Accommodation choices for backpackers and budget travellers have long been limited to dorm-style hostels and low-quality rooms down dodgy alleys. No longer. It’s 2011, and we have to thank all the young entrepreneurs who have pioneered much nicer options for flashpackers (aka upscale backpackers). Here are our favorites around the region.HONG KONGHop InnThe tiny entrance is slightly hidden among the traditional Chinese medicine stores, but nine cute rooms await on the second floor, each designed by a different artist.Rooms & rates: HK$380-490 (B1,480-1,910) for a single room, HK$480-640 (1,870-2,495) for a double room and HK$580-790 (B2,260-3,080) for a triple room.Neighborhood: You’ll be in the middle of the shopping district, a five-minute walk from Harbour City shopping mall, the pier to Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour viewpoint and the Avenue of Stars.Flat A, 2/F, Hanyee Building, 19-21 Hankow Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Hong Kong, +852-2881-7331. www.hopinn.hkKUALA LUMPURBackHomeRated KL’s best hostel by travel website HostelWorld, BackHome consists of four Sino-Portuguese shophouses that have been converted into a contemporary lodge with touches of raw cement, black metal, natural wood and red bricks. On the ground floor, its in-house eatery, Land Cafe, serves local dishes, snacks and basic drinks.Rooms & rates: RM50 (B500) for a double room, RM44-46 (B440-460) per bed for a dorm room (4-6 beds per room).Neighborhood: Its location in the old town means it’s only a few minutes walk to Central Market, and the Petronas Towers are two subway stops away.30 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur, +603-2078-7188, www.backhome.com.myKYOTOKhaosan Kyoto GuesthouseOur Khao San Road is so big in Japan, they even named a series of guesthouses after it. The newest one in Kyoto feels like you’re going to sleep in the small house of a ramen shop owner—wooden sliding doors and tatami mats included.Rooms & rates: ¥3,000-3,800 (B1,144-1,450) per person for a private room, ¥2,000-2,500 (B763-954) per bed for a dorm room (3-10 beds per room).Neighborhood: You’ll be surrounded by shrines, shopping malls (Fuji-Daimaru and Takashimaya are within walking distance) and government offices.568 Nakanocho, Bukkoji-agaru, Teramachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan, +81-75-201-4063, http://tinyurl.com/yjhmp6cMELACCAHangout@JongerAfter the success of its sister in Singapore, Hangout crossed the border and opened a cool hostel in Malacca last July. White walled rooms are filled with wooden details and colorful furniture. Staying here also means good karma as Hangout@Jonger donates RM1 from every room charge to charity organizations in the province.Rooms & rates: Internet rates are RM140 (B1,140) for a double room and RM180 (B1,800) for a triple room.Neighborhood: Not far from the hostel arehistoric attractions like Saint Francis XavierChurch, Porta de Santiago and the Museum ofDemocracy.19 & 21 Lorong Hang Jebat, Melacca, Malaysia, +606-292-2318, http://tinyurl.com/699apomPENANGRyokan Chic Hostel PenagOwner Darren Ng has transformed an old shophouse into Penang’s first stylish hostel. Inside the original charming Sino-Portuguese façade, the interior was entirely revamped with natural wood floors, raw cement, vivid-hued walls and metal. On its first floor, Titbits serves snacks, soft drinks and beers.Rooms & rates: RM136 (B1,365) for a two-bed suite and RM35-40 (B350-400) per bed for a dorm room (4-6 beds per room).Neighborhood: Its location on Muntri Road is within walking distance of historic landmarks like St. George’s Church, and the Cathedral of the Assumption.62 Muntri Rd., Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, +604-250-0287, www.myryokan.comSEOULBang Rang HostelBang Rang (“wandering around the world” in Korean) feels like crashing at your friend’s mom’s house. All red brick and old wood outside and white walls, bleached wood and pastel colors inside.Rooms & rates: KRW28,000 (B800) for a single room with shared bathroom, KRW55,000 for a double room with ensuite bathroom, KRW18,000-23,000 (B512-655) per bed for a dorm room (2-6 beds). Rates are for low-season; high-season rates (Jul 1-Aug 31, Dec 15-Jan 15) are 8-15% higher.Neighborhood: Chungjeongno subway station is within walking distance, and teen hangout Myeongdong and wholesale heaven Dongdaemun are only a few stations away.397-14 Jungnim-Dong, Jung-G, Seoul, South Korea, www.bangranghostel.comHangul HouseTraditional rooms spread out across three houses in a compound. Despite focusing on white, bleached wood and pastel colors, Hangul House looks more like a modern-day Korean house than Bang Rang. It’s also a bit classier as there are only double rooms with ensuite bathrooms. There’s a cute outdoor terrace in the middle of the compound.Rooms & rates: There are 18 double roomsand one triple room. Rates are KRW55,000-110,000 (B1,565-3,132).Neighborhood: You can walk to historic landmarks such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Traditional Museum and Young-Chu Gate.8 Tongui-dong, Jongno-ju, Seoul, South Korea, www.hangulhouse.comHi Seoul Youth HostelHi Seoul Youth Hostel is a flashy building witha lot of glass. Not only a home to 95 guestrooms equipped with standard hotel facilities,this seven-floor building also houses convention rooms and two cafes.Rooms & rates: KRW55,000 (B1,566) for a single room, KRW66,000 (B1,880) for a double and triple room, KRW88,000 (B2,505) for a quad-bed room, KRW88,000-132,000 (B2,505-3,760) for a family room (4 people) and KRW15,000-20,900 (B427-595) per bed for a dorm room (6-10 beds).Neighborhood: A 15-minute walk to Yeongdeungpo, a local market, and Time Square, the largest shopping mall in Seoul. The teen hangout and shopping spot near Hong Ik University is just few subway stations away.57 Yeongdeungpo-dong, 7-ga, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea, www.hiseoulyh.comSINGAPOREBeary Nice!A sister hostel of A Beary Good Hostel, famed for its abundance of teddy bears, Beary Nice! maintains the legacy in this renovated shophouse in the center of Chinatown. Alas, you will only have each other (and no bears) in the actual dorms.Rooms & rates: S$26 (B643) per bed for a 10-bed dorm room.Neighborhood: It’s in Chinatown so expect food 24/7. It’s also just a three-min walk to Chinatown MRT station.46B Smith Street, Singapore, http://tinyurl.com/5vp7oqjDrop InnThis Sino-Portuguese shophouse has been turned into a simple space with raw cement, walls you can draw on and colorful cushions. Close to lots of cheap food as well.Rooms & rates: S$55 (B1,360) for a twin room, S$65 (B1,610) for a double room and S$22 (B545) per bed for a dorm.Neighborhood: From Lavender Rd., it’s a short walk to the cheesy-yet-cheap Mustafa Mall as well as Chinatown. The Marina Bay Sands is only five minutes away by taxi.253 Lavender Rd., Singapore, +65-6299-3817, www.dropinnhostel.comTOKYOToco Tokyo Heritage HostelHead back to pre-war Japan with Toco Tokyo. Hidden in a residential area in northeast Tokyo, this 1920s Japanese home contains contemporary lights, colorful stairs and of course, modern plumbing.Rooms & rates: ¥6,000 (B2,285) for a double room, ¥6,500 (B2,475) for a twin room, ¥8,400 (B3,200) for a triple room, ¥2,600-3,000 (B990-1,145) per bed for a dorm room (6-8 beds).Neighborhood: From the hostel, it’s a mere five minutes to Ueno Park and Zoo and Uneo Station. If you get the train, you can be at the shrine of Asakusa and geek-central Akihabara in five minutes, and teen town Shinjugu in 20.2-13-22 Shitaya Taitouku Tokyo, +81-03-6458-1686,www.backpackersjapan.co.jp
Wherever you travel in Asia, cool rooms don’t have to cost the earth.