Two years ago, I traveled to Beijing, China, where I was introduced to the blissful wonder of Asian Foot massage. One rainy afternoon, a group of us went to a Bode, a relaxing spa, and enjoyed a 90 minute foot massage for a total of $15 per person. In China, people don't tip, and those providing the service often decline the gesture, as we experienced that afternoon. We offered them buttons and cash, both of which were declined. Recently, I returned home from spending 10 wonderful days in Shanghai, China. One night, while enjoying a delicious Spanish meal, in the French Concession in Shanghai, China (sounds so global, right?) I noticed that adjacent to the restaurant was a spa showing a "happy foot" on the signage. Click! I realized that this foot massage was not relegated to Beijing, but it could be found in many cities throughout China, most likely all of Asia!
What did I do the next day? You guessed it.
Planned a trip back to the French Concession and found that sign of the happy feet for a nice, relaxing foot massage. As in the United States, there are different levels of spas. Happy Feet was ok; it was clean and the girl made my feet feel like $1000, for the price of 68RMB, or roughly $10. Not bad for an hour, even if the place looked like Grandmother Gertrude's living room from the 1930's with its doolies over the back of the chair, and faux Louis Vuitton towels that were used to dry my feet. Quaint, but not the serene Asian zen atmosphere I was looking for and had hoped to find.
Returning to my hotel, I asked a woman if she had any spa recommendations. She disappeared for a minute and returned with a card, bearing the name Zen Spa in both Chinese and English. Having the name written in both languages is important, as many of the taxi drivers do not speak English. By showing them the card, they have the name of the destination and the address all in one place.
With excitement and a smile, I headed off to Zen Spa for another foot massage. When I arrived, the sign out front told me that all massages were 20% off, so I decided to get a one-hour foot massage and a one-hour oil massage, for a total of two hours of pure bliss costing me a total of 350RMB, or about $55. If I lived in Asia, I would go every weekend. No kidding.
The spa is lit solely with candles, giving it the serene glow I was in search of and had a water feature in the room, giving it that fung shui, zen feel. The ladies led me to a room, filled with four chairs and asked me to be seated. Jasmine tea was brought in and I was given a blanket incase I got cold. Here in the states, they might offer you a robe to change into, but in China, you leave your clothes on and just remove your shoes. The foot massage started out with me sitting in a large, plush chair while soaking my feet in warm water for a few minutes. When my masseuse came in, she asked that I sit on the ottoman and face the chair, with my feet still soaking, as she massaged my shoulders and back. As a woman, I carry most of my stress in my shoulders, so her kneading my knots was most welcomed! After about 15 minutes, I stood up (while my feet were still in the water) and turned around to sit back in the chair. And the foot massage began...
An hour sounds like a long time for a foot massage, but it goes by so quickly, that two-hours does not seem entirely out of the question. Reflexology, lotion and warm towels are used and the stress melts. After sightseeing and pounding the Shanghai pavement in sandals (little structure, little support, but, oh so cute!) my feet welcomed the pampering.
I have yet to see Asian Foot Spas offered on the menu at any of the spas I've visited in the Washington, DC area, but have heard and read online that they are available in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you are planning a trip to Asia, or live in a locale where they are available, I highly recommend taking an hour to treat yourself. They are affordable, relaxing and an easy way to decompress as summer quickly comes to an end.