Some hotels are meant to be destinations by itself. I discovered this to be accurate the moment I stepped foot into the newly-opened InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland.
Built into an abandoned quarry in southwestern Shanghai, the hotel is mostly subterranean, extending 88 metres below ground. The behemoth property’s 336 rooms and suites, wellness facilities and dining outlets are sprawled across two floors above ground, 16 floors below and two completely submerged underwater. Once a scar on the face of the earth, the pit was revitalised by Hong Kong developers Shimao Group and IHG, in an engineering feat that took 12 years. Its pioneering design – a curvaceous sci-fi-meets- fantasy structure – was nominated as one of the architectural wonders of the world last year by National Geographic Channel’s Megastructures series.
Embracing one side of the quarry, the revolutionary design of the hotel is dictated by its natural surroundings, which comprise jagged cliffs, leafy hills, cascading waterfall and an emerald green lake. When viewed aerially, from the vertigo-inducing all-glass footbridge, the hotel takes its design cues from Chinese feng shui principles, replicating the intertwining yin and yang sign, and merging harmoniously with its unique locale. Keeping with its natural environment, a symbolic waterfall in the shape of a vertical glass atrium containing the elevators – mimicking the one across – cuts through the middle of the steel and glass façade of the structure, giving it a futuristic vibe.
My executive suite on the seventh floor, which is technically seven floors under the surface – the confused looks from people riding the elevator was always amusing – provides a luxurious living space with unprecedented views of the quarry. The open-plan layout encapsulates a separate lavatory and shower, double vanities and deep soak bathtub kitted with exclusive bath products from Salvatore Ferragamo, followed by a bedroom, living area and a large balcony. The décor is also a take on the quarry’s mining past, mingling chic industrial copper and geological-inspired elements with a cool colour palette of blues and gun metal greys, accentuated by elegant oriental artworks. A digital bedside assistant – Baidu’s Chinese version of Amazon’s Alexa – aids your every need, should you speak Mandarin.
For a truly exceptional stay, guests can also opt to reside in one of the few stunning underwater lofts. Featuring the best of two worlds, the lofts are designed as a two-storey suite with the bedroom and an alfresco terrace on the lake surface and a living room encased within an aquarium filled with schools of colourful fish. IHG’s signature hospitality and guest services shines through with round-the-clock butler service which all rooms have access to.
When not lounging about in the comforts of my luxurious suite, I found there’s plenty to do at the hotel. For adrenaline junkies there’s rock climbing on the cliff face and kayaking on the pristine lake. For the unhurried, there’s always a range of indulgences to be enjoyed at the spa or whiling the afternoon away at high tea in the middle of the lake.
For gastronomes, there’s a lot to get excited about, too. The steampunk-themed Quarry bar on the bottom level quickly became my spot to take in the spectacular drone- based laser show every evening with a fix of G&T. On one evening, I made my way to Mr. Fisher, the hotel’s signature underwater restaurant, surrounded by an aquarium filled with reef sharks, giant stingrays and numerous sea creatures that entertain us while we dine on, ironically, delicious seafood offerings.
A visit to the Far East isn’t complete without a proper Chinese feast, and the hotel’s contemporary chinoiserie- themed Cai Feng Lou is just the place. Aside from familiar Cantonese delicacies, the restaurant specialises in regional cuisine – particularly from the lesser-known Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces.
My visit to the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland earlier this year was especially memorable as I was invited to attend the unveiling of British artist Alexander Hall’s stunning oeuvre – created with suspended champagne bottles artistically styled in his signature drip painting technique. The unique piece of art was commissioned to commemorate IHG’s 200th property and its latest crown jewel, the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland.
To find out more, visit intercontinental.com.