Besides the food, another significant benefit to being in Beijing--or really, anywhere in China--is foot massage. Although I suppose that is somewhat self-explanatory, it is, in fact, much more than a simple foot massage--it's more of a fully clothed (except socks) partial full-body massage. Or something like that.
At any rate, the entire foot massage generally includes a fifteen or twenty-minute back and neck massage, followed by a shorter arm massage, a very long foot massage, and then a leg massage, all of which is done while you are sitting on a recliner watching TV and talking to your friends, since you can have seven or eight people in a room at the same time if you want. The entire process lasts for about 80 minutes, and--depending on how nice the place is--runs anywhere from ten to sixteen or seventeen bucks, including free drinks and possibly some sort of food, although that's not always a given. Anyway, it's a pretty good deal, which I'm sure is the same thing most of you are thinking right now.
Generally, we go once a week: on Sunday, when our two maids come and spend an hour and a half or so cleaning our entire house for three dollars. (And just think--this is post-colonialism. Makes you wonder what honest-to-goodness colonialism must have been like. Although now I guess I know why it was so popular.) Why only once a week? Because we've talked it over with some of our friends here, and I everyone seems to agree that more than once a week is just a little too hedonistic. Well, hedonistic as far as foot massages go, anyway. Although we had some out-of-town visitors from Microsoft (you know who you are) who were really, really into foot massage a month or so back, and we ended up going to get foot massage three times in four days. Not surprisingly, no one complained.
Below is a picture of Holly going into our favorite place to get foot massage, which--like almost everything worthwhile in China--is located in an alley. It's called Bodhi, and is quite classy. And by classy I mean that if any of you come to Beijing and send your husbands or boyfriends there, you don't have to wonder just what exactly is included in the massage, if you know what I mean and I'm not really sure how you couldn't.
Here is one of the massage rooms: a two-person room, in this case. Holly is taking her shoes and socks off in preparation for the massage. (The thing in her hand is the food and drink list.) I'm not sure if the people there will actually take your shoes and socks off for you--I've never tried--but they'll definitely put your socks back on for you, which is something I never remember at home before we leave when I put on the same socks I was wearing the day before. Oops. (Give me a break--we don't have a dryer. Everything here is air-dried.)
Me, ready for my massage. And looking as white as one would expect, having come through a Beijing winter.
The massage starts with a nice foot soak in some really hot water or--in this case--tea. I'm guessing this is as much to keep your feet from smelling (see above sock comment) as it is to soften them up for the massage. The backrub takes place during this stage. (Yes, I was having a backrub while this was picture was taken. So dedicated of me, I know.)
While the backrubbing and foot-soaking was happening, our snacks were delivered. In this case, two banana lassis (think shake, but better) and a fresh fruit plate. Yes, life is hard.
The foot massage lotion and the towels used to dry your feet off, pre-massage.
After the foot-soaking and foot-drying has been completed, the foot massagers wrap your feet up in a towel and take away the tea tubs while you kick back with the ottoman.
Kicking back and watching TV: the England-Northern Ireland World Cup qualifying game, in this case. You can also watch HBO or Starz, or even bring in your own DVD to watch. Which we have never actually done, but it's nice to know it's an option.
Our foot massagers! The guy is #90, the girl is #28. They have numbers so if you have someone and like them, you can ask for them again and (I think) they get more money or a bonus. Or something like that, at least. I can't speak for #90, although Holly seems to like him, but I can personally recommend #28. Her foot massage technique could use a little work--she's no #27 in that regard, let me tell you--but her back massages are to die for. To die for. Trust me.
Is foot massage worth moving to China for? Probably not, but it's a nice side benefit. A very nice side benefit. Plus, I can't think of another situation--this happened to us on Sunday here in Shanghai--where you pay someone six dollars to rub your feet for 60 minutes, and then they say "thank you" to you. Seriously.