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Travel & Holiday

Hostels go hip and homely

Hostels are jazzing up their interiors to give their guests a memorable stay
The Straits Times - August 6, 2011
By: Tay Suan Chiang
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Hostels go hip and homely The newly opened Concept Hostel has capsule- like beds with walls on both sides for privacy. -- ST PHOTOS: NURIA LING

Mention 'backpacker hostel' and images of rows of bunk beds in a room with bare walls and ceiling fans come to mind. Add in a lounge with furniture that had seen better days.

It is all about bare basics - a bed for the night and a place to have a hot shower.

However, a growing number of hostels in Singapore are changing that utilitarian image, even boasting that designer touch.

Still, nice comes at a price - depending on the hostel, room rates can cost about 40 per cent more than at the traditional backpacker hostel.

A new entrant is Matchbox The Concept Hostel at 39 Ann Siang Road. Opened on Monday, it is located in a three-storey conservation shophouse.

What makes it different from other hostels are the capsule-like beds in its dormitories, instead of the bunk variety.

Owner Magdalene Wan, 27, notes that 'these capsules give guests more privacy'.

Matchbox has 32 single-bed capsules and two double-bed capsules. They look fairly similar to 'capsule hotels' that are common in Japan. Rates start from $45 for a single.

Rectangular with walls on both sides, each capsule has an orthopaedic mattress, a quilt, a reading light and two pillows. Each capsule also has a rack for guests to hang their towels or clothes.

Designer touch all around

But unlike Japanese capsule hotels which have a curtain or door at the end of the bed, there are none at this hostel.

'Guests have their privacy but will still be able to mingle with the other guests, which is what staying in a hostel is about,' says Ms Wan, who herself had stayed in hostels while backpacking in Europe and Australia.

American journalist Julia Wallace, 27, who checked in during the week, appreciates the capsule-like bed. 'I'm a fairly private person, so this works well for me,' she says.

The dormitories are painted off- white and have different coloured ladders to the upper capsules.

The designer touch is also extended to the communal bathrooms, where the walls have colourful tiles.

And forget furniture that is dated. Matchbox has colourful beanbags guests can lounge on, from local company Ministry of Chair. These are in its third-floor loft area.

Matchbox has also teamed up with local beauty and wellness group Spa Esprit to provide toiletries. Female guests who stay in its 12-bed women- only dormitory will have access to an amenities trolley that has nail polish, make-up wipes, a travel iron and hairdryer, which they can use free of charge.

On the need to throw in a stylish touch to the hostel, Ms Wan says: 'There has been an emergence of a new breed of travellers - the flashpackers, who appreciate the frills even while on a budget. Going beyond cleanliness and comfort, our lifestyle offerings serve to make our guests' stay with us a fond and hopefully memorable one.'

She spent about $500,000 on renovations.

Engineer Aimar Elortza, 34, and economist Mirene Arri, 36, both from Basque Country, an autonomous community of northern Spain, were among Matchbox's first guests.

They learnt about Matchbox from the Internet. 'We saw it was a new hostel, so we decided to try it,' says Ms Arri. The couple spent two nights, and like the hostel's cleanliness and the colourful interiors.

'It makes the hostel look lively,' says Mr Elortza. 'This is the nicest hostel we've stayed in.'



Due South