It is not easy to find a nice, clean, not-too-crowded swimming pool in the searing summer heat. Gym membership is required to take a dip in some. Hotels charge a high fee or ban non-guests.
One may just have to take the plunge and endure the crowded jiaozi or public dumpling pools.
Xia jiaozi, or cooking the dumplings, is how Chinese describe crowded swimming pools, and these jiaozi are far from appetizing.
It is common to see pools filled with people who don't follow the rules and just gather and stand around in the water to chat, or sit on the side to socialize.
There are five kinds of pools - independent swimming pools, those attached to residential areas, those attached to schools, those belonging to gyms and those in hotels.
The independent swimming pools, such as the Shen Jianqiang Swimming Pool on Weihai Road, are often smaller and crowded with nearby residents almost all the time - it's summer vacation for students. No English service is provided and the showering facilities are often quite old.
The pools in residential areas and those in schools are usually further away, with similar old facilities and crowds.
The pools at gyms are cleaner, have better facilities, and many also provide English services. But they often require annual membership costing from 2,500 yuan (US$368) to more than 10,000 yuan, which include swimming and other gym services.
Few gyms provide swimming cards alone, and even fewer offer single swims. Moreover, many of these four kinds of pools are usually not open to the general public during the daytime, since they are intended for members only or rented by training schools.
Many expatriates choose the hotel pools with better facilities, while the higher costs reduce the number of swimmers even in summer. But they are quite expensive since they are intended for hotel guests, not the public. The average price a dip in a five-star swimming pool is around 300 yuan. Some hotel gyms and pools don't accept walk-ins.
It's frustrating that such basic facilities as a proper swimming pool require too much effort to find and money to use.
Shanghai Daily has found some swimming pools more acceptable than most and with reasonable prices. They are in various districts. Usually, the higher the price, the lower the attendance and the better the experience.
Shanghai International Gymnastic Center (Indoor)
Address: 777 Wuyi Rd
Opening hours: 12pm-9pm
Price: 30-40 yuan per session
Yuantan Natatorium (Indoor)
Address: 1458 Zhangyang Rd
Open hours: 7am-9:30pm, Monday-Friday; 8am-9:30pm, Saturday-Sunday