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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!

Hostels-SE-Asia
Hostels-SE-Asia

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.

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

Hostels-SE-Asia
Hostels-SE-Asia

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

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 | FacebookBook Here

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

Soho Hostel Chiang Mai

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.

LubD Bangkok

LubD Bangkok

LubD Bangkok

LubD Bangkok

LubD Bangkok

Hostels-SE-Asia
Hostels-SE-Asia

LubD Bangkok

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.

LubD Bangkok

LubD Bangkok

LubD Bangkok

LubD Bangkok

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: contact.silom@lubd.com
Twitter | Facebook | Book Here

LubD Bangkok

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!

Lub D SiamPhoto provided by Lub d

Hostels-SE-Asia
Hostels-SE-Asia

Lub D Siam

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: contact.siam@lubd.com
Twitter | Facebook | Book Here

Lub D Siam

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.

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54 Comments...
  • Jade
    April 6 2013

    ‘On a budget with wiggle room’- I love it!

    • Alex
      April 7 2013

      That’s how I describe myself 🙂

  • Chelsea
    April 6 2013

    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.
    Chelsea recently posted..Vientiane – ‘I try not to make a good first impression because to me thats the same as lying’

    • Alex
      April 7 2013

      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 🙂

  • Sarah Somewhere
    April 6 2013

    Nice! As a traveller with champagne taste on a beer (or tap water!) budget these places look amazing!! Awesome photos too 🙂
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..March in Playa: Change, Progress and a Bit of Madness

    • Alex
      April 7 2013

      Haha Sarah I love it and just might have to steal it… “champagne on a tap water budget!”

  • Linda
    April 6 2013

    These are very cool looking.

    • Alex
      April 7 2013

      The kind of hostel I would even bring my aunt to 🙂

  • Kristen Noelle
    April 7 2013

    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!

    • Alex
      April 7 2013

      Hopefully I can add a few more before the end of this trip!

  • Sam
    April 7 2013

    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?

    • Alex
      April 7 2013

      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!

      • Sam
        April 11 2013

        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!
        Sam recently posted..Beetroot, Apple + Goats Cheese Stack with Chestnut Pesto

  • memographer
    April 7 2013

    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.
    memographer recently posted..Street Portraits of Peru: Le puedo tomar una foto?

    • Alex
      April 9 2013

      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!

    • Alex
      April 9 2013

      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 🙂

  • wes
    April 8 2013

    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)

    W

    • Alex
      April 9 2013

      Um, how can you leave this well-said comment and NOT TELL US WHAT THE FAVORITE HOTEL IS?!

      • wes
        April 10 2013

        fair enough..

        Luxx XL. No dormers stinking up the place, but on the flipside, not that social thing. But for say, couples, or indie workers.. POW!

  • Dad
    April 8 2013

    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.

    • Alex
      April 9 2013

      I did know that! We had one on the Pratt campus as well. I’ll have to come see the original this summer!

  • Micamyx|Senyorita
    April 8 2013

    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 😀
    Micamyx|Senyorita recently posted..Bangus Festival 2013 in Dagupan City – Schedule of Activities

    • Alex
      April 10 2013

      Always good to have a reason to return to Bangkok 🙂 I love this city!

  • Stephen Jones
    April 9 2013

    Oh wow! These are really, really cool! Yeah! I have so got to visit these ones!
    Stephen Jones recently posted..Adding a new destination: Pakistan

  • Jenna
    April 10 2013

    These look great! I love places that have a funky design like that!
    Jenna recently posted..A Family of Pissing Statues: Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis

  • Stephen
    April 12 2013

    Cool hostels…wish I stayed in some of those during my SEA trip.
    Stephen recently posted..10 Cool Offices I’ve had as a Digital Nomad

    • Alex
      April 12 2013

      Always good to have an excuse to return! 🙂

  • Franca
    June 12 2013

    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! 🙂
    Franca recently posted..The Blueprint Bar, Tainan

    • Alex
      June 12 2013

      I have found a reason to return to Thailand about 6 times now…. there’s always something 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Calvin Seah
    June 25 2013

    Hi Alex,

    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!

    Cheers,
    Calvin

    • Alex
      June 27 2013

      Thanks Calvin! Next time I head back to Singapore I will drop you a line 🙂

  • Adrian
    July 11 2013

    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. =)
    Adrian recently posted..BERLIN: OLD AND NEW, HAPPY AND SAD

    • Alex
      July 11 2013

      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!

  • Jasmine
    December 22 2013

    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!

    • Alex
      December 22 2013

      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!

  • Rachael C
    April 7 2014

    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.

    • Alex
      April 8 2014

      So glad this post was helpful, Rachael. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

  • Arianna
    June 6 2014

    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!

    • Alex
      June 8 2014

      You’re welcome Arianna! There are some amazing options outside Khao San, though that is always fun as well 🙂

  • mira_nyc
    November 26 2014

    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!

    • Alex
      November 28 2014

      Which one are you staying at Mira? They are both great!

      • mira_nyc
        November 28 2014

        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!

  • Arianwen
    July 27 2015

    So Hostel looks very clean and swish. I’ll be in Chiang Mai in August so will definitely check this out! 🙂
    Arianwen recently posted..How to Spend a Day in Rome

    • Alex
      July 30 2015

      Enjoy Chiang Mai! Hope you enjoy SoHostel too 🙂

  • Matt
    November 10 2015

    Hi Alex,

    I am a big fan of Yim Huai Khwang Hostel, I actually reviewed it as well at http://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,
    Matt
    Matt recently posted..Short Travel Stories from Santiago de Compostela

    • Alex
      November 11 2015

      There are so many amazing hostels I’ve yet to check out in Bangkok. Looking forward to many trips there in the years ahead.

  • alicia
    January 15 2016

    So Ho looks very nice, do you have other recommendations for hostels in Chiang Mai?

    • Alex
      January 16 2016

      Hey Alicia, this is the only proper hostel I’ve stayed at in Chiang Mai. Otherwise its been hotels and guesthouses. Good luck!

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