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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Mysterious China: Walking on Air    

By Garreth Humphris
2685 Views | 3 Comments | 4/13/2011 12:27:20 AM

What to do if you have a few hours free and just want to relax? Some people recommend a body massage, but I find the foot massage is by far the most energising body manipulation you can have with your trousers on!!!

Make your way to the local TCM clinic, point to your feet and in 2 seconds flat, you'll be in the foot massage room, where you will find a largish chair and a footstool, and a TV showing local historically-inaccurate docu-dramas.

The aim here is to take off your shoes and socks, roll up the trouser legs and prepare for the an hour of a demurely smiling girl holding your toes to ransom while she tells you the secrets of your failing bodily functions as she goes about ripping out tendons with her fingernails. You learn things like you have a fatty liver and shouldn't eat meat and eat more vegetables because the lumps in your feet indicate this...if you don't do what she says, she'll use her knuckle in the centre of your foot to drill a hole through it!!!

First you will probably sit in the chair and soak your feet in a scalding tub of water and herbs - you often get a choice of herbs from flowers to 'Chinese Medicine' - some argue subtle differences but I'd just go for the one they offer, unless you want jasmine- flavored socks later!!! Order a tea and nibble the sweets or fruit for a moment while they fill the tubs, fire the ovens and sharpen the fingernails!

While soaking you may be asked to stand up, turn around and sit on the footstool where your shoulders, neck, scalp and back are massaged. Sometimes your shoulders are stretched by the massage-lady putting her knee in your back and pulling your shoulders backwards as well as some other quasi-chiropractic moves gleaned from the Shanghai acrobats and WuShu warriors.

After this, it is usual for you to return to the chair and have your hands, arms and wrists massaged. This is usually a curious mixture of cracking the knuckles, stretching the fingers, flopping the wrist and draining all the blood from the lower extremities and blowing a warm breath on your hand as the blood rushes back! Kinky, definitely!!!

After that, it's the feet!!! If you are ticklish, you might have some issues, and be aware the opening maneuver is a deep knuckle crush down your collapsed arch that can lift you out of the chair in pain and surprise!!!

And these girls are hardened professionals with calloused hands to prove it!!! Most hail from the central regions of China, an area known for hardy workers with high manual dexterity. It is common for the girl to do 7-8 massages in a day, so there is no fear that they aren't strong. They usually start 'soft' and 'slide to hard' in the first movement so 'wave quickly' as you pass your personal pain threshold before blacking out!!! A grimace means 'a little harder', not 'a little softer' so don't send mixed messages!!!

After reconstructing the foot arch, it is common for the toes to get special attention, massaging around them and also 'cracking the joints', which itself is an experience! These parts are associated with the eyes, face and neck so they will say things like 'too much computer use' before working into the balls of the feet with broad swathes of thumb pressure to identify daily ablutions functional mishaps and impending organ failures. BTW: If you want to keep any sexual dysfunction a secret, don't let them touch your heels!!

Of course, that is just the first foot, you have another to go!!! Lie back, enjoy it!

Usually included is a massage of the legs from ankle to hip, extreme manipulation of the Gluteus Maximus with an strong forearm and metal fingers certainly gets the blood flowing!

Watch for the final stretching exercises (sort of folding your ankle behind your ear), a final wash and rub-down with a scalding towel or bag of steaming hot river stones and then they shyly bow and wish you a safe journey!

By the time it's all over, you will be floating on air - and it lasts for a few days afterwards. It either adds 2 inches to your height as you glide around or reduces you to a hobble! You will either think this is the best thing since sliced bread or the most horrible torture on earth - there isn't any middle ground but that is the epitome of China for you! Pleasure and pain in the hands of a shy Chinese girl!

So, after some abuse from my friendly Anhui Amazonian next stop is my local neighbourhood bar, where my aural orifices are abused by a silk-voiced siren from Sichuan, but that's another story altogether!!!

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#2011-04-13 00:48:31 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I have survived a couple of body massages of the non-sexual variety in China, and "survived" is not used loosely. I rank it in the same category as surviving a car crash, nothing to laugh about. However, I've tried twice to do the foot massage and never made it past that "opening maneuver" Garreth describes. Both times it sent me screaming out of the facility, and I would rank surviving an entire foot massage up there with surviving an attack by a raging grizzly bear or a hungry tiger, which thankfully I've never been required to do.

However, perhaps my feet are a little tender, so I highly recommend that all of you readers give a foot massage a try - NOT!

#2011-04-13 16:06:06 by victoriaspirit @victoriaspirit

Ha ha... Yeah, I feel the same. When I get too lazy to wash my own hair I go to a hair salon and it comes with free massages. I have to remind them every time to not crush my bones and leave my skins on.

#2011-04-19 10:25:10 by careforyou @careforyou

I've tried. It's very relaxing.

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