Top 5 remarkable old-style dwellings in Asia

Around the world there are some traditional houses and accommodations that the locals have been living in for centuries. Let’s take a look at 5 of the very best.


5. Mbaru Niang

These ‘drum houses’ are traditionally called mbaru niang. The indigenous people of Flores have been using them in their villages, in particular the townships of Wae Rebo and Manggarai, for many centuries. The houses are made from wood and bamboo and are almost always conical in shape.

Hanok in Seoul
Hanok in Seoul

4. Hanok

Traditional houses in Korea are known as a hanok. While these hanok houses are becoming more and more rare in cities these days, many of the hanok villages, such as at Bukchon and Namsangol in Seoul, are preserved and have become tourist attractions in their own right. They are built of stone and do not have an upstairs, whereas the floor of the hanok is also heated to prepare the residents for the long, cold Korean winters. Read more about experience at Bukchon Hanok Village.

A Ger in the plains of the Gobi
A Ger in the plains of the Gobi

3. Ger

The Mongolian Ger is a circular shaped tent that insulates heat within and can be found all over Mongolia, from propping up beside stone houses in the city to laying alone in the vast expanse of the Gobi Desert.

Tongkonan houses in the jungles of Tana Toraja, Sulawesi
Tongkonan houses in the jungles of Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

2. Tongkonan

In the central parts of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, you will find Tongkonan houses, which have been the traditional design of abode for the reclusive Toraja people for many centuries. These houses are distinguished by their oversized roofs, which are often built in the shape of a boat. The Toraja People like to decorate their Tongkonan with elaborate artefacts, including skulls and skins of local animals such as buffalo. Read more about my experiences in the Tongkonan houses.

The Tianloukeng tulou group (Snail Pit Village) in Nanning, China
The Tianloukeng tulou group (Snail Pit Village) in Nanning, China

1. Fujian Tulou

The alien-like Fujian Tulou dwellings in rural and mountainous areas of southern China were built as early as the 12th century. They are usually circular in shape (although some are rectangular) and are up to 5 stories high. Inside the Tulou can be up to 80 families, and their wealth and status determine the level at which they reside (the aristocrats of the community live on the top floor, whereas the peasants live at the bottom, likely with the rats).


6 thoughts on “Top 5 remarkable old-style dwellings in Asia

    1. You are right, they are so beautiful! There’s plenty of other kinds of accommodations in Asia too that missed the cut for this list, such as the hutongs of Beijing, the Batak houses of Sumatra, the stilted lake huts of Kampong Phluk in Cambodia…the list is endless! All so amazing!


  1. I’ve never heard of Tulou, but they certainly look well-worth a visit! I’m glad the locals still preserve it despite the rapid modernization all across the country.


    1. I hope you can get to the Tulou one day Bama! I will look forward to your post and photos! China is indeed rapidly modernising but there are still surprisingly lots of traditional dwellings if you look hard enough. Just wish I had the time to explore them all! 😦


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