In our never-ending quest for a real-live Asian style massage we happened upon this little storefront not far from our home in Kunming. Inside, I saw a couple of women working on the feet of a couple of Chinese businessmen who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the experience.
I asked how much it cost to have a reflexology massage. I was told that it was 60 Yuan, about $7.50. Works for me. Linda and I returned that night around nine for our foot massage.
Once inside, we were given the two chairs to sit in. These chairs were something like barber shop chairs that reclined. The women there put down new sheets for us, and once we were comfortable, brought out some tea for us to drink.
After the previous two massages, we were especially cautious of too much hospitality. We didn't know when or how the "upgrade" would take place, but we were hopeful and accepted everything they offered us graciously.
It got a little uncomfortable for me, when the owner, a middle aged woman and her boyfriend came in and began to describe the virtues of our two massage therapists. The big selling point seemed to be that they were just seventeen years old. I figured that the sales pitch was for my benefit, perhaps I would like to take one of them home with me. Or just support her and visit her whenever I was in town. Perhaps this was just my own projection, perhaps not. I still don't know.
It is true, that they were both attractive, but by this time, I would really have been happy to just get a massage, with no strings attached, just for once.
The massage really was good. It began with the washing of our feet in a warm herbal decoction. They really took their time with it. The 60 Yuan was supposed to be for a one hour treatment, ours ended up taking closer to two.
After the little foot bath, the reflexology treatment began in earnest. These two had obviously been trained in foot reflexology, they knew the points, how hard to push them and when.
But my massage therapist was always gazing into my eyes. Direct eye contact of this nature has a very specific meaning in American culture. This meaning is probably not shared by all cultures. The way that the Chinese people stare at us on the streets suggests that they don't have the personal space issues that we maintain in America.
But I wasn't comfortable with all of her eye contact. Not after her boss' boyfriend's sales pitch. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the massage.
Soon after, the girls from this company's other location, a couple of doors down, stopped in to see the foreigners. They were all beautiful young Chinese women, these girls had a distinct Western flavor in their dress and make-up. They worked at the beauty salon.
They began to tell Linda about the other services available two doors down. We were still a little leery as to what was really going on, always waiting for the sales pitch to turn into a sales obligation. It never came, they were just sincerely interested in telling Linda about their facials, etc... But it was hard for us to really relax in there.
We actually had a little fun, all of us, trying to communicate between really bad Chinese and really bad English.
It was the closest thing, so far that we've had to a really good massage in Asia. After we left, we decided to return sometime, but in the weeks that have followed, I think that our enthusiasm has waned. It was kind of intense in there for us. Being the center of attention while you're getting a massage doesn't allow you to drift away and enjoy it. There's a part of you that has to maintain a social consciousness. It is rude to ignore people. Though, we're getting better and better at it as time goes by.
We ended up tipping each of the girls an extra 10 Yuan. It took a little convincing, because to accept a tip isn't customary for them. It must seem a little underhanded in a way to them. But they ended up taking it at our ongoing insistence. I'm glad that they did. They really worked hard for their money that night. At least, with my size 13 feet.