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.
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.
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.
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.