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Beyond the blue and cool

By Xu Junqian ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-08-17 00:18:17

As the hospitality trade matures in China, hotels are competing hard with little luxuries in the rooms, attentive service throughout, better food and beverage, spas, gyms … and swimming pools. Xu Junqian reports from Shanghai.

As the mercury rises and summer's scorching heat settles over the whole country, it's the season to take a dip into cool, crystal-clear waters. While the local residents may head for the lakes, rivers, sea or the neighborhood pools, guests of hotels have the advantage of in-house pools. And they can be pretty spectacular pools.

Beyond the blue and cool
[photos provided to China Daily]

In Shanghai, topping the list is "the first hanging swimming pool in China". Sitting on the 24th floor of the Holiday Inn Pudong Kangqiao, the jaw-droppingly awesome pool seems to float off the building into space when viewed from a distance. While swimming in the pool, guest get the impression that they are floating above the city, as the sides and the bottom of the pool is all made of glass.

Proudly named Sky Fall by the hotel, aviation experts were called in to ensure the safety of the structure.

Another impressive facility is the Water Edge pool at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Pudong, a heated indoor infinity poor on the 85th floor (pictured above). It is the world's highest indoor pool according to the hotel. The 20-m-long pool boasts a breathtaking vista that stretches as far as the Expo Park. The pool and has appeared in a James Bond movie.

While Mr Bond didn't manage to take a dip in the pool, anyone can do that even if they are not hotel guests. It will cost them 500 yuan a visit, or 3,000 yuan a month to swim "on top of the world". The fee also includes a light lunch box.

To ensure the quality and quantity of the water at that altitude, the hotel has a "reservoir" on the lower floor to pump and recycle the water.

Water safety is a major concern after many five-star hotels failed the water quality tests by the municipal authorities.

As a result, the Shanghai Municipal Health Inspection Institute launched a pilot program at the beginning of summer, aimed at improving water quality benchmarks beyond even national standards, by monitoring pool water around the clock using the Internet.

According to Zhou Yanqin, deputy director of the institute, the monitoring equipment will allow inspectors to oversee pool water quality from their office computers and they can send out alerts if and when standards slip.

Five-star hotels are taking their own initiative and measures.

"We have both an automatic monitoring system and every-two-hour water quality checks," says Yang Lei, the spa manager at Park Hyatt Hotel.

If pools in the Pudong area are all about height and vertigo-inducing effects, the ones tucked inside the century-old Bund area across the Huangpu River are centered on history and retro chic.

The art deco pool at the Peninsula Hotel Shanghai is an example.

Fringed by palm trees under a glass dome, the pool gets its startling Mediterranean look from blue-and-white mosaics. To swim inside is like being part of an oil painting, and the soothing music from the underwater sound system shimmers with the ripples. The mosaic also serves as a guardian of water quality, as its geometry may get distorted by impurities in the water.

The balconies by the pool look to the ultra lush greenery from the garden of the former British consulate and is currently one of the hottest spots to suntan in seclusion. The pool is only open to hotel guests, which makes it even more exclusive.

Traveling inside the former French Concession, the indoor swimming pool housed at the legendary InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin Hotel is reminiscent of the golden age of Shanghai in the 1920s.

The pool may be a new addition, but it is smoothly integrated into the 100-acre century-old art deco and French-provincial style estate, built by British horse racing tycoon H E Morris and once the residence of Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Soong Mei-ling.

The pool is now open to hotel guests and those willing to pay a minimum of 2,500 yuan for the monthly membership card.

Contact the writer at xujunqian@chinadaily.com.cn.

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