Going Native: Part 1 of many to come
Trip Start Aug 22, 2007
6Trip End Aug 2008
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We stopped midway through at the Meiling village for a sit at one of the many teahouses. We ordered the superior longjing tea and chowed down on sunflower seeds. Now there was a time (Scottsdale softball team - 3rd grade) when I enjoyed eating the whole seed, but getting that crap stuck in my teeth and gums and throat just isn't worth the extra time saved from shelling. So, I have finally perfected the Chinese method of putting a few seeds in my mouth, deshelling them and neatly spitting them out onto the ground beside my chair. Sounds kinda gross, no? But hey, if last China trip's mantra was "in for a penny, in for a pound," this one is "when in Rome..." Oh an by the way, "superior" longjing tastes just the same to me as cheap longjing. Maybe after quaffing more of the brew, will I develop a standard. I'm actually getting to like it more each time I have it as well. I remember the first sip was terrible and thought "why is this one of the best teas in China?" but now I'm like "okay, I see where they're coming from, and hey, a million monks writing sutras for days on end can't be wrong, right?" The actual drinking is getting easier too because I've worked out how to strain the free-floating tea leaves against my lips and keeping them in the glass instead of ending up choking on bitter green bits.
The next of my brilliant China-induced habits was actually enjoying the smell of the incense burning at Faxing Temple. I'm very picky about aromas (esp. as some have been known to cause migraines for me) and had never really taken the time to enjoy the particular scents wafting from the large sand-filled bronzes or for sale by crotchety old ladies at temples. If it weren't semi-sacrilegious, I'd buy some just to burn in the apartment.
Lastly today, Amy and her mum and I were up by Wulin Square killing time before dinner and we decided to check out the whole foot massage rage. Man, was I ever glad that we did. After climbing 2 pagodas, biking around the lake, walking halfway around as well, walking up in the mountains and our various other city-based explorations of the last three days, our feet were sore. We walked into this rather sketchy but clean place behind the hotel and were swept off our feet (quite literally). We were whisked upstairs to a private room with these luxurious, overstuffed futon-like chairs with plush ottomans at the base. We were served Chrysanthemum tea and the limey-oranges popular here, shown a placard in Chinese and were asked which one we wanted. Recognizing few but the characters for rose and oil, we chose that one. In a flash, three identically dressed women in trendy sport hoodies and black adidas track pants removed our shoes and socks, turned on the air conditioner and the TV to CCTV 9 (the only station in English and even then hard to find at non-western places). They left us looking at each other and no sooner than we had a little laugh about their efficiency, they returned with steaming wooden buckets with rosebuds and petals creating a heavy layer on the surface of the water.
While directed to soak our feet, the ladies massaged our hands and arms for about 15 minutes. My knuckles and wrists even cracked a few times in that pleasant relief. Just before our feet turned pruny, they dried them off and made quick work of clearing the buckets. By this time, we were already in heaven that we didn't even expect the nearly 50 minute leg and foot pounding, kneading, and overall de-stressing with lotions and oils. There was a rhythm to their karate-chop-like pounding that would've made a great art piece, but that's quite the artiste in me speaking. My lady spent about ten minutes alone on both of my big toes and I have never had just the tops of my toes massaged before. It's such an odd sensation, but wow, now I don't know how I'll live without it. She also did quite a number on my calves as I had been wearing high heels for too long earlier in the week and that pain was completely gone as if she were tenderizing my muscles as a steak. If a cannibal was to eat me then and there, my calves would be the choicest bits to fillet.
We eventually had no idea how long this was going to last, but we savoring every second of it. When they got up and replaced our socks and shoes on our feet, we felt confident that they were finished, but nay! They motioned for us to turn around and sit on the ottoman for a 5 minute back/neck massage which included pulling our arms backwards and thrusting a knee up and down our backs in what was an actually pleasant sensation despite the oddity of the action.
Then it was over.
Two things, despite the incredibly cheap price (108 RMB for approx 80 minutes), made this a completely Chinese experience: 1) the fact that after every other sip of water from our tall tea glasses, the male attendant poured more scalding water on the blossoms; and 2) all three women were texting at one time or another. It was so perfect that it was laughable.
I can see this becoming something to do more often...