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4 unusual but beautiful hotels for your next holiday

A guide to choosing the most unusual hotels in Asia, including a glowing horseshoe to treehouses shaped like fruit.

Travel is all about pushing boundaries and immersing oneself in new experiences. From bizarre to downright strange, here are 4 picks that’ll be as much a highlight of your trip as your itinerary.

1. Sheraton Hot Spring Resort (Huzhou, China)

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A glowing horseshoe casts its reflection on Taihu Lake in Huzhou, forming a bright figure eight, which is auspicious in Chinese culture for its phonetic similarity to the Chinese character, fa (fortune). The inspiration for its shape came from traditional arched Chinese bridges.

Completed in 2013, the 282-room resort was designed by Beijing-born architect Ma Yansong, 42, and features a richly decorated interior that boasts a gleaming floor made of golden-brown Brazilian Tiger’s Eye Stone and luxurious Afghan white jade.

However, the most stunning part of the 25-storey building lies in its sleek facade of aluminium and glass, which lights up at night to illuminate the Taihu waterscape.

2. Tulou Fuyulou Changdi Inn (Yongding, China)

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Constructed between the 15th and 20th centuries, tulou are earthen buildings native to the Hakka clan of the Fujian province. They were built as sturdy defensive structures to guard against intruders and can house up to 800 people.

In this tulou in south-west Fujian, run by sixth-generation landlord Stephen Lin, guests can enjoy activities such as cycling. Tourists can also dine on authentic Hakka cuisine with the locals who live there and cook for the hotel restaurant.

Though this tulou has more than 160 rooms, only 18 are used as hotel rooms. The rest are home to farmers. Lin, 32, says the tulou receives up to 4,000 guests a year. Of these, only 1 per cent are Singaporean.

The inn is in the Hakka Earth Dwelling Folk Culture Village, which functions as a miniature museum for Hakka buildings.

Getting there is a 31/2-hour bus ride from Xiamen, but fields and mountains are scattered along the way, making for a scenic journey.

3. The Waterhouse At South Bund (Shanghai, China)

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A former 1930s Japanese army headquarters, The Waterhouse at South Bund was transformed by architecture and design practice Neri&Hu Design and Research Office into a four-storey, 19-room boutique hotel, which sits on the banks of the Huangpu River.

The hotel, which is owned by Singapore’s Unlisted Collection, blends old and new effortlessly in a mix of materials. After restoring the original concrete building and adding new elements including Cor-Ten steel – weathered steel with a rust-like appearance – the building took on its signature modern, gritty look, reminiscent of its industrial roots in the docks by the Huangpu river.

The 2,800 sq m hotel gives visitors a clear view of the Pudong skyline.


4. Keemala (Phuket, Thailand)

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Nestled in the Kamala rainforest on Phuket, Keemala is a 28-pool resort focused on nature and wellness. It offers four types of villas: clay, tree, tent and bird’s nest. They are a zany lot, with the tent villas resembling white mushroom caps and the treehouses shaped like round fruit.

The inspiration for the architecture comes from Thai mythology, which features indigenous clans who live in harmony with nature. For instance, the open-air nest villas are based on the Rung-Nok (Nest) Clan, which comprises artists who believe that basking under the moonlight will rejuvenate their souls. A one-night stay here starts at 22,600 baht (S$909) and differs according to room type and season.

Adapted from The Sunday Times.