Sign Up for Our Monthly Asia Newsletter
It’s not every day that a client will enter a hotel lobby to find a wall of water cascading down from the ceiling.
But at InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland in Sheshan, Shanghai, it happens multiple times per day. This digital water show, located directly in front of the reception area, is emblazoned with dancing lights and set to music. And during my recent visit to the property, this first impression assured me that my experience as a guest would certainly be filled with surprise and wonderment.
The upside-down hotel — the 200th property for InterContinental Hotels Group — has been called a “groundscraper” because, although it’s a tall building, it’s built 300 feet into the side of an unused quarry. Only two floors are located above ground, and 16 floors dip below the Earth’s surface — including two floors that are underwater.
An Architectural FeatLest you think that this hotel’s design makes for a dark and claustrophobic experience, think again — I was continually drawn to the floor-to-ceiling windows that face the quarry walls and the hotel’s abundant outdoor terraces. The entire building is an architectural feat — one that included the approval of several engineering patents — and is the product of more than 10 years of planning and construction.
InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland’s location within the quarry maximizes sunlight and the area’s own microclimate. What’s more, the hotel features an impressive sustainability program that includes using thermal inertia to boost the property’s heating and cooling systems; the use of solar energy; and recycling programs. After checking in, I immediately beelined past the massive dragon statue outside the front entrance and located the viewing deck opposite the hotel. There, I had a full view of the building’s glossy facade, which faces the inside of the quarry. The design is such so that every room has a balcony, perfect for views of the nightly coordinated water and light show.
Guestrooms Bring the Outdoors InJust as imaginative as the hotel’s exterior, guestrooms use wood and stone to bring the area’s natural touch indoors. The two underwater floors feature lofts with aquarium views from the living rooms and upstairs sleeping areas. The rest of the 336 rooms and suites enjoy stunning views of the quarry and furnished balconies.
I find that comfy beds with convenient power outlets are imperative in hotels, and both are present at InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland. A Baidu device (a Chinese version of Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa) is located bedside and controls in-room functions such as lights and electronic curtains, among other features. For now, the assistant only responds to Chinese speakers; soon, visitors will be able to ask it to play their favorite song or give them the latest news in English.
I enjoyed access to Club InterContinental for free cocktails, breakfast and light snacks throughout the day. The complimentary Wi-Fi access worked well, and although I had no time for the spa or a dip in the indoor swimming pool, both had windows with views — perhaps of a waterfall, the flutter of birds around a small island or the dancing shadow of clouds across the water — that are sure to fixate guests.
Elevated Dining OptionsDining is another high point — which is somewhat ironic, given that seafood restaurant Mr. Fisher is underwater. I suggest dining here at night and saving Chinese-inspired Cai Feng Lou for lunch so that you can enjoy views of the quarry from a higher vantage point during the day. There’s also Quarry Bar, which offers craft beers and Scotch whiskeys that draw crowds each evening, or The Lobby Lounge.
But most often, I preferred to be in my own private viewing box (aka, my balcony). After all, I’ve slept underwater, above the clouds, in tree houses and in safari tents — but never in a quarry. The DetailsInterContinental Shanghai Wonderlandwww.intercontinental.com