortlessly in a mix of materials. After restoring the original concrete building and adding new elements including Cor-Ten steel - weathered steel with a rust-like appearance - the building took on its signature modern, gritty look, reminiscent of its industrial roots in the docks by the Huangpu river.

The 2,800 sq m hotel gives visitors a clear view of the Pudong skyline.

Rates for a standard room start at 880 yuan (S$179) a night.


Sharma Springs In Green Village (Bali, Indonesia). Photo: Rio Helmi

The first thing guests see are the six large, overlapping petals that form the roof of the six-storey hotel, inspired by the lotus flower. Designed by Bali-based bamboo design team Ibuku, Sharma Springs is made entirely out of boron-treated bamboo. The naturally occurring boron, which is a salt, renders the bamboo inedible to insects.

Guests enter the 750 sq m hotel on a tunnel bridge which leads to a living room on the fourth floor. A staircase leads to other levels where a library, playroom and four hotel rooms, all of which are fully air-conditioned, can be found.

The best part is the sixth floor, where guests can take in views of the sunset over Ayung River valley. A one-night stay costs US$795 (S$1,114) and the minimum stay is two days.


Keemala (Phuket, Thailand). Photo: Keemala

Nestled in the Kamala rainforest on Phuket, Keemala is a 28-pool resort focused on nature and wellness. It offers four types of villas: clay, tree, tent and bird's nest. They are a zany lot, with the tent villas resembling white mushroom caps and the treehouses shaped like round fruit.

The inspiration for the architecture comes from Thai mythology, which features indigenous clans who live in harmony with nature. For instance, the open-air nest villas are based on the Rung-Nok (Nest) Clan, which comprises artists who believe that basking under the moonlight will rejuvenate their souls. A one-night stay here starts at 22,600 baht (S$909) and differs according to room type and season.


Xiangshawan Desert Lotus Hotel (Inner Mongolia, China).Photo: Twitter/ TravelFox

Located in the remote Xiangshawan Desert, the hotel, which is surrounded by golden sand dunes, is a 11/2-hour plane ride from Beijing, followed by a 11/2-hour drive to the desert.

From afar, it looks almost otherworldly, comprising a cluster of white structures with peaks, spanning 30,700 sq m. The structures are made of steel panels which are not affixed to the shifting sands with concrete. They are supported by metal skeletons with a base that collects sand, anchoring the hotel in place.

The hotel offers sand surfing and camel rides. Its two-day, one-night package starts at 2,560 yuan (S$520) for a double room.


Crazy House (Dalat, Vietnam). Photo: Crazy House

Designed by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga, Crazy House is a bizarre building that looks as though it was carved from a hollow tree. Fantastical elements such as twisted tree roots and an enormous steel spider web give the house a unique appearance.

After obtaining her doctorate in architecture in 1972, Dr Dang wanted to incorporate nature into her designs. This desire for freedom of expression, says her profile on the hotel website, resulted in designs that were organic and unique.

Located in Lam Dong Province, the hotel has 10 rooms. The smallest room for a single person is the Termite, which starts at $33 a night.

This article was first published on Mar 19, 2017. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.