Monday, January 7, 2008

Saving the Best for Last

Now that I've finally recovered somewhat from jet lag, I should relay my last evening in Beijing which was the absolute best. Caroline (Carrie and Jacob's friend from Montana) told Carrie and I about a spa she'd gone to with some of the Chinese girls. We immediately knew we wanted to indulge, and so Caroline and Ellie (who volunteers as a nurse at the orphanage) decided to join us in our girl's night out. We left the guys to their own reckless pursuits...which included ordering mystery dishes from a Chinese restaurant without an interpreter. Somehow, I think we chose the better activity.

Anyhow, I know I wasn't expecting the grandeur of this place, especially since we were heading away from downtown Beijing and into what appeared to be another village. Upon spying the hotel/spa, I was suddenly gratified that we had arrived in a nice black car instead of the van we typically traipsed about in. I should describe this van, so you don't think I'm completely vain: the front seat is broken so that when you arrive at your destination, you feel an intense need for a deep-tissue massage. As well, the windows are so smudged, if it is cold at all, you can't see anything but halos of light.

Back to the spa: Carrie and I likened it to the Gaylord Texan in Dallas. Only the inside was much prettier, with a dome covering what was essentially a botanical garden. The different pools lie throughout all the greenery.

Another aside: the Chinese women dress very modestly the unlikely event they wear a bikini, it covers more than most American women would deem necessary. Caroline lent Carrie and I 2 pieces of swimwear: all bikinis. Since foreigners are common in Beijing, but not so likely in the outer provinces, we get stared at alot. Thus, we four entered the communal dressing room. Where, God bless their hearts, the women tried not to stare at us, but I don't think they could help it.

After donning our suits and the ever present slippers, we trekked to the rose and milk pool to warm up. It smelled lovely, but the reason I was so willing to come to the spa was because there was a fish pool. First you dip yourself in a pool that is a greenish, brownish color that smells of a wash cloth just beginning to mold...but it is all worth it when you get into another pool filled with fish that nibble this treat right off you. There are two pools: one with 4-5 inch fish and another with 2-3 inch fish. The smaller fish were actually more aggressive and covered Caroline and Ellie's legs. Carrie and I weren't so popular as fish bait, but still, they enjoyed us. I might add that it really tickles to have a fish nibbling between your toes.

After this delightful experience, we needed to warm up again because the water the fish were in was relatively cool. We found ourselves outdoors and lo and behold, there were deer in a big enclosure eating hay. I've never pet a deer before, but the sight of an animal being well-treated and not used for food, gave me great joy. I put my hand in between the fence of the cage and Bambi walked right up to me and began to lick the water off my hand. His nose was cold and kind of squishy. Exactly how I'd imagine a deer nose to feel. I wasn't sure what to do next, but then I had a bright idea: perhaps deer liked to be rubbed on the ears like a dog. Well, I grabbed Bambi's long old ears and started rubbing them...he loved it. He kept nudging me for more. It was difficult to leave him behind, but it was time for a massage.

Inside now, we laid down on a heated marble floor where we received a head and upper body massage. Ellie had a foot massage. It was amazing! After 45 minutes, they asked the three of us if we wanted a foot massage. We all said no, but then they went away, and I suppose we were feeling a bit bereft because we asked Ellie to tell them to bring them back. For some odd reason, the girl massaging Ellie's feet thought we were crazy. Why didn't we say we wanted one in the first place? It seemed pefectly normal to me. Don't Chinese girls change their minds as often us American girls? If not, they're missing out.

So began our foot massages that were more like water torture than a soothing rub. We finally had to ask them to ease up a bit as I was grimacing through the whole thing. It was much better after that until I was summarily introduced to cupping. Unless you are Hulk Hogan...or someone really tough, don't do this! First of all they put alcohol into a small glass cup, then they light it on fire and stick it to the arch of your foot. Ouch! Then they move it around. It feels fine on your heel, but not anywhere else. My feet were sore for a couple days afterwards.

We ended our spa trip with hot showers. Other than the cupping, it was the best massage, spa experience I've ever had. I should probably add that I've never been to a spa, but, I really can't imagine it being much better. Perhaps it was the company.

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