I found myself travelling to Yunnan recently for a friend’s wedding in Lijiang, specifically. With nothing holding me back to extend my trip, I decided to make the most of it and added a couple more stops on my itinerary. That is how I found myself in the region’s capital city of Kunming.
At First Glance
Just a 40-minute drive from the airport, InterContinental Kunming sits at the centre of the National Tourism Area of Dianchi. That is Dianchi Lake, or Lake Dian, to the rest of us — China’s eighth largest lake and the largest in southwest Kunming. Almost straight away, it’s a side of China I’ve never experienced. Having never really had the opportunity — or been brave enough — to venture past the cosmopolitan cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, the fresh air, tree-lined boulevards and quietness of the surroundings delivered a welcome sensation. The vastness of the five-star property, on the other hand, was not surprising. This is China, after all, where bigger means better.
Admittedly, my first impression was “business hotel” but given its distance from the city centre, it felt like a polished mega-resort that catered to families and large groups looking to get out of the hustle.
Having opened in September 2013 as the first urban resort in southwest China, the InterContinental Kunming is one of almost 50 sister properties in the mainland. The hotel’s design is based on an “Eternally Beautiful Butterfly” theme, and resembles a colourful version of the insect with its wings outstretched. Inside, the trope runs through the entire property.
There are 536 guestrooms and suites, all of which feature the aforementioned butterfly murals. With huge floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open up to a spacious balcony — that further gave us a glorious view of lush, green fauna in the centre of the hotel’s huge courtyard — our Club King room was constantly lit by natural light. Apart from an extra-large king bed, there was also a walk-in closet, sitting area, oversized bathtub and plenty of space to potter around.
The muted interiors were calming and designed in a palette that kept with the natural setting. There were wood accents everywhere we looked, as well as sliding glass doors to give one the option of an open-plan design.
The Food and Drinks
When we dined in-house, it was always at the Club InterContinental Lounge. Featuring an outdoor terrace, dining area and lounge, we were grateful to escape the breakfast crowds and pop in for late afternoon tea when we returned from our day excursions. The buffet spreads weren’t anything to shout about — just your standard fruits, cold cuts, canapés and beverages. There was also a Butterfly Bar and two restaurants on-site.
Upon arrival, we checked in as Club InterContinental guests. However, there were never that many guests around whenever we needed assistance so it didn’t make much difference. We were surprised to discover that barely any staff spoke English at an international hotel chain such as this; and if so, poorly. Fortunately, I knew enough for us to get by conversationally. Although the staff seemed aware that I didn’t have a great command of Mandarin, they spoke quickly and ofttimes inexplicably.
More laidback and not as loud as we’d feared. It was evident that this is where the wealthy came to stay, dine and shop. As such, the fellow guests we encountered didn’t wave the flag of “typical” mainlanders (by reputation) with any sort of boisterous behaviour or lack of self-awareness.
If you’re looking for a five-star place to stay with all the standard amenities of a luxury hotel, look no further. We appreciated that the hotel was a way away from the city centre after we’d spent a day in the city and found ourselves looking forward to driving away from it. There are other four- to five-star options in the city if you prefer, but the fresh air and green surroundings in and around the InterContinental was something we embraced.
For Your Consideration
We only found out on our last day that there were a la carte options for breakfast so it would have been good to have been duly informed. The Club InterContinental amenities could have used more oomph in effort and range, and the F&B options were pretty standard for a five-star hotel. The vastness and excessive space didn’t lend to the warmth and cosiness of the place, but there isn’t much there that can be helped.
By recommendation from the hotel’s director of marketing and communication, we dined at a restaurant called Qing Town for dinner one night. It was located just a short walk from the hotel and right beside the Dianchi Lake, and all we knew beforehand was that it was a vegetarian restaurant. It turned out to be the most incredible vegetarian meal we’d ever had. The only downside was that they didn’t accept foreign credit cards. Fortunately, the staff were quick to give us a discount so we could pay cash — something that probably never happens in any other fine dining establishment in the world.
We had our hearts set on a clean, no fuss, five-star hotel for our stay and the InterContinental Kunming delivered on all counts. While the vibe was somewhat subdued, we didn’t have higher expectations coming in. It seemed like large tour groups were inescapable here, but the hotel was big enough to avoid them for most of the time.
Food & Drinks
Bed & Bath
Simple and straightforward
Where: InterContinental Kunming
No. 5 Yijing Road, National Tourism Area Of Dianchi,
Kunming, China, 650228
Phone: +86 871 6318 8888
Note– The critic was invited by the hotel. But all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.