Having spent the last couple of weeks hunched over a laptop finishing a project I could now barely move my neck and crunched and creaked as I walked. Somewhat wary after my previous experience I accepted the multiple recommendations that the best solution for this pain was a massage (and better posture).
Unlike the previous hotel spa this was trickier to find, being housed on the 8th floor of a grey and unassuming office block. Walking through the unmarked doors you’re transported into a dimly lit reception – soothing music is piped in but barely audible over the sound of water splashing over arrangements of pebbles and onto the reed mat flooring. A quick word with the two ladies at the desk and you’re ushered along a corridor, one side of which is a perpetual wall of water falling from above the ceiling to below the floor, into your private room.
Inside we had a large comfortable chair each and a lady who offered us something from the drinks menu which included such rare delights as freshly squeezed juice or raw teas. Our masseurs arrived and gave us cotton tops to change into. A small delay ensued whilst I tried to explain I really wasn’t going to fit into a small to medium sized shirt and they went searching for an XL which was thankfully fine.
The large chairs silently transformed into beds and we lay face down whilst the masseurs got to work. Unlike the attempt at murder by boiling of the previous massage this was actually quite effective. There was considerable pain as she stretched and cracked various bits of my spine and neck, but it seemed to be working toward a positive conclusion. Feeling a bit more mobile I turned over and the reason for the loose cotton shirts became clear. The scalp and face were now covered in sweet smelling oils which were gently massaged into the neck and shoulders.
Totally relaxed and feeling quite sleepy I opened my eyes to see her lighting two slender candles. Closing my eyes again I waited for the new aromas from the candles to play across my olfactory nerves but instead felt her deftly slip them into my ear canals. I’m not sure what the benefit might be of ear candles but it was actually rather pleasant just listening to nothing but the gentle crackle and hiss of the burning wax whilst she continued to massage the scalp.
Just before I got to find out whether essential oils are at all flammable she slipped them out and made renewed efforts on manipulating my sore neck. This was all rather lovely, but when she started massaging my nose I rudely got the giggles, which made her start giggling, and ended up in a rebuke for both of us from the other older and more serious masseur in the room. We both controlled ourselves and I closed my eyes and listened to the music. Unexpectedly for China this turned out to be the 1984 Foreigner classic power-ballad ‘I want to know what love is’ earnestly recreated for the panpipe.
By the conclusion of the song she was massaging my eyebrows up and down which nicely covered my surprised expression at the mix into a panpipe rendition of ‘Ice Ice Baby’.
With a fully relaxed nose and forehead she tidied up and motioned for me to get changed. When everyone was done we were given another 30 minutes in the room to order some food and drinks and watch a DVD if we so desired.
A Banh-Mi (Vietnamese pork baguette), pumpkin soup and random flower tea later we ventured back out to the reception to see how much all this pampering would set us back and didn’t get restressed when it came to less than £10, which is a bargain when you consider it included drinks and dinner.
Great value, enjoyable and it actually had a beneficial effect.