HOWTO AVOID CABIN FEVER
Vijay Verghese slips into something tight and comfortable
WE all love pods. From the iPod and Dopod to the blundering but sadly extinct sauropod, pods have been, and will remain, an obsession. We are mutating into a master race. Wherever you turn, people are plugged into some snazzy pod or other, nodding, staring blankly into the middle distance, mouth open, drool spilling out. So if pods are hot, why not take things to their logical conclusion and live in one.
Live in a pod? That’s right. Pods are now storming the hospitality business. Drawing their inspiration from the toaster-sized Japanese capsule hotels, where sozzled salarymen, having missed the last train home and forgotten their wife’s name, crash for the night for Y=4000 ($38): pod hotels are the next big, or small, thing in accommodation. Pod hotels are aimed at hip travellers with slim hips and slimmer budgets who want all the convenience of location and the odd bit of chic design chicanery without shelling out for it.
Most people just get back to their room for a brief kip before that dawn departure on the next red-eye flight. So does space really matter?
While it may not appeal to all, the Pod Hotel (www.thepodhotel.com) New York, offers stylish centrally located digs at 230 East 51st St. Just don’t attempt to swing a cat by the tail. If you’re sharing the bath and toilet, your single pod room tariff could start at less than $US149 ($173) a night. There’s a flatscreen television, an iPod dock and free wireless internet. For a sense of space, head to the rooftop garden with bar.
In London, budget airline easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has taken his signature cheery orange into the compact, futuristic first-class cabin shapes of his easyHotel franchise (www.easyhotel.com), which offers truth in travel. The range starts with the Small Room (with or without a window). And that pretty much says it all. Check out London South Kensington at 14 Lexham Gardens; London Earls Court at 44-48 West Cromwell Rd; or London Victoria at 36-40 Belgrave Rd. At the easyHotel South Kensington a 6sq m Small Room with no window starts at about £41 ($97). In Basel you can get a foot in the door from $US69.
London Heathrow’s Terminal 4 and Gatwick South Terminal are the launch locations for the Yotel (www.yotel.com) where cabins can be booked from £40 a night. A premium cabin will set you back £70. Cabins can also be booked in four-hour blocks.
Simon Woodroffe, the evil genius behind this butt-squeezing brand, took a pinch of British Airways first class, a hint of Airbus and a dash of Japanese capsule hotel to create the Yotel.
Premium cabins feature a ‘‘ techno wall’’ with an iPod or MP3 player port, a workstation, flat-screen LCD TV with surround sound, free Wi-Fi or plug-in internet, mood lighting and bespoke toiletries. Unlike an easyHotel, the Yotels will be crammed with amenities. It looks like a plane, feels like a plane, but will it fly? Time will tell.
In Europe, check out Qbic Hotels (www.qbichotels.com) where bright cube rooms beckon mod bods and their pods featuring a Hastens four-poster bed, LCD TV, in-room safe, high-speed internet and those obligatory Philippe Starck design touches that can be enjoyed in Amsterdam and Antwerp from ($222) a night.
In Kuala Lumpur, from Tony Fernandes, who gave us the shocking Virgin reds and cut-price scrambles of AirAsia, comes a budget lodging concept that will be music to any budget traveller’s ears: Tune Hotels (www.tune hotels.com). The flagship Tune Hotel at No. 316 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman is reasonably central with introductory rates priced at RM9.99 ($3).
But for the real thing you’ll have to head to Tokyo, get chased by Godzilla, end up legless on sake, miss the last train and stagger to the Asakusa Riverside Capsule Hotel (www.asakusacapsule.jp/english) where the cost of a capsule room can be as low as Y=3000. There is a women’s floor, too. There are separate baths and changing rooms for men and women. Bathe, soak, slip into something comfortable, then squeeze into your room to watch TV or suffer a panic attack. You may find a beckoning red button next to the TV. Don’t press this. It’s not room service, silly; it’s the porn pay-movie channel.
The Capsule Inn Akihabara (www.capsuleinn.com), has rooms for Y=4000 a night with occasional specials. The ground-floor lounge offers highspeed internet, Wi-Fi, and a couple of computers to check email free of charge. Women travelling in a group of two or four can try the group capsule, which offers the added convenience of a small common space with table and chairs next to the slide-in capsules.
Listen up, space cadets. Get your bod to a pod. Now. Hong Kong-based Vijay Verghese runs the website www.smarttravelasia.com.