Soaking up the sun, a cool drink in hand, you wiggle your toes deeper into the warm sand and sigh with contentment but as you cast your eyes across sun-dappled waters, they come to rest not on a never ending blue horizon, but a somewhat more surprising sight—the soaring towers of Lujiazui, glimmering in the searing Shanghai summer sun. This surreal beach on the banks of the Huangpu River is set to be one of the greatest additions thus far to Shanghai's south Bund Cool Docks development, giving Shanghai residents and visitors a very good reason (aside from the South Bund Fabric Market) to venture that little bit further than usual.
The government has been trying to lure people down there for a while now, with new bar/restaurant enclaves, luxury boutique hotels, yacht clubs and a host of re-vamped warehouse office space that are only now beginning to really take hold, and this beach is about to become its not-so-secret weapon. A strip of clean yellow sand smack-bang on the banks of the river, fringed with a few palm trees and home to some bumper size paddling pools, the beach itself has been around for some time, but unimaginative management and the winter season has ensured it stayed lost in obscurity.
Rico Rico Beach Comes to Shanghai
Enter Rico Rico Beach Club. Determined to bring a little Latin spirit to China's party city, Rico Rico is the tapas bar and restaurant that has just taken over the reins. "We're going to show Shanghai how to throw a beach party," said Saad Lahjouji Idrissi, the beach's new manager. He went on to explain Rico Rico's plans to build a second beach on what is now the neighboring car park and that both would be equipped with 8x8 m (26x26 ft) pools where guests can take a dip in between sunning themselves over a cocktail or two while snacking on a blend of South American, Caribbean and Spanish-style tapas, all set to some mellow DJ sounds.
He conjured images of cabanas, drapes blowing gently in the breeze, beach parties, barbecues and beautiful people. Though many details are not yet set in stone, what is for sure is that the existing beach will become a VIP, invitation-only area, whereas the other side is pegged for more casual and family-friendly fun. Expect regular events like beach volleyball and family days plus a host of special parties like last weekend's The Ice Cream Truck bonanza that had locals peering from across the fence as a host of scantily clad young party-goers made merry throughout the day and well into the night.
During the week, Saad is hoping to tempt local office workers and business travelers to loosen off their ties, roll up their trousers and kick off their shoes with wifi and weekday deals making it the "beach office" and meeting hotspot... sign me up for that! Beach culture may not have made much of a splash as yet in China, but with the Rico Rico Beach Club delivering a shining example of the potential for beachside bliss, it could well be on its way.
Rico Rico Beach Club—Opening June 18, 2011
Address: Wai Ma Lu by Mao Jia Yuan Lu (South Bund) 外马路， 近毛家园路
How to get there: The closest Metro station is Xiaonanmen (Line 9) and from there it's about 15-20 minutes walk or a quick cab ride away.
Fuxing Dong Lu Ferry Port is about 100 m (109 yd) north of Cool Docks so you can hop across from Pudong for just RMB 0.5 and buses 65, 576, 736, 801, 868, 910 and 928 all stop outside the port.