Sheung Wan is easily the most hipster neighbourhood in the city – expats clamour to rent industrial apartments above craft beer bars, foodies flock to nab a table at the latest concept restaurant and internationally renowned graffiti artists have found the perfect blank canvas for their work. But this hipster hangout has risen from the ashes after dramatic redevelopment…
I’m told Sheung Wan was once a run-down corner of Hong Kong – an area, which tourists, expats and many HK residents steered clear of. Despite being one stop from Central and a short ride from the Star Ferry terminal, it was a neglected neighbourhood whose scruffy apartment blocks and shady alleyways intimidated visitors. Fast-forward ten years and thanks to careful gentrification and investment from savvy young developers, it’s now a hipsters paradise and thriving area for start-ups and new business concepts, like SLEEEP.
SLEEEP (my new favourite hotel) is the brainchild of Alex Kot and Jun Rivers. Close to buzzing Gough Street with its vegan cafes, waffle bars and instagrammable bubble teashops, they’ve created a sanctuary of calm – Hong Kong’s first capsule hotel. But first, you have to find it.
5 minutes from Sheung Wan station you’ll come to a narrow stairwell leading to a discrete black door with a subtle perspex sign. There’s no key fob or keyhole and, as it’s a silent hotel, no buzzer. I knocked quietly and was greeted by Fai, who is partially impaired of hearing. His beaming smile beckoned me inside and he silently motioned for me to remove my well-worn trainers in exchange for a pair of comfy black slippers. I gladly complied.
Every part of your stay is designed to require zero verbal communication. As you enter, a mirrored plasma screen welcomes you by name, tells you how to get local recommendations and even updates you on the day’s weather forecast. Fai will silently check you in using his tablet and you’ll be shown how to enter the hotel using just fingerprint recognition – no hassle of leaving your key card or disturbing the tranquility by ringing a front door bell.
Whilst the first half hour of attempting to communicate without speaking can be a little frustrating, it’s surprising how quickly you adapt and how liberating it is not to have to talk. This rule adds to the whole experience and helps induce a feeling of total relaxation. The whole philosophy of SLEEEP was built in response to the fact that Hong Kong ranks among the most sleep deprived cities in the world. And SLEEEP is working to combat this – one power nap at a time.
As I silently padded around in my slippers, I felt I’d stepped into every traveller’s dream: a hidden den of tranquillity nestled in the heart of a chaotic city. You don’t stay in a room but in an individual, blacked-out sleeping pod – known as SLPers. Zombie-like commuters emerged refreshed and recharged and jet-lagged backpackers like me took refuge in the beautifully-designed yet functional cocoons. Keyless check in using a QR code, silent sliding doors and scientifically backed circadian lighting all adds to this multi-sensory but calm-inducing experience.
The idea of ‘capsule hotels’ was of course born in Japan in the 70s but this is more than just a rip-off of an old concept. SLEEEP capsule hotel has been infused with new purpose, a sustainable ethos and state-of-the-art technology – instead of an intrusive morning alarm, a soft, warm light illuminated my capsule to rouse me from my sleep coma. It felt like the sun slowly creeping up from the horizon as opposed to being rudely awoken by my dreaded phone alarm.
There’s no wonder these guys scooped up silver in the 2018 Design For Asia Awards. And rumour has it they’ve got not-so-secret plans to launch another site outside of Sheung Wan soon… SLPer 2.0 will be a bigger space in a more central location. So watch this space. Or just book it. Sheung Wan’s hippest hotel won’t stay a secret for long.
The team at SLEEEP kindly hosted me for one night but rest assured, this post is entirely written from the heart and I will be returning as a paying customer on my next trip to HK! All my collaborations are carefully chosen and I sought this place out for its emphasis on sustainability.