2005.12.05 Beijing, China

Beijing Supermarket
Beijing Supermarket

Joyce and I just returned from an impromptu night out. We haven't been out on the town much over my present visit to Beijing: she's been busy with work, trying to get her gemstone business off the ground. Having worked from home the entire day, she was antsy by late evening--I suggested we go out for a massage.

There's a place not far from her apartment that gives good massages at reasonable prices. It wasn't cozy in the way a spa in the U.S. would have been. That's not important to me, though. I care only that the masseuse has strength enough and knows how to apply pressure in the right areas.

We splurged 66 yuan ($8.17) apiece for a two-and-a-half hour treatment. For that much yuan we got:

I had no idea what head dry-cleaning could be the first time I heard the term. The same phrase, gan xi, is used at laundries that clean clothing with chemicals, using no water. However, in massage, the process is:

  1. Pour lots of shampoo onto dry hair
  2. Work shampoo into a lather, simultaneously giving a scalp massage
  3. Rinse off with warm water
  4. Style hair

It seems every time I go for a massage in China there's some service I've never heard of and couldn't have imagined myself. This massage actually wasn't my first time getting my head dry-cleaned. It was, however, my first time getting the healing ginger kidney treatment. The ginger kidney treatment follows these steps:

  1. Dab lotion all over the lower back: everywhere above the belt-line
  2. Place chunks of ginger that have been steeped in a mixture of boiled water and herbs about the area
  3. Cover the region in hot towels that have been soaked (then wrung out) in the same solution
  4. Set the mass into place with plastic cling-wrap, making several passes around back and belly
  5. Lie on back while receiving facial and body massage
  6. Remove prior to commencing backwalk

Joyce tries hummus prepared by David
Joyce tries hummus
prepared by David

The treatment is believed to provide therapeutic effects to the kidneys. I can't be sure whether it was on account of the ginger kidney treatment, but I became relaxed and pleasantly drowsy upon being turned over on my back. I wasn't tired before, so think there must be something to having your mid-section wrapped up in herbs, ginger, and hot towels.

There are many services common to massage in China that wouldn't be found in most countries. I paid extra to have callouses and other dead skin shaven off my feet. That also included a pedicure performed with three different scalpels.

We finished off with an ear cleaning. Tiny spoons made from clear plastic excavate for earwax: a button at the base can be pressed to illuminate the ear canal. A small brush finishes the process, whisking away specks too small for the spoon.