The world’s first “ground-scraper” hotel — plunging 88 metres into an old quarry on the fringes of Shanghai — is set to open its doors to the public today.
The 18-storey Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland includes two entire floors of underwater suites looking into a large aquarium, while guests on the other levels get panoramic views of an artificial waterfall on the opposite side of the quarry.
The swanky five-star resort, also known as Shimao Quarry Hotel, has reportedly taken 12 years and some 5,000 architects, engineers, designers and construction workers to build.
Located 30 kilometres from Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport in the Sheshan Mountain Range, the 336-room hotel comes complete with sports and recreation facilities including rock climbing and bungee jumping.
While the hotel already had a soft opening earlier this month for invited guests only, room reservations will officially open to the public today.
Rooms are priced from 3,394 yuan ($668) a night, according to the Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts website, while the maximum price for a suite is more than a whopping $14,000 and comes with butler service.
Despite being dubbed by some media outlets as the world’s first underground hotel, there are actually dozens of underground accommodations around the world from Coober Pedy in South Australia to the Grand Canyon Caverns.
However, none appear to be built in a former quarry or resemble a five-star luxury hotel.
Chinese state media Xinhua said the quarry was exploited during World War II, but was shut down in 2000 due to new environmental protection regulations.
Developer Shimao Group reportedly bought the land in 2006 to build the large-scale underground resort.
‘I just want to know if their cups are cleaned properly’
While some netizens questioned how much it would cost to stay at such a unique hotel, others had very different concerns after hidden camera footage recently emerged of staff cleaning toilets and cups with used towels.
“I just want to know if their cups are cleaned properly,” said a Weibo user with the nickname Wangshenjing.
Another Weibo user, Ye Yuanxunzhihuan, posted: “Will they clean the cup with the towel that was used to clean the toilet?”
However, if the guests do get what they paid for, the standards should be impeccable.
British architect Martin Jochman, who designed the hotel, was also the brains behind the luxury hotel Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai, which has a structure that resembles the sail of a ship.
Mr Jochman told Xinhua the quarry pit was the source for his inspiration, and that he wanted to build a hotel that integrated with its natural environment.
“It’s the first time to turn an abandoned quarry into a wonderful hotel beneath the ground,” he said.
“This is such a unique opportunity that gives me some really interesting ideas of reshaping the relationship between city and nature.”
However, the construction process was reportedly fraught with delays and challenges, such as drainage and the complicated transportation of building materials.
Xu Shitan, vice chairman of Shimao Group, told reporters they could have “abandoned the quarry” but instead they “turned it into a treasure”.