2014 Hangzhou bicycle tour day six – Traditional Chinese massage

After three days of cycling and my expensive morning lake cruise, I had the afternoon to fill. I thought I would get a traditional Chinese massage or Tuīná

I have never had Traditional Chinese Massage before and was interested and worried how it would go. I found a reputable looking establishment. My firstly challenge was trying to work out the price, as none of the staff could speak english except one desk people who could could say, foot, leg, neck, back and minutes in English and then pointed at a list that showed 100 yuan for 100 minutes. A good deal I thought especially as I was at the spa on the second floor of a plush hotel, Holiday Inn. 

First step was to put my feet into a wooden barrel with water that was way too hot, a little cold water later I was soon getting my first taste of painful muscle pinches. I should point out my masseuse was a slender young lady who seemed to have mechanical claws for hands, it was amazing how strong she was.

I was then asked to stand up and move from the relaxation chair to a stool so the shoulder massage could start. The problem was the wooden barrel was old or not designed for my massive westerner body weight and I felt a small crack. The barrel was lined with plastic so I hopped it would remain watertight, but it didn’t. 

After about a minute, my masseuse noticed a large pool of water spreading across the room including where my bag was. This was handy as it gave me an excuse to grab my bag and remove my camera for later taking a few pictures. Mopping and sweeping water into a bucket was fruitless, so I was moved to another room.

I would break down the actual massage into three areas, painful bordering on unbearable, uncomfortable, especially some of the positions I was pushed into, and nice. Basically in equal proportions. 

At one stage I was in a sort of head lock, except it was my shoulder and arms, and I was pushed and twisted. At another I had my arms pulled back with a knee in my back working down my spine with quite a bit of pressure.

I have very sensitive feet, for example I can’t stand the nibble fish massage/loose skin cleaning in Malaysia, so I was a bit unsure about the foot massage part. I only had a few involuntary foot jerks and only had to asked her to stop hurting my foot once. It is handy to know pain (tong) in Mandarin. I think I enjoyed the toe massage the best, it is amazing how small/targeted the massage was. The massage included foot cupping, this was in the uncomfortable area.

Foot cupping, it felt very uncomfortable


During the foot massage I was asked if I want the cream, 10 yuan, or oil, 40 yuan. I didn’t like having this unexpected extra price.

On leaving I discovered the price was actually 240 yuan, about $50 AU, there were two columns and 100 yuan was in the other column. I think I paid extra because I combined, neck, shoulder, back, leg and foot massage. Overall, an interesting experience that I think I will do again, not often, and maybe just leg and/or foot next time.

It had turned into an expensive day in comparison to the rest of my trip. I finished off my afternoon by going to an expensive western coffee/tea shop and ordered a green tea to have while I relaxed, rested and read. Coffee shops are often over priced and targeted at rich locals or westerners . I would have to wait a number of years before I found much more enjoyable local variations in Chengdu and Sichuan country towns.

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