From wooden beach huts and cosy guesthouses to swanky hotels and apartment rentals, there are plenty of accommodation options across Asia to suit all tastes, budgets and special occasions. But for an experience that combines quality time with a unique cultural offering, it’s time to seek out the fun, quirky and ultra-traditional places this Valentine’s Day where you can lay your head and create lifelong memories.
A ger in Mongolia
The rounded white ger (yurt) that stands alone in the vast wilderness has become a symbol of Mongolia and the simplicity of rural life in the world’s least densely populated country. Weighing in around 250kgs, its wooden walls, layers of felt and plastic, wood burning stove and unique interior décor are easily broken down and transported throughout the country as Mongolian families move with the seasons. It’s likely you will pass many isolated gers sporadically dotted throughout the desert, forest and grassy plains of Mongolia’s incredible lands, and whether you are lucky enough to stay with a local family or reside at one of ger camps specially created for visitors, the experience of staying in one is not to be missed.
A Ryokan in Japan
Despite its futuristic and quirky character, experiencing the old, traditional Japan is something on nearly every traveller’s list. Staying in a traditional Japanese Ryokan – a house or ‘inn’ whose concept dates back to the Edo period from the early 1600s to the late 1800s – is one of the ways you can experience that.
Your room is almost like a micro-apartment with all the usual amenities, a futon style bed, and a designated seating area where tea is served daily. It’s here where you can bathe in a traditional hot spring onsen and wander freely through the old wooden structure and its beautiful grounds in your yukata (robe) and slippers. If you are looking for a space of calm and tranquility, this is it. The oldest Ryokan in Japan can be found in Tokyo and is the perfect place to rewind after a day exploring the bustling city.
A teahouse in Nepal
Avid hikers and trekkers are the ones who come to call a Nepalese teahouse home during their days of exploring. These simple huts are dotted along the main routes of some of the country’s most treasured routes to places such as Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna trail. Evenings are spent dining and warming yourself up around the fireplace, before snuggling up in a sleeping bag in a bedroom that may be made of ply wood, but which looks out to some of the best mountainous backdrops you could ever imagine.
A longhouse in Borneo
The longhouse is a distinct feature of Borneo tribal living and a true insight into the Iban community – one of the many indigenous people still living on the island. Longhouses are wooden structures built on stilts, with one side sectioned off into a row of separate family rooms and the other used as a social area, and extended should another Iban family arrive.
While some longhouses have been specifically built for tourists eager to get a glimpse into rural life out in the Batang Skrang and Batang Lemanak regions a few hours away from Sarawak’s capital of Kuching, hiring a private guide is the best way to get out to a remote and authentic one. Most longhouse stays are by invitation only, if you get lucky in meeting a local who wants to share their family traditions with you.
A homestay in Southeast Asia
Asian people are known for their warm hospitality, and what better way to experience that than by living with them. Many families offer up space in their private houses for ‘homestays’, both for groups or a pre-arranged private visit through local operators. Again, you may even get lucky with a private invitation.
It means giving up all forms of comfort since a mattress blanket, mosquito net and a bucket shower become the daily norm. Despite that, you really are at the heart of local living in Southeast Asia, where the beauty of simplicity makes you truly realise what you take for granted at home. It’s here where you will engage with the family, dine with them and be able to explore the area and welcomed as a local. You’ll be surprised at how attached you become to the place.
Are you ready to swap normality for something different this Valentine’s Day?