The Yangshuo Massage

28 Oct

In Yangshuo, China – small town of 300,000. Only been here for a few hours. Jonesing for a massage. Got some Chinese Yuan to spend. Found a two hour Chinese massage for US $35. Life is good… Yes, it may be pricey for China. But, let me tell you something – this ain’t your “mama’s” cheap China anymore. Dollar is weak. Yuan is in limbo. Prices are climbing to the sky. Besides that, I had a STRONG urge to upgrade to an unsoiled, sanitary Chinese massage mill.  The $35 for 2 hours is a “good deal.”

TANGENT: OK… Where am I? What am I doing? 411 on your surroundings please. Well, tallgirl is propped up by two polyester-infused pillows, perfumed with a hint of mold. The bum is feeling heavy after sitting for an hour on a packed plywood mattress. Jaw aches from chomping on at least six pieces of Chinese sugar-filled, tasteless gum. The balcony door is open. Market chatter infuses the room. Same flute tune playing over and over and over again. Bugs doing a happy dance around the only two, 40-watt lamps. Let’s see. If you kick the flute and plywood bed, I’m channeling Florida Keys. Smell and all..

Moments ago, I just walked through the lobby with my CLEAN laundry shoved into a mini- plastic bag used for carrying prunes and raisins. Splurged on laundry for I’m trying to put a stop to the continuous sink-scrubbing of undergarments. In the lobby, I spied recent arrivals – German tourons (tourists + morons) checking-in at the Imperial Inn. They appear older. Well dressed. Nice bags. Polished shoes. Belts. Accessories. Recently showered. I see they arrived in an upscale bus with leg room. Not your Gap Adventures type of travelers…. Tick tock… I’m thinking Imperial Inn is their “plan B” for they all seemed confused. I don’t speak German, but I do speak “what the fuuuuu….”

What will be their reaction when they push their hotel room door ajar. Will theyVendors lined up outside my window be delighted by the the commanding view, smells and sounds of the 200+ vendors just a few feet away? Shocked by the loud “thump” when they place their designer bags on the impenetrable, plywood bed? Jubilant to be able to scope out their mate or BFFer showering, squatting or brushing through the over-sized bathroom window with no shades? This will be goooood…

Oh, forgot. What about the fact there’s no warm water or water pressure. Turbulent times for the Imperial Inn. In a way, the Chinese should rejoice for they’re dealing with Germans and not customer-service, demanding, this is unacceptable Americans. We would sue on the grounds of Human Rights violations for no blinds in the bathroom. We can’t even discuss the plywood mattress issue. That’s another law suit on the grounds of Environmental Protection of plywood.

Tangent over… Back to massage. I’ve been dreaming about Chinese massage and herbal medicines since I landed in the land of 1.3 billion. Don’t know why I need herbal medicines, but I like the sound of it. Acupuncture as well. Fearful of shots. But, if small needles can cure what ails this tall body, you’ve got my Yuan. My former roomie from the Young Bucks Trans-Siberian trail said she was going to find a good acupuncturist in Beijing. She’s a nurse for the Saudi Royal family. Beijing is a week away. Can’t wait. Must have a massage, now. I went to Olive, our chipper Chinese tour guide, for the 411 on massage mills in Yangshou.

Olive delivered. She led me to a store front with the word “Dr.” and “massage” in lights. Hmmm. Olive said, “this is good… no?” It took less than 2 seconds for me to decide to subjugate my body for the word “Dr” spoke to me… I scheduled an appointment for 7:30 pm. By the way, kudos on the marketing front folks…

I wondered back to the restaurant to find the China travel posse of couples. They were craving rice, noodles and meat.

I hate food. Only a few hours prior, our group inhaled ten plates of Chinese food – super sized dumplings, white rice, fried rice, random meats, tofu, random veggies, noodles, tofu, more meat and extra rice. Oh, yea..soup. Just say “NO” to food. Who goes to China and gains weight. Me. Tonight, I opted for liquids and firm hands to transform Chinese food intake into lean muscle mass.

So, I threw back a large “pint” and less than 30 mins later, there I was laying flat down, semi-naked on a plastic massage table along side eight other plastic tables. Starting to relax when I opened my eyes through the open hole of the massage table and peered at my dirty hiking boots, smelly socks and passport. Couldn’t they place a flower, odor eaters or a Glade stick there instead.  These sock fumes reminded me to buy more detergent. Forgot to get these washed earlier… By in large, the “dr” massage mill is meeting my Chinese expectation.

Little Sin Sin, Jin Jin or Tin Tin – can’t pronounce her name – worked my back over for the next hour. The girls weighs about 80 pounds and is 4 foot 10 inches on a good day. I’m G-I Giant next to her. Poor little thing. She will be working hard for her tip.

Little Tin Tin’s English words were few. But, when it came to my shocking-white, transparent skin, she found the superlatives to describe her state of surprise. “Oh, you so very, very white… Oh, you work on being white, no… you use white products… where buy white products…you tell me secret…”

Not really sure how to respond when you are laying naked on a plastic table smelling dirty socks being reminded you are a super, pasty freak. No really relaxing. My response, “skin is real. No bleach. No lotions. Just DNA. I’m a recessive gene in a family with melanin. Think of me as a mutant…Like in X-Men.. Know mutants? I’m transparent, shocking-white mutant…” Yea, like Little Jin Jin got all of that. Wrong. This is what I really said… “Your skin is better. Your skin –no cancer. My skin – yes cancer.” She understood the word cancer but not in context with no-color skin. She kept talking about whitening her skin with some Chinese herb.

Get back the massage. For the most part, the “Dr.” place was the Ritz on steroids in comparison to the Turkish bath/massage in Petra, Jordan where they throw a bucket of water on you and a lady in a Burka scrubs you with rocks. This is my second massage while traveling – so I’m only going to compare it to that. I mean, if I really looked, I’m sure I could have freaked out over bugs, dust mites, bed bugs – or whatever the bacteria rage is in the US.

Here goes another tangent…My Mom would say, “honey, if it’s that nasty then why don’t they get some sense and shock the shit out of everything with some bleach?” I’ve had this conversation in my head a zillion times and did my own investigating as to why all hotel linens, towels and robes in a zero, one, two and three star hotels give off a putty, mayonnaise hue. White, crisp linens are an obsession of mine, thanks to my Father.

Of course my explanation has to get political. Can’t talk about linens without going into the cesspool of greed and self-interest. In China, foreign imports are excessively expensive. Another way for the government to force Chinese to buy Chinese products. Let’s take a bottle of Clorox. The Chinese government adds a tax of 200% to 300% to the price of imports. This deters demand for this luxury good, even if it is a bottle of damn bleach. There’s no Chinese brand substitute, at least none that I’ve found in the general stores. Let’s take it a step further. Imagine getting red lipstick, eyeshadow or hair dye on a hotel towel in China. No amount of scrubbing or soaking with Woolite in your backyard river is going to remove the the stain. Hotel’s solution? You soil. You buy. Just one more reason NOT to wear lipstick or get your hair died in China.

So, yes, the towels and pillow cases in “Dr” massage mill exuded a lovely pantone color of grays and yellows. I assume this exposed body is relaxing along side friendly, flesh-eating parasites and bacteria bombs since no one is able to “shock the shit” out of this place. For whatever reason, I’m not phased. I rode across Russia in a train built for the dirty, grungy and deranged. Skin is becoming immune to local parasites, mites and creepy-crawlers.

Tin Tin did her magic. Her little hands found the pain parts. It hurt. My lower back and the “no pedicure since July” feet squealed in pain. I closed my eyes and forced myself to a happy place hoping her pinching, kneading and squeezing provoked memory and metabolism pressure points and not the digestion and bladder zones you see in the foot reflexology charts. Not sure if I felt relaxed or relieved when she finished. But, the beer tasted good.

I was happy to see no visitors in the massage room of eight tables. I asked Sin Sin – after we were finished – if this was a girl only room. Her expression said it all. “No…No…for everyone…” God is good for if some furry man flopped beside me there’s no telling what I would have done.

I gave Little Sin Sin a tip personally. She thanked me over and over again. I had a strong feeling her boss kept all tips. That was confirmed at the end when I paid. “So, you tip Tin Tin?” I fibbed. “Oh, let me tip her now. I handed over a few dollars – much less than what I gave Tin Tin – to play the game. Something inside of me led me to give Tin Tin some extra change. As I was leaving, Tin Tin raced by me down the street. She waved and waved and waved…And, squealed something in Chinese. I waved back and sauntered lazily through the have of the Yangshou market. Maybe she’s off to pay rent? A phone bill? Buy food for her family? I’m praying the extra Yuan went for something good…

3 Responses to “The Yangshuo Massage”

  1. elly 31/10/2010 at 10:43 pm #

    The great white goddess trip continues to fascinate. What an experience. Your stamina is unbelievable and your seeming ability to cope leaves me in awe. Blessings on you as you continue what has to be the journey of a life time. Meanwhile we who remain in the dull confines of an election year are now confronted with the worst choices I’ve ever seen. It’s not even ok to pick the least damaging candidate; one must look above and beyond. I may be the write in candidate for at least 20 offices.

    • A Day 01/11/2010 at 12:04 am #

      Elly! You are my inspiration. I’ll vote for you ANY day… I agree. We must look above and beyond. But, its damn hard some days.

  2. MaryStuart (sister) 02/11/2010 at 10:34 pm #

    I am busting out loud laughing!! I wish I had a photo of Tin Tin or was it Pin Pin….you are killing me! Ok, GROSE!! You know me, your anti germ sister, would have walked out…..or asked for a towel on the table that was white. Andre’ has been getting mad that I am asking him to wash his hands with so many people getting sick…He is over it…or should I say me. I don’t think I would have lasted a minute. One thing is for certain, I am so glad that I am NOT the recessive gene in the family! God bless skin that will burn, peel, and eventually tan. Yeah! Sorry….but it looks like you found a place that is jealous of your translucent skin. Yeah you!! Love you, my pasty sister!