Cover and top image by: David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures), 1972
Behold: the SmartShanghai pool listings for 2011. Little bit late on the trigger this year, alas… There’s been a few additions and subtractions, year on year. Here’s what’s out there. Although we’re staunch practitioners and supporters of the "Laowai Bluff" – basically, shades on, starring at the sky, and strutting right through security with aristocratic impunity – these are the ones you can buy your way into. Happy summer swimming.
Do you live in Pudong? Are you good with heights? Check out the rooftop pool at Purple Mountain. The erstwhile location of the Riviera Pool Parties, this place is now a little forlorn. When we visited, three people were chillin' in the pool. It might be better on the weekends. Still, the view is nice, there's plenty of places to lay out and tan, including a cute cabana, and the two circular pools are of decent size and depth. They have a rule about wearing a swimming cap but it's not noticeably enforced. No lifeguards.
This massive residential compound is a bit of drive, but still manageable. Mandarine City's pool has become the standby for jobless, 20- & 30-something expat types in the sweltering Shanghai afternoon. There's a swim club, a kiddie pool, and lifeguards. The facilities are vintage and a touch shabby, but it's clean enough and the pool is quite large. By far, the best thing about this place is the swim-up bar. There's a bit of regular crowd, and it's not all expat-louche. There's reps from all age groups and lots of residents. It gets swamped on the weekends but overall is still a solid choice for big groups.
Far. Do not bother swimming here unless you're within walking distance. The vibe is definitely "community" and the crowd is very local. It'd be good for kids, as there's plenty of other ankle-biters to play with. There are two waterslides (open at 2pm), but aside from that it's a bit of a let-down. The pool is big enough but the sun is blocked by a massive tarp and there's nowhere to lounge. They do have lifeguards though, and floating toys are encouraged (and conveniently available for sale.)
If you live in Puxi and want rooftop, this is your place. The view is fantastic and there are plenty of lounge chairs from which to admire it. Facilities are very clean and the pool is large enough for just hanging or even getting in some laps -- no lanes, though. There's a massive outdoor terrace and the crowd, while mostly hotel guests, is a nice mix of expats and locals, young and old. The only downside is all the people in the two adjacent towers perving on you. No lifeguards.
Oasis Riviera is in side the “Oasis Riviera Compound” – that’s the northern part og Gubei, about 10 minutes in a taxi west of Zhongshan Park. They’re offering up both indoor and outdoor pools – they’re not all that big, but traffic was pretty low when we went, so it might be a good option for something a little more private. It’s also a cheaper option, good for people living out in that area: 50rmb for unlimited swim time. Lifeguard is on duty.
Tip about this one: the compound right next to Oasis Riviera is “Yanlord Riverside Garden” – their pool is 20rmb, open to residents only. But look at it. It’s like a mini ocean. Worth it to try faking your way in. Maybe don’t try it with a big party, but you can probably get in with just two or three people.
If you’re living in the southern area of Shanghai -- French concession into Xujiahui area -- this could be the one for you. It’s smaller, newly opened (exclusive?), got lots of nice seating and a nice atmosphere. Feels more like a holiday, hotel pool kind of thing. Good for hanging out, and in a decent location. We when went there were only two people there, but it apparently gets quite busy on the weekends. They also have a frequent swimmer deal: 1,500rmb for 20 times, so that’s something if you’re pretty avid about it. The name of the compound is "Oriental Manhattan" but the sign outside actually says "Century Metropolis" so don't get confused by that.
This is a small one. We're talking your friend's backyard pool, one table, and a handful of lounge chairs. But don't let size deter you. If you live nearby and don't like adventuring, Grand Plaza is enough. If you play it right, it could be your own personal dip. Weekdays are mostly deserted. The pool itself is rectangular and clean, and there's a small shop downstairs for drinks and munchies. One caveat: the locker rooms are not a pretty picture. Transit quickly.
This place is awesome. Shimao Riviera Garden is the closest thing to a resort pool. Unfortunately, unless you live in Pudong, it's a time commitment. The first thing that strikes you is how clean everything is and how the lovely blue and turquoise tiles sparkle from the bottom of the pool. Then you see the palm trees on the sandy beach area and a pool massive enough to have a wave machine on one end. There's also an indoor pool with lanes for serious swimmers. During the week, it's quiet, but on weekends it looks like a manic Expat Show. Outdoor seating is nice and plentiful. There's an expensive bar serving up fruity drinks and cold beers. It's a fantastic location for a pool party.
Dino Beach is Shanghai's wet & wild water park. It boasts multiple massive water slides, the largest wave pool in China, volleyball courts and a lazy river for tubing. This place is sure to please a variety of age groups but it is also sure to be crowded. Wear a strong suit of patience. Be sure to bring cash so you can grab some grub at one of the fast food stands. Outside food & drink are prohibited, and -- bummer -- so is alcohol. Lockers are 20rmb. It's pretty far out there on the edge of town, but if you time it right, they're still doing that Beach Honey thing, and you might stumble upon its million-kuai bikini contest.
This rooftop pool is smack-dab in the center of the city and it feels like it. The JW Marriott is where you come to gaze up at skyscrapers from the laughably shallow, and rather pointless, wading pools, or look out across People's Square from a lounge chair. It's not so much about swimming as tanning, which is reflected in the browned crowd and the pale hotel guests. No lifeguards.
They certainly try to deter you with the steep price but the Portman's pool is in fact open to the public. The vibe here is young and privileged expat with the occasional traveling businessman or Shanghai Centre resident family. The lounge chairs are plush and, though surrounded by buildings, get a lot of sun. There's an indoor lap pool, and the cool thing about the Portman is that you can swim thru a small glass hatch from one pool to the other. The half-moon outdoor pool is quite small and not particularly deep but it's still a nice place to chill with your well-off friends. There are a few Health Club employees around but no lifeguards.
Good for small weekend getaways from Shanghai or a break with the fam. Le Meridien's pool facilities are large, clean and very pleasant. The grounds surrounding the pool are 5-star, as is the resort. There's an indoor lap pool, a spectacular infinity outdoor pool overlooking a lake, and a beach with volleyball nets. Pool toys are available for rent. Lounging opportunities abound. During the weekdays, the price drops to 200rmb +15%, but the deal here is to make a day of it: the pool is free with brunch, and brunch is 398rmb +15%.
Getting here is much easier these days. Line 9 goes right to Sheshan and from the station, Le Royal Meridien is a 12rmb, five minute cab ride away. If you want to cab it all the way, it's about 150rmb from Jing'an. If you're stretching to pay for this one in the first place, there's a free shuttle bus that leaves Wusheng Lu, near People's Square and the Shanghai Museum, at 11am and returns at 4pm, but only on the weekends.
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