STRANGER THAN FICTION

World's Weirdest Hotels, Part Deux

On your next trip, you could be checking into a wine cask, a salvaged 727 airplane, or a room where the furniture defies the law of gravity.

By John Rambow, Thursday, Aug 13, 2009, 9:04 AM

A refurbished 1965 Boeing 727 airframe—that looks as if it's crashed into the Costa Rican jungle—is now part of the Hotel Costa Verde
A refurbished 1965 Boeing 727 airframe—that looks as if it's crashed into the Costa Rican jungle—is now part of the Hotel Costa Verde (Courtesy Vincent Costello)

Upside-down stay
At Berlin's Propeller Island City Lodge, each of the 30 rooms is weird in its own way. The artist-owner, Lars Stroschen, has seen to that. One room, the first built, is made to look like a brightly painted medieval town, with an ultra-mini golf course surrounding the castle bed. Another has furniture attached to the ceiling, another has coffins for beds, and still another has lion cages on stilts (the website claims that kids "love to sleep" in them). Then there's the Freedom Room, which resembles a prison, complete with a toilet next to the bed—oh, that German humor! 011-49/30-891-90-16, propeller-island.com.
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A place to unwine'd
When they were owned by a Swiss château, the four enormous casks on the grounds of the Hotel De Vrouwe Van Stavoren in the Netherlands held the equivalent of 19,333 bottles of wine. Now, after some creative recycling, it's guests rather than booze that mellow out inside the casks. The richly worn and airtight oak barrels have two narrow beds, with a small sitting area outside. The grounds are quite close to tiny Stavoren's harbor, which was a major port in the Middle Ages. 011-31/51-46-81-202, hotel-vrouwevanstavoren.nl.
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A bad trip (with none of the consequences)
The daughter of Ho Chi Minh's number two masterminded the Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery, a complex that more than earns its local nickname, the Crazy House. This LSD nightmare's three main buildings are Gaudi-esque concrete treehouse-like growths that appear as if they flowed organically out of the ground. Inside, the walls seem to dissolve into the floor, and right angles are avoided entirely. Each guest room is built around a different animal theme: the Eagle Room has a big-beaked bird standing atop a huge egg, while another has arm-sized ants crawling up the wall. The animal theme continues outside—a large giraffe statue on the property contains a teahouse, and human-size "spider webs" are set up here and there. 011-84/63-82-20-70.
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In a league of its own
Hydrophobics should stay far from Jules' Undersea Lodge, named for novelist Jules Verne of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fame. The 600-square-foot lodge, a former marine lab, is 21 feet underwater, close to the bottom of the mangrove-filled Emerald Lagoon, in Key Largo. You'll have to know how to scuba dive to reach your room, and guests without the mandatory certification must take a course at the hotel. Once you've reached the lodge, which sleeps up to six, you'll be close to angelfish, anemones, barracuda, oysters, and other creatures—each room is equipped with a 42-inch window, so you don't need to be suited up to keep an eye on the neighborhood. 305/451-2353, jul.com.
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Crash in a jet plane
Near a beach that's within Manuel Antonio National Park, the Hotel Costa Verde doesn't lack for great sights. But few are as amazing as its own 727 Fuselage Suite, a salvaged 1965 Boeing 727-100 that looks as if it's crashed into the Costa Rican jungle (it's actually mounted atop a 50-foot pillar and reached via a spiral staircase). The jet's interior was once able to hold up to 125 passengers, but there are few reminders left of its days in the service of South African Airways and Colombia's Avianca Airlines. The suite's two bedrooms, dining area, and sitting room are now covered over entirely in teak to match the surroundings. Guests can play "spot the toucan" on the small wood deck that sits on top of the right wing. 011-506/27-77-05-84 or 866/854-7958, costaverde.com/727.html.
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Your escape pod awaits
Colored bright-orange for easy visibility, the '70s-era escape pods that make up the Capsule Hotel once hung outside oil rigs, ready to be deployed in case of an evacuation. Recycled by self-proclaimed "garbage architect" Denis Oudendijk, the fleet of pods now rotates among different moorings in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. At the moment, two are in the western Dutch town of Vlissingen and another is in The Hague. For a kind of James Bond-meets-Barbarella twist, opt to book your pod with a disco ball and all the spy's movies on DVD. It's a super-kitschy nod to a similar pod's appearance in The Spy Who Loved Me. 011-31/641-76-55-60, capsulehotel.info.
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On the road again
Imagine how much ground you could cover if you took your bed with you. That's the idea behind Exploranter Overland Hotel, a converted 25-ton truck that's a true hotel on wheels. An awning extends out from the truck's side to provide some al fresco shade at lunchtime. The "kitchen" comes tricked out with fridges, freezers, and a large convection oven—on this trip, the restaurant comes with you too, and sometimes nearby cooks are brought in to give guests a taste of the local cuisine. Your luggage and sleeping quarters are towed behind you, in a trailer that sleeps up to 24. With so much flexibility, guests can see Brazil's back country, far from crowds and sometimes any other people at all. The tours, which last from three days up to three months or more, have included horseback riding, vineyard tours, bird watching, and rodeos. 011-55/11-99-38-00-58, exploranter.com.
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Where the penthouse is a trailer park
Cape Town's sleek Grand Daddy hotel has a surprise on its roof: a fleet of seven Airstream trailers, six of which were imported from the U.S. The aluminum-clad "rooms," which sleep two people, have been done in playful themes that incorporate icons like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" (a blonde wig and a bear suit are available for dress-up), and John Lennon and Yoko Ono (the room's white-on-white furnishings include an enormous bed, natch). If you don't want to stray as far from the trailers' original looks, there's the Pleasantville model, an Eisenhower-era fantasia with chintz, harvest-gold curtains, and flower-covered throw pillows. 011-27/21-424-7247, www.granddaddy.co.za.
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STILL WEIRD! Meet the giraffes (from the 2008 edition)
Without sacrificing its estate-in-the-country dignity—or all of it, anyway—Giraffe Manor in Langata, Kenya, is arranged so that roaming giraffes can poke their heads into any open window or doorway with impunity and lather guests with their sticky, prehensile tongues. Your guesthouse is their guesthouse, so the silly creatures pop up everywhere, including over the breakfast table, in the lobby, and through the curtains of the five guest rooms for adults. 011-254/20-890-948, off-hours 011-254/20-891-078, giraffemanor.com.
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>> Click here for a beagle-shaped B&B and more weird hotels from 2008.

SEEING IS BELIEVING