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Asia travel

Five homestay-style Asian hotels offering the personal touch

Accommodation websites such as AirBnB have prompted some in the hospitality industry to change their game. We look at places offering that little bit more

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2015, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2015, 11:41pm

The rapid rise of home rental websites such as Airbnb and VRBO, which offer a more local experience, is having a huge impact on the hotel industry. Air BnB recently announced that more than 500,000 people use the service every night — they hope that number will hit 800,000 by this summer — so the hospitality sector has to up its game.

Hospitality expert Alexis de Suremain says there is a gap in the market for wealthy chains to snap up top spots in cities across the globe and put them on the site. "It's an untapped market. I would do it if I had the investment," he says.

"People have gained confidence in planning trips independently," says de Suremain, founder of Maads, which owns a string of boutique hotels and other ventures in Cambodia. "They want to go that one step further and experience more destination authenticity. They don't want mainstream places any more."

For de Suremain, this shift means hoteliers cannot afford to remain complacent. "The industry needs to be smarter; it has to engage more with potential clients and offer them more of a personal touch," he says.

4 Rivers Floating Lodge, Cambodia

If you're looking to relax in seductively isolated surroundings, this eco-lodge is a good bet. Nestled in the jungles of the remote Cardamom Mountains in the southwest province of Koh Kong, it offers tranquil floating villas on the stunning Tatai River. The 12 double and twin-bed tented villas, which start from HK$1,500, have all the mod cons, with a luxurious modern decor to match the views outside. Access to the environmentally friendly resort is by boat. The only sounds are the singing of birds and the chorus of insects and geckos. The surrounding jungle is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including elephants and tigers.

Bambu Indah, bali, Indonesia

Canadian John Hardy and his American wife, Cynthia, have poured their heart and soul into creating eco-luxury resort, Bambu Indah, or "beautiful bamboo" in Balinese. In 2005, the long-term Bali expats sold their company and set off on a two-year mission to create a rustic retreat in a natural environment. They bought 11 antique Javanese bridal homes — former residences of a nobleman, which are more than a century old — dismantled them, and transported them to an idyllic spot in Ubud. There, they were lovingly restored, and Bambu Indah opened in 2007. Views from the lodgings, which start at HK$1,950, take in the Ayung River, emerald rice paddies and the impressive volcanic ridges that surround Mount Batu Kau.

Little Village, Thailand

Family-run Little Village, 18km south of Chiang Mai, is an affordable paradise with heaps of hearty hospitality. It's a small homestay operation, with rooms starting at HK$230. The owners, Hans and Too Decker, strive to offer guests a personal touch. The 11 bungalows are crafted from recycled teak collected from old houses in the mountains around the resort. The traditional Thai-style houses sit on stilts. There is additional accommodation for travellers on a budget. Despite the low prices, each bungalow has a contemporary feel and the fittings are modern. There is a swimming pool, perfectly manicured tropical gardens and a restaurant serving sumptuous Thai cuisine.



Authenticity is key at Nam Cang Riverside Lodge, built and owned by one of the oldest families of the Red Dao tribe. The family, headed by Phu and his wife Nhan, have lived in the Nam Cang village in the Sapa Valley in the heart of the Hoang Lien mountains in northwest Vietnam for four generations. The nine-room guest house opened at the end of 2013. Phu, who greets guests with a warm smile, offers a real taste of local life. He is more than happy to sit with visitors and talk about the customs and history of his tribe and life in the remote area. The area only recently opened up and there is a trickle of tourists — so expect surprised but friendly faces. Rooms start from HK$1,800.


Spread across eight hectares of sprawling forest, the nine-room wildlife lodge is the perfect base to explore the surrounding Gal Oya National Park. Gal Oya Lodge was the first such property in the southeast region of the island when it launched in August 2014. Each bungalow has been strategically placed to take in the staggering views of the forest, savannah and the country's largest lake, while offering enough privacy to evoke the sense of being alone in the wild. Attention to detail is evident throughout, with each of the villas, which start at HK$1,200, designed with wooden panels and glass. The outdoor bathroom has elephant-shaped taps, and sinks are made from old Sri Lankan rice cleaning bowls. It is ideal for jeep safaris through the jungle, which is home to langur and toque macaque monkeys, leopards, sloth bears, wild boars, water buffalo and deer.