Continuing his exploration of south China's Hainan Island, Sascha Matuszak dives into some designer luxury living at the one-of-a-kind InterContinental Sanya Resort.>>>
You know how some luxury hotels look like every other luxury hotel in the world: tall, sleek skyscrapers with glittery lights up and down the shaft? And others try and look special but just fail, like a big fat golden globe on a pedestal? Many people sleep in hotels like the former every day, but only nouveau riche stay in the latter.
Every so often, you come across a hotel that was designed according to an individual concept, not a mold. You will never really find another building like it and it seems to melt into the environment—or burst out of it, depending on concept—but whatever it does, it looks and feels right. It's easy to remember such hotels, because you notice little things about the design and the way the paths and buildings come together.
Last time I was in Sanya, I had the pleasure of staying in such a hotel, the Luhuitou Peninsula, surrounded by palm trees and luxury.
Eco-friendly, modern design
Singapore. They are leading proponents of contemporary environmental design and are fast becoming one of the hottest design firms in Asia. InterContinental Sanya Resort is their first building in China.
The resort has been designed to take full advantage of its warm, tropical setting. Every effort has been made to make use of natural light and natural ventilation in order to reduce dependence on electricity and mechanical air conditioning.
Large "skygardens" are located on alternating floors, allowing the breeze to move through the building and reduce its overall visual mass. All flat roofs that are visible from the rooms and public areas have been planted with a combination of native grasses, flowers and shrubs. This reduces the heat load and acts as an insulating layer to cool the spaces beneath. Solar water heaters on the roof of the skyblock provide all the necessary hot water for all Skygarden rooms (the designated area for MICE guests) and all lobby and lounge hot water requirements.
The Club pool uses salt water instead of chlorinated water in order to reduce the usage of chemicals and also to provide a point of differentiation for guests. Building materials have, wherever possible, been sourced locally.
The "new wave" style
This is IHG's first implementation of the "new wave" of differentiated resort designs. There are distinct zones for MICE guests (the Skygarden), family guests and Club guests, each designed to focus on the convenience and enjoyment of each different type of guest.
It is important to stress that guests can wander around the entire resort (only Club areas are restricted) and enjoy the full experience, but if, for example, they are attending a MICE event (short stay, limited free time) they will be accommodated in the Skygarden room block. This is conveniently located above the ballroom and conference rooms with easy access to the lobby bar, their conference venue, 24-hour dining buffet restaurant and the invigorating Serenity Pool.
Family guests will be located in the Watergarden rooms, close to the lagoon pools, the kids' pool, an outdoor movie screening area and the game room for teenagers where PS2, PC games, pool and table football are among other awesome diversions from icky beaches and annoying parents.
The spa, gym and events center are centrally located for all room types. The restaurants and bars are all situated right on the beach promenade, where all the guests want to be.
The resort themselves describe the design thus:
"The design relies upon intelligent and creative use of form & void for its effect. Rhythmical patterns of light and shadow and the use of harmony and juxtaposition in architectural proportion delight the eye, forsaking the use of expensive materials or elaborate details. The master planning allows for an unfolding of experience as one moves through the resort, rather than the rapid understanding-at-a-glance that is typical of so many Sanya resorts. "
The Spa and the Pavilion
The above description might sound like a bit much, but they actually nail it. All the other hotels in Sanya (that I visited at least) were classic, imposing 5-star luxury hotels. Only the Intercontinental required (enticed!) me to explore the grounds and figure out which path led where.
The first thing you notice is not the massive Skygarden thrusting up out of the former jungle, but the long flat expanse of the villas with their rooftop gardens, the shimmering pools half-hidden behind cold stone walls and a pavilion off in the distance, reaching out into a sea inhabited by squat, wooden buildings.
I got lost and found myself at the spa. Doesn't that sound nice? Losing oneself at a spa? I swam through the lagoon, imagined a beautiful tanned French woman, consummated our love in the water jet massage cave and then went into a private rose-scented room for a post-spa massage. Magnificent.
I was going to keep wandering, relaxed and spa-ed out as I was, but a Singaporean lady took me by the hand and led me out to the pavilion and bought me dinner. The InterContinental Sanya's Chinese restaurant is located on a pavilion that stretches into the ocean and as I ate tender lamb and crab congee, I watched the waves lapping against white stone pillars. We headed back as the sun set and she gave me a key to a room.
In the room, waiting for me, were four gorgeous ladies and a silver bucket filled with ice and wine, but that's another story. I woke up the next morning and took my flight to Shanghai but whenever I think of Sanya, flashes of that remarkable resort go through my mind. If you ever have the opportunity to stay at the Intercontinental Sanya, take it.