Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hey Big Spender

Not everyone will admit this about traveling in China, but everyone secretly likes being a little bit more of a big shot than they are at home. Take me. In the United States, I’m a 5’-3” person who is basically unemployed. Here, though, I’m a solidly average (emphasis on solid) size, and have almost unimaginable buying power.

That’s because once you get here, everything is remarkably inexpensive by American standards. There’s a massage parlor in our neighborhood, for example, where you can get an hour-long massage for about $15. So far I’ve had two, which is about what I have in a good decade at home.

Just like anywhere, you have to be careful about choosing massage places, but this one is beyond legitimate. It’s decorated in a Japanese tatami-mat and shoji-screen style, just like an upscale American spa. It’s patronized mostly by ex-pats, but I have seen some Chinese yuppies there, too.

The first time I went, I had a neck and shoulder massage which was great. The second time, I picked a full-body treatment called simply “Chinese massage.” The English menu said that I would appreciate the “gentle Eastern touch.” I envisioned a tiny waif of a woman administering this massage with little butterfly fingers.

Clearly something got lost in translation. The masseur assigned to me was the sturdiest, most muscular guy in China. He looked exactly like the buzz-cut, ruddy-cheeked youths you see in Chinese propaganda posters. (I always wondered where they found these people; now I know.) He squeezed, pushed, pulled, kneaded, bent, folded, spindled, and stretched me to within an inch of yelping. I’d never had a massage that firm before, but it was great. I was so relaxed. How relaxed? Relaxed enough that I had a minor wardrobe malfunction with the pajamas I was given to wear and I didn’t even care. I was that Zen.

In other news, Pipi and I, feeling a little homesick, I guess, went to a pet show today. The conclusion we drew is that the Chinese have raised small pet dogs to an art form. Tonight we’re going to another sports bar so we can watch two soccer games happening in different cities. I hope we can stay awake. We’re having some jet-lag issues. We bounce out of bed at 7am but we can’t stay awake after dinner to save our lives.

Here are some photos. I've added a few.

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