wesleysjournal (wesleysjournal) wrote,

The Foot Massage

The second hotel that I stayed in, in the first trip to Beijing,  had a massage parlor on the fourth floor. These can be questionable enterprises about as often as they are legitimate. My suspicions are that they are often both. I'd been on my feet doing a lot of walking in the past few days and I've still got the blisters to prove it. I can't say that I've ever before had a foot massage but I was not at all averse to the idea.

 One of the benefits of being a foreigner is an acceptance of ignorance. If something looks sketchy you can just smile and shrug and walk away and people will just think you're lost or that you're just looking around. The fourth floor looked legit. You can usually tell these things in a glance. There were charts on the wall showing the muscular skeletal system as well as pictures of both men and women in a display with official looking documents that are probably certifications or licenses.

They handed my a printed sheet of paper that listed off several things. It was in both Chinese and English. It was the typical English translations that are more literal than informative. About halfway down the page was listed the item, “Foot massage and step back.”

“What is this?” I asked the two people who were waiting for me to make a decision. “Does this mean they walk on your back?” It was the only thing I could think of that made any sense. The man looked at where I was pointing and as if in answer he turns and points to a sign on the wall that said “Imperial Massage.” Which was less information and not more... I figured screw it. Whatever it was couldn't be too bad.

I was led into a room in the back and left there in padded recliner chair with a cup of hot water and a bowl of cherry tomatoes. Everywhere you go, there is always a little bowl of tomatoes. If I open a bank account or purchase so USD the bank will give me a bowl of cherry tomatoes while I wait. KTV, bar, nightclub; cherry tomatoes, nuts and cherry tomatoes, watermelon and cherry tomatoes. Go for a haircut and after they've washed your head they give you a bowl of cherry tomatoes and a cup of hot water while you wait for the stylist who is usually a young, skinny guy with a pompadour.

After a short time a boy comes in and has me raise my legs while he pulls apart the leg rest of the chair. There is a small tub here which he then fills with warm water and some brown stuff out of a bottle. He then proceeds to wash my feet. At this point for reasons I can not adequately explain, I start thinking about the Foot Washing Baptist and how envious they would be of all this and I spend the next several minutes trying not to laugh. The boy leaves and I sit there with my feet soaking in the hot water which actually felt fairly good. They could have just left me there like that for a while and I would have been just fine.

A woman comes in and washes my feet some more. Again I'm trying to stifle the urge to laugh. She has me lift my legs up while she reassembles the leg rest. Then she wraps one foot and with some cream starts rubbing the other. This foot massage is probably one of the strangest things I've ever done. It is the kind of thing that feels good but hurts at the same time. She was very quiet and very methodical and very forceful. She found a few places on my feet that I had not known were in pain until she applied pressure with her knuckle. And she applied a hell of a lot of pressure. It's also a bit strange just having someone touching your feet. Every once in a while she would look up and stare at me with a slight smile. This made me feel a bit uncomfortable but there was nothing to do about it. She also noticed my blisters and she poked them a couple of times. She made a kind of awkward laugh when she did this. At the end she brought out some hot cups. These are the small glass cups which are heated from the inside with a little torch. When pressed against your skin it creates a suction as the air inside cools. Though understand that even though the air is “cooling” it's still very hot. With the hot cups she swiped the bottoms of my feet a few times then she left them hanging from the center of the bottom of each foot. After a few minutes she removed them and started rubbing my feet again.

After she works over both my feet and then washes them again she leaves me alone in the room with the TV on. I hate the TV. The Chinese seem to have caught the whole Reality TV wave and have actually managed to make this horrid concept even more annoying than it is in America. I played with the remote for a while until I found some English news. I've no interest in the news I just don't want to listen to the Chinese Reality TV. When she returns she reclines the chair all the way and I realize for the first time that it is actually a padded massage table. She sits behind me rubbing on my head for a while. As I'm lying there I notice that there are metal rails hanging from the ceiling. She makes me roll over and then she climbs up on to the table and start walking on my back. So... “Step back” is exactly what I thought it would be, though a bit more painful than I'd imagined. The amount of pressure seemed to vary at different points. I think that sometimes she was hanging from the poles on the ceiling and at other times she was just using them for balance and there were a few times when I think she was actually pushing against the poles in order to create more pressure. Obviously I don't know this for certain since I couldn't see what she was doing but that's what it felt like.

All of this was very cheap. It cost about 130 rmb.
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