Southeast Asia has long been reigned by the simple guesthouse or the luxurious five-star resort — something for the backpackers, and something for the jetsetters. But a new class of flashpacking traveler has emerged — a backpacker at heart but on a budget with wiggle room; someone willing to splurge a bit in the name of comfort and style. And so accommodation has risen to meet the occasion, with a new crop of design-centric hostels popping up around Southeast Asia. These unique crashing pads combine the social scene that hostels inherently hold with the inspiration of boutique hotels — they’re the kind of place that makes this former design student’s heart swell.
I was hoping to include more hostels in this roundup but I wanted to keep the standards as high as possible and some locations I stayed in just didn’t set my swoon-o-meter off. Hopefully I will add to this list throughout my travels!
So Hostel Chiang Mai
When I arrived at So Hostel after traveling in the dark through pouring rain, I felt like I had arrived in an oasis of good taste. I was immediately won over by the bright red accents in the lobby, from shiny chandeliers to plush loungers. No detail goes unnoticed, from swank bathrooms to murals in the stairwells.
So Hostel is a rarity in Southeast Asia in that it has a full range of hostel amenities — a complete kitchen, laundry facilities, and even bikes to rent. Security is taken seriously, with key card access to both the common areas and the rooms and 24 hour reception and security. Did I mention there’s an elevator? Nothing feels as luxurious as an elevator when you’re carrying an 80L backpack.
The location is a convenient five minute walk from the Chiang Mai gate in one direction, and a five minute walk to the night market in another. For those looking to explore all that Chiang Mai has to offer, a range of tours can be booked through the front desk.
Dorm rooms feature air conditioning, bright red bunks and large lockers where valuables can be stored throughout the day. Private rooms are charming and bright and have all the conveniences of a hotel room. If you’re hoping to stay in a private room, book in advance — they fill up quickly!
There is some room for improvement, especially considering this is a very new hostel. While free, the wifi system is frustrating as it requires a new log in every time a device is turned on or even wakes up after going to sleep (a real irritation for iPhone users). The rooftop is beautiful but at the moment underutilized — I hope they add the same design flare used throughout the hostel to this space! Also, many Hostelworld reviewers noted that the staff could be friendlier and more welcoming. I feel confident So Hostel will only improve from here.
Prices start from 240 baht ($8) for a twelve bed mixed dorm to 1,300 baht ($44) for a double room.
64/2 Loy Khroh Road
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel: +66 53 206 360 | Facebook | Book Here
Lub d Silom Bangkok
A frequent award winner and active part of the hosteling community, Lub d was one of the founders of the design hostel movement. They’ve become so popular that recently they added a second Siam location along with the original in Silom.
Lub d has a fantastic vibe between the chatty young local staff and the cosmopolitan crowd filling the bunks. First timers to Bangkok often head to Khao San Road, so the travelers here tend to be on their second or third trip through Thailand. There’s no kitchen, but breakfast is offered at affordable prices and laundry facilities are available. My favorite part about Lub d was their effort to make sure guests got to know each other and the city — pub crawls, city walks and hostel parties are all advertised via brightly colored posters. And for those who need a night in, a theatre room with bean bag chairs and a stack of DVDs available for checkout beckons.
Dorms feature individual plugs, reading lights, and small shelves — which as any veteran hosteler will attest, are pure luxury. Shared bathrooms are stylish, clean and spacious. Private rooms are cheery and efficient, with TVs, iPod docking stations, and in-room safes. If booking a private room, request a street-facing room — the large windows make for a better value.
The only drawback to Lub d is its out of the way location. While there is plenty to explore in Silom itself, for those wishing to travel further afield and not wanting to take a taxi, they will need to to walk 10-15 minutes to the Skytrain or water taxi.
Prices start from 400 baht ($14) for a 10 bed dorm to 1,600 baht ($55) for a private room.
4 Decho Road, Suriyawong
Bangrak, Bangkok 10500 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 2634 7999 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter | Facebook | Book Here
Lub d Siam Bangkok
After finding so much success in Silom, Lub d opened a sister hostel in the busy downtown shopping district of Siam, Lub d Siam. Located steps away from the National Stadium BTS stop and a stone’s throw away from MBK, Siam Paragon, and other popular shopping malls, this hostel has one of the best locations in Bangkok.
During my stay here I enjoyed the open-air hallways that reminded me I was in steamy Bangkok, the constant hum of activity in the trendy lobby, and the fun design touches, such as the tuk tuk in the lobby. This hostel is a successful extension of the Lub d brand!
Photo provided by Lub d
For those looking for privacy but also hoping to save some baht, I recommend the private room with a shared bathroom. I had a cozy bed to myself and a nice desk to work at, and I didn’t at all mind sharing the clean and spacious bathrooms with the others on my floor.
925/9 Rama 1 Road, Wang Mai
Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 2612 4999 | Email: email@example.com
Twitter | Facebook | Book Here
Have you stayed at a design hostel in Southeast Asia?
Let me know so I can visit and add it to my list!
This post was made possible by Hostelworld.
‘On a budget with wiggle room’- I love it!
That’s how I describe myself 🙂
Both are very cute! Nice for the occasional faux pamper but I just love a grungy hostel with writing on the walls. Makes you feel a little more reckless and a little less self conscious.
I agree there is something romantic about “The Beach” style hostels from hell! But as a design lover this is the kind of place I would open if I were to start a hostel… so I like to mix it up 🙂
Nice! As a traveller with champagne taste on a beer (or tap water!) budget these places look amazing!! Awesome photos too 🙂
Haha Sarah I love it and just might have to steal it… “champagne on a tap water budget!”
These are very cool looking.
The kind of hostel I would even bring my aunt to 🙂
Thanks for the post! I am definitely planning on returning to Thailand in the near future, so I’m sure I’ll be coming back for reference. Looking forward to more hostel tips!
Hopefully I can add a few more before the end of this trip!
Ohh ! I love lub D, though I’ve only stayed in the one in Siam Square. Though it’s not nearly as pretty as the Silom one! Though it has the most incredible location (ever!) It’s my favourite of places to stay in Bangkok – so new and clean and the beds are glorious. There is nothing like sleeping in a clean white fluffy bed after too long living in a sandy Koh Tao bungalow. Were there any sweet little nooks like this in ‘Nam?
I’m definitely jealous of the location of the Siam one. However they told me at the Silom one that the Siam location has a less diverse crowd — that it’s mostly Koreans there to shop. So you would fit half that equation, right?! 😉
Unfortunately I didn’t find anything like this in Vietnam… in fact I remember saying to Mark, “Where are all the boutique hotels?!” But I know Hanoi Backpackers is pretty famous up north. Just didn’t make it that far!
Definitely riddled with shopping Koreans. However seeing as I was in the ‘Don’t-talk-to-me-I-live-on-a-tropical-island-with-little-to-no-amenities-and-I-just-want-to-buy-shit’ mindset I blended in seamlessly.
I’m going to Hanoi so I’ll check that one out!
These look like luxury hotels to me 🙂
I normally go with family owned hotels or B&Bs, but added these guys to my To-Do-Go List. Thanks for sharing, Alex.
No problem! I love the hospitality of little family owned guesthouses as well… but its always great to mix it up 🙂
During our short sojourn in Bangkok, we considered staying at LubD, but they were all booked up! Also, I have to say that I was really surprised by how pricey I found hostels in general to be in Bangkok… I really was not expecting dorms to be going for more than $12USD per bed, and I was really surprised that private rooms were going for $40USD. Prior to reaching Thailand, so many people we had encountered kept raving about how cheap everything was there that we were actually pretty shocked to find things so much more expensive than we had expected. We are currently in Vietnam where $10USD private ensuite rooms are the norm, and I have to say the quality of the rooms has been phenomenal! I think if I were just doing a short 2 week vacation to Thailand, I wouldn’t think anything about paying $40USD per night, but for a long-term traveler, the private rates posted here are just a bit too dear for me. They do look nice though!
Yeah, I’ve learned hostel does not always mean cheapest. You can definitely get a private room in a guesthouse in Bangkok for less than this… of course you sacrifice some of the amenities communal vibe and style! That’s why I like to do a good mix 🙂
I think Steph has a point. I think the term ‘hostel’ is about capturing an audience – and nothing at all to do with budget range. My personal favourite hotel, which is ultra groovy, is 1600 Baht, booked right off their website, and exactly one stone’s throw from Lumpini park, and just around the corner from the BTS. And there’s no ferals stinking up the pool (oh, and theres a pool) coming out of the dorm rooms!
Power to weight, as in cost-per-luxury, Bangkok, in my experience (which is some), is the cheapest city in the world.
But that ‘capturing audience’ concept is a positive, too, since you’re likely to socialise with like-minded souls. LubD has sort of become a legendary meeting place for people in South East Asia, all bonded by their mutual avoidance of Kao Sanh Road (not that there’s anything wrong with Kao Sanh Road)
Um, how can you leave this well-said comment and NOT TELL US WHAT THE FAVORITE HOTEL IS?!
Luxx XL. No dormers stinking up the place, but on the flipside, not that social thing. But for say, couples, or indie workers.. POW!
Did you the inspiration for the LOVE table in the luvD set of pictures is inspired by the original LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia? well it is. Terrific review of these two neat places to stay.
I did know that! We had one on the Pratt campus as well. I’ll have to come see the original this summer!
I wanted to stay in Lub D but then my friend booked me in another hostel. I’ll visit it once my Bangkok comeback pushes through 😀
Always good to have a reason to return to Bangkok 🙂 I love this city!
Oh wow! These are really, really cool! Yeah! I have so got to visit these ones!
These look great! I love places that have a funky design like that!
Cool hostels…wish I stayed in some of those during my SEA trip.
Always good to have an excuse to return! 🙂
I love the So Hostel kitchen, it looks almost a professional one. The design of Lub D is very cool too, shame we didn’t know about those two hostels when we visited Chiang Mai and Bangkok, next time! 🙂
I have found a reason to return to Thailand about 6 times now…. there’s always something 🙂 Thanks for reading!
Love your review of Lub D, it was the first boutique hostel I stayed in and inspired me to open my own. If you have any plans to come Singapore you have to stay with us!
Thanks Calvin! Next time I head back to Singapore I will drop you a line 🙂
Great post! I should pay Lub D a visit to see it for myself. I live in BKK and I’m always on the lookout for places with great design.
Interesting to see these designer hostels cropping up. Have you heard of Syok? It’s a new hostel in Penang with unique designs. Same vibe, I suppose. I was gonna stay there when I went to Penang last month, but my brother already booked a hotel for us. Maybe next time. =)
No, I haven’t heard of Syok. I also have never been to Penang (well, except to catch a flight!) Maybe I need to change both those things!
I’m really excited to have stumbled across your blog! I’ve just spent the past 2 hours reading posts, and I will definitely return. I have been very weary about hostels, but I am loving the design hostels that I’m seeing here, and on google. I’m a designer, and I honestly couldn’t see myself staying anywhere that didn’t have a “designed” feel, as crazy as that may sound. Thank you for the blog, and inspiration. I hope to begin traveling soon. I just graduated college, and I’m ready to go!
Glad you found me, Jasmine! You should check out my hostel review from Hawaii. It’s got a great vibe — might be a nice graduation gift to yourself!
I think I have mentioned before that I am in the midst of planning a month long trip in Thailand this August, and so when I wanted suggestions of hostels that weren’t total dives, I knew I would find some on your blog.
This was so perfect, I have made note of the ones you’ve suggested! Thanks.
So glad this post was helpful, Rachael. Enjoy your trip! 🙂
This is brilliant thanks so much!! will be going to bangkok for the second time this year and really didnt want to stay on Khao San again!
You’re welcome Arianna! There are some amazing options outside Khao San, though that is always fun as well 🙂
I’m really happy to read your review of Lub D Silom- I am staying there when I am in Bangkok in January and I’m really excited! Also all your posts of Thailand are awesome!
Which one are you staying at Mira? They are both great!
LubD Silom! I’m happy to hear it is social.. I’m traveling solo so while I like doing the touristy stuff by myself or whatever during the day, I do like to meet people to chill with in the evening!
So Hostel looks very clean and swish. I’ll be in Chiang Mai in August so will definitely check this out! 🙂
Enjoy Chiang Mai! Hope you enjoy SoHostel too 🙂
I am a big fan of Yim Huai Khwang Hostel, I actually reviewed it as well at https://hostelgeeks.com/hostel-bangkok-yim-huai-khwang-5-star-hostel/
The SoHo in Chaing Mai looks very cool, will need to check this one out soon! Thanks for the hint!
All the best,
There are so many amazing hostels I’ve yet to check out in Bangkok. Looking forward to many trips there in the years ahead.
So Ho looks very nice, do you have other recommendations for hostels in Chiang Mai?
Hey Alicia, this is the only proper hostel I’ve stayed at in Chiang Mai. Otherwise its been hotels and guesthouses. Good luck!