The world of Wan Chai


The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - NEL­LIE BLUN­DELL

QUEEN’S Road East once ran along the shore­line of old Hong Kong, when junks jos­tled on the har­bour and opium smoke wafted in the air.

Th­ese days the fore­shore has moved, as more land is re­claimed from the har­bour, but Queen’s Road East re­tains the vi­brant bus­tle of its colour­ful past. Be­side the wet mar­ket, where fish are wrapped and veg­eta­bles bagged for com­muters’ din­ners, Ho­tel Indigo Hong Kong Is­land stretches up into the sky.

A bronze dragon wraps it­self around the build­ing’s ex­te­rior, its eco-scales screen­ing the sun while cap­tur­ing power. The dragon is one of many de­sign fea­tures that bor­row from the sto­ries and cul­ture of the lo­cal Wan Chai neigh­bour­hood.

More nar­ra­tives can be found shim­mer­ing in the wall mo­saics of the 129 gue­strooms, in the lucky gold­fish on bath­mats and cush­ions and the blue im­ages of mar­tial-arts mas­ters stand­ing guard over the show­ers.

The ho­tel’s rooms are on the spa­cious side by Hong Kong stan­dards and floor- to-ceil­ing win­dows make the space seem even larger. It feels like be­ing perched high in a for­est of skyscrap­ers — glit­ter­ing mod­ern build­ings and his­toric Wan Chai ten­e­ments rise all around, and be­tween them the lush green­ery of The Peak.

Peo­ple live up here, their wash­ing strung from win­dows 30 floors up. As night falls, apart­ment win­dows light up, sil­hou­et­ting their oc­cu­pants as they move from room to room. It’s all hap- pen­ing out there in the ver­ti­cal city but when it be­comes too much or you start feel­ing as if you’re be­ing watched, close the blinds with the touch of a but­ton on the bed­side con­sole.

The big, soft bed is in the cen­tre of the room to max­imise space. On ei­ther side are the but­tons and di­als for mood light­ing, read­ing light­ing, those whoosh­ing blinds, mu­sic, tele­vi­sion, phone and alarm clock.

At just 12m wide and 150m long, Ho­tel Indigo Hong Kong Is­land is a tall and skinny bean­pole of quirky de­sign and comfy ac­com­mo­da­tion. On the 29th floor, a can­tilevered rooftop pool looks down through a glass bot­tom on to the streets of Wan Chai. Next door, the Sky­bar is dec­o­rated with Chester­field so­fas and ce­les­tial light­ing, and its manga comic-haired staff are su­per­friendly and full of tips on things to see and do in down­town Wan Chai. With views over the sparkling city, the ter­race is per­fect on balmy Hong Kong nights.

Filled with bars and ex­otic ladies, Wan Chai once at­tracted the seamier side of life. Now it’s home to hip­sters, artists and some of Hong Kong’s hottest bars and restau­rants. Pro­tected in its big, dragon hug, Ho­tel Indigo is per­fectly placed at the cen­tre of it all. Nel­lie Blun­dell was a guest of Ho­tel Indigo Hong Kong Is­land.

The ho­tel has 129 clev­erly de­signed gue­strooms

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