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I was sure that I was in the wrong place. It looked like a living room done up by Ian Schrager – gorgeous wooden floors and big ceilings filled with stark, modern edge (including a deer head sculpture made out of plastic). A mojito bar was set up in the corner and the DJ was spinning some ambient something-or-other. Everyone had the same what-the-hell-are-we-doing-here look that I had.

I was in a youth hostel. The Lisbon Lounge Hostel, to be precise.

They’re popping up everywhere. The rage right now seems to be converting old homes or hotels and turning them into eye-popping digs. Only a few bucks more than most hostels, it seems unbelievable that these places will ever recoup. Most of them sell out quick, but a dorm still doesn’t generate the kind of bread that a hotel does.

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I spent a couple of nights this summer at Villa Saint Exupery in Nice. It’s a grand old monastery that’s been turned into one of the most-recognized hostels in the world, and with good reason. The place comes with a chef (six euro meals that you’d die for) and a massive common room, complete with a wall of stained glass. The Internet Chapel is stacked with eight computers and it’s easy to grab a beer afterhours because the vending machine is stocked with cold ones. I paid $25 USD for a bed and didn’t flinch upon checkout – it was worth the extra money.

Last year, The Times Online ran a piece on the 10 Best Boutique Hostels. They described Miss Shopie’s in Prague as “a stylish mixture of sharp-as-a-knife rooms, an on-site cellar bar of exposed brick and mood lighting, and a kitchen that would be more at home in a New York loft apartment.” Not exactly your average hostel review.

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Another regularly mentioned hostel is Lub D, a place I stayed at in Bangkok this year. Again, the work that went into this building was just shocking. The beds were big and bouncy, the color scheme in the hotel was wildly inviting and, as is important in Bangkok, the air conditioning f’in rocked. A fellow traveler chastised me for paying $12 USD in a room of give buck guest houses. I imagined him on his creaky bed, sweating bedbugs out of the pores in his arms, as I sat I my bed working with perfect wi-fi and a cool beverage. I wasn’t crying.

This is not to say that all of these places don’t have a downside. Some of the ones that I’ve stayed in have struggled to find a vibe. Everything is so big or so stark that people tend to spread out and not congregate. Many beds were filled with non-backpackers who are on a quick vacation with tour-taking in mind, rather than swapping stories with fellow travelers. Lisbon Lounge, in particular, felt more like a hotel in this regard. I left after two days to find something more inviting, if you can imagine that.

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3 Comments

  1. Helsinki flightsNo Gravatar
    Posted July 27, 2010 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    What a lovely pictures! I am very excited to see that.This is very nice blog.

  2. Tim SmythNo Gravatar
    Posted July 30, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    We stayed in Lub D. It was fabulous. Thailand, aside from the recent problems in Bangkok, is wildly inexpensive and a great place for backpackers. Boutique hostels are the way to go, as they are still inexpensive, and usually in great locations.

    Good tips, Waywardlife!

  3. sharonNo Gravatar
    Posted December 2, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Great post!
    thank you for sharing ( :

    sharon
    hostels

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