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City & Country: A stay to remember

After years of travelling for business and leisure, it is understandable that the seasoned travelbug ceases to be awed by the beauty and luxury of his or her surroundings. When one starts developing an immunity to opulence, and when memories of hotels and resorts begin to blur into one big hazy memory, it is time to seek out more unusual places to stay.

However, unusual need not mean exorbitantly expensive, as not everyone can afford a holiday in space like billionaires Charles Simonyi (who only recently came back from his second tour of the Milky Way) and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. Both paid about US$35 million for a 12- to 13-day stay outside planet Earth.

In some cases, unusual can verge on the downright odd. One such example is the Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho, in the US, where guests get to stay in what looks like a giant beagle. If this isn’t bad enough, access to the rooms is via the dog’s rear entrance (no pun intended). Even the toilet is disguised as a giant fire hydrant!

City & Country has come up with 10 of the world’s most unexpected and exotic places to stay. Selected for their uniqueness, history, concept and price, these places will guarantee a lifetime of memories, with a touch of class. From trekking through the treetops of the South African jungle and wandering among the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert to sleeping in a padded cell in Berlin, this list offers a host of choices for those with differing tastes and are looking for a vacation to remember. Now, who says real estate has to be boring?


Guests are kept warm in the icy bed chambers where temperatures are between -3 degress C to -5 degrees CHôtel de Glace, Quebec, Canada

This remarkable ice hotel — the only one in North America — is made entirely out of 15,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice. To keep guests entertained, a full range of winter activities is offered, including cross-country skiing, ice-skating, dog-sledding and ice fishing, among others. To “defrost” its visitors after all that icy activity, the hotel also offers a spa and sauna.

The icy lodgings are inspired by Invit igloos and childhood snow fortsLocated 30 minutes from Quebec City, the hotel boasts 36 rooms and theme suites, and sees over 65,000 visitors annually. Every year, its remarkable snow and ice cathedral — for those in search of a unique venue for their wedding or to renew their vows — is redesigned in its entirety. With 2010 being the hotel’s 10th anniversary, guests can expect something extra special.

Rates
Overnight stays start at C$219 (RM706) per person, which includes tax, a tour of the hotel, cocktails, equipment for the night, access to the hot tubs and sauna, and breakfast. www.icehotel-canada.com


The luxury treetop suites are elevated above the jungle canopyTsala Treetop Lodge and Villas, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Based on the legend of a missing race of beautiful people, Tsala means “the elevated resting place”. Set amidst the treetops in the jungles of South Africa, the hotel is decorated in an afro-baroque style with sophisticated Western touches. With 10 luxury suites and six villas constructed of stone, wood and glass, the hotel also promises “loos with a view” and a swimming pool in the treetop canopy.

The Tsala Treetop Lodge suite deck and pool at duskTsala Treetop Lodge and Villas is situated between the coastal towns of Plettenberg Bay and Kynsna on the scenic Garden Route of the Western Cape and is accessible by car. Alternatively, guests can charter flights to the nearby Plettenberg Bay Airport.

Rates
Rack rates for 2010 start at ZAR3,610 (RM1,641) for a treetop suite, while those interested in booking a villa can expect to pay around ZAR8,270 a night, which includes VAT, government taxes and park levies. www.hunterhotels.co.za/tsalatreetoplodge


Sleeping in a Propeller Island City Lodge, Berlin, Germany

Why it’s so unusual
The more apt question to ask about this quirky, postmodern hotel (which its management describes as “living in a work of art”) is “What is not unusual The Symbol Room is full of meaningabout it?” With 30 individual rooms that come with their own instructions each, guests can choose from themes as safe as “Grandma’s” to the more risqué “Nude”, to sleeping in a flying bed or a padded cell. Every room and object in the lodge is created by German artist Lars Stroschen.

Interested? Guests are required to present their top three choices of rooms to stay in, as their first choice may have already been taken. To add to the quirkiness, there is no 24-hour reception desk: guests will have to make do with office hours being a limited time window of 8am to 12pm. Additionally, not all units come with an en suite bathroom, but these are among some of the more outrageous rooms.

Rates
Room prices vary from €85 (RM418) to €115 per night. Every additional person costs €15 per night. www.propeller-island.de


The magnificient Taj Tashi is surrounded by greeneryTaj Tashi, Thimpu, Bhutan

The subtly flamboyant hotel offers a glimpse into the mysterious kingdom’s past and marries its religious roots and traditional dzong architecture with All-day dining is available at the Thongsel coffee shopmodern conveniences. Built on three themes — the dhung, double dorjes and clouds — some of the many paintings within the hotel were by the same people who produced artwork for the royal palace and several Bhutanese monasteries.

Its 66 sumptuously furnished rooms offer creature comforts, including wireless Internet and under-floor heating, while the corner luxury suites provide a breathtaking view of Thimpu — the world’s only capital city with no traffic lights — and the Himalayan mountain range. Added luxuries include a spa, all-day dining with a view and handmade woollen carpets. The Taj Tashi opened its doors in January 2008.

Rates
Rates start from US$300 (RM1,031) a night for a deluxe room and US$750 for a luxury suite per night. www.tajhotels.com/leisure/taj%20tashi.thimphu


The sleeping capsules are specially designed to promote sound slumber9h (Nine Hours, or nainawasu) Capsule Hotel, Kyoto, Japan

Why it’s so unusual
According to research, business travellers stay in a hotel for about 9 to 10 hours. Realising this, The minimalist concept of 9h aims to promote only the essentialsdesigner Fumie Shibata and her team came up with the idea of 9h, a luxury capsule hotel in Kyoto. Slated for launch in early December 2009, the hotel aims to cater for the basic needs of travellers who want a place to shower and sleep in between meetings and visits.

With specially designed capsules that offer high quality bedding equipment and a Sleep Ambient Control System, travellers who prize “no muss, no fuss” would take delight in this simple, elegant, yet functional offering. Guests can stay for a minimum of four hours to a maximum of 17 hours, making it ideal for those in transit. http://9hours.jp

Rates
¥4,900 (RM186) a night


Taprobane Island, Weligama, Sri Lanka

The iinfinity pool is perfect for cooling-off or just to enjoy a lazy afternoonEver dreamed of spending a few days on an exotic, secluded island where members of royalty once lounged, while attentive staff cater to your every need? Your The cosy hallway of a villadreams can now become a reality. Under the Taprobane Collection — a quartet of beautifully designed and exclusive villas — is Taprobane Island, said to be Sri Lanka’s only privately owned island.

Built in the 1920s by a count, the 2½-acre island has hosted members of royalty, aristocrats, politicians and artisans. It has five en suite bedrooms (four doubles and one single), balconies, a tropical garden and an infinity pool that provides a stunning view. Romantic, idyllic and perfect for a quiet getaway, privacy and exclusiveness are a given — considering that the only way to access the island is by wading through the sea!

Rates
Depending on the season, rates for the island range from US$1,750 (RM6,015) to US$2,200 a night. www.taprobaneisland.com/taprobane.html


An artist's impression of the bed chambersPoseidon Undersea Resort, Fiji

The opening of the world’s first underwater luxury resort around a private island in Fiji may have been delayed by three years (it was originally slated to commence operations in early 2008 but has since been postponed to 2011), but it still promises to be an experience worth waiting for. Some 15m under the sea and next to a coral reef, the resort’s 24 suites and revolving restaurant on the lagoon floor will ensure guests of an unhindered view of the ocean’s rich marine life.

An artist's impression of the undersea hotel room podsAs if the experience would not be mind-boggling enough, the teams of engineers (helmed by L Bruce Jones, president of US Submarine Structures LLC) and developers have promised guests the chance to pilot a mini-submarine within the lagoon, as well as the chance to enjoy spa treatments and boutique shopping.

Rates
US$15,000 (RM51,562) per person, per week. www.poseidonresorts.com


The Three Camel Lodge, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Three camels jaunt past the lodge's main buildingIn the middle of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, with a 54-million-year-old volcanic outcrop towering behind it, the lodge itself comprises 45 felt gers, which are traditional nomadic tents. The lodge’s main building was designed by local artisans in traditional Mongolian style, without using a single nail.

Each ger is furnished with wood-burning stoves, hand-painted beds and indigenous furniture. There are also 15 deluxe gers available, with king-sized beds and en suite bathrooms. Almost in contrast to the feeling of returning to tradition, the lodge runs on renewable energy and follows strict environmental sustainable guidelines. It also functions as a centre for scientific research and wildlife monitoring!

Rates
A standard ger is priced from US$80 (RM275) per person based on double occupancy, while a single occupant can expect to pay US$110. For the deluxe ger, double occupants pay US$120 per person while a single occupant pays US$155. All prices are inclusive of three daily meals. www.threecamels.com


Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast, New Mexico, US

Originally intended as an office for a geologist, the 1,650 sq ft cave — hidden some 70ft below the surface — was converted into a guest house 13 years ago. However, don’t assume it doesn’t have a view. Built into the vertical cliffs of the Tertiary Ojo Alamo Sandstone, it overlooks the La Plata River Valley, almost 300ft below. Guests can have a breathtaking view of sunsets over the Four Corners area, as well as views of mountains in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.The cosy underground bedroom

Being the cosy hideaway that it is, the cave can accommodate up to five people comfortably as it has a bedroom, kitchen, dining room, den and bathroom, with a waterfall shower and Jacuzzi tub. Nature enthusiasts and fitness fanatics would especially enjoy the getaway as it requires a bit of a hike and allows guests to enjoy nature at its most interesting, as well as geology, archaeology and fly fishing.

Rates
Nightly rates are US$260 (RM893) for one to two people and US$300 for three to four people, and US$50 for each additional guest. The B&B is closed from December to February each year, although exceptions can be made. www.bbonline.com/nm/kokopelli


The Lighthouse, Llandudno, Wales

Built in 1862 as a beacon for seafarers and sailors, the limestone and Canadian pitch pine guesthouse along the rugged Welsh coastline offers visitors the chance to experience early 20th century living. Some of the lighthouse’s original fixtures and fittings are still intact, and visitors get stunning 280° views.

The Lighthouse is one of Wales' most famous landmarkWith only three rooms — the Principal Keeper’s suite, the Telegraph room and the Lamp room — guests can be assured of a quiet time, making it ideal to soak in the natural beauty of Llandudno. Some unique features of this remarkable guesthouse include the Keeper’s Hall, which boasts 6m of pitch pine panelling and a gallery, as well as a Victorian dining room in which guests can look over a 100m vertical drop while enjoying a traditional Welsh breakfast.

Rates
All three rooms are priced at £75 (RM416) per person per night, with a £20 supplement for singles and a half-price concession for children. www.lighthouse-llandudno.co.uk



This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 787, Dec 28, 2009-Jan 10, 2010


 

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