Last Friday I got back from China after going there to pick up my daughter, Annika, and finalize the adoption with my husband, daughter, and a few more family members. It was a wonderful experience for our family! China is a very interesting place to visit and I could not help but peek into the world of massage while I was there. However, As much as I would have loved to learn more about massage, adoption travel is not a great time for leisure travel. Here are a few of my findings and tips I learned while I was there.
I started the trip off in Beijing for orientation. After a trip down the street, I found my first massage establishment. However, I decided to use the services within my hotel (The Novotel Peace) if there was time for a massage. There was not time. With such a short stay, how was I to get a massage with the Great Wall, Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City, and the Olympic Stadiums so close?
A few days later we were off to Nanchang to pick up Annika. After another flight I could have used a massage. However, we were due to meet our daughter an hour after checking into our hotel. Massage was the last thing on my mind. A few days later an adoptive father came into the hotel playroom and had just got back from his massage. He was kind enough to share his experience with me. Their guide took him there, so he knew it was an okay place to go. It was fully clothed, in a open room with several other people getting a massage. He said is was very deep and their was a lot of “knuckle work” (most places offered TCM/Tui na or Thai style massage). For $10 per 90 minutes, he said he could not complain. I wish I could have went there, but I had a new daughter who was sick and understandably overwhelmed. Leaving her was not an option. She needed me, and I needed to be with her. It was in this large, drab, industrial city that I was introduced to exercise parks. It showed me how important health and well-being is to the Chinese people. Here is where people gather to socialize, use public exercise equipment, practice self care massage and Tai Chi, and relax. I loved these places. Luckily, they are common throughout China.
The last city we visited was Guangzhou. This is where the US consulate is and where we were able to get our daughters visa. We stayed at the White Swan on Shamian Island, a French/English inspired area of the city. The White Swan is the common last hotel stop for adoptive parents at the end of their journey. One of the first things that caught my eye upon check-in was the massage health center pamphlet in our room. I checked the prices– 45 minutes was 280 yuan, about $43 USD ($16 extra dollars for in-room massage). For a 5 star hotel, that is not out of the question. Prices outside the hotel were obviously less. There was a massage place on the back of the island. It was 45 minute foot massages (tea included) for about $15 USD. Also, tipping is uncommon in China. Cab drivers and waiters/waitresses. I was not able to find out about if tipping massage therapists was customary. Most places they were very accommodating and you could just walk in for your appointment.
All though China does not have the high prostitution problem a few other Asian countries have, finding a legitimate massage establishment in China can be tricky. I heard that if there are pink lights (not the red light district here), avoid it. Other than that, it is best to look for the same thing as you do in the States. If your therapist looks provocatively dressed (Chinese people dress pretty conservatively) or describes what they look like, find another establishment. My rule for finding a good place for a massage is to ask your guide, hotel staff, or friends in China (if you have some). I found it quite funny actually when my father came home one night after a run across the street to Starbucks in Guangzhou at night and said he was asked by a lady on the corner if “he wanted a massage”. This was in a great area of the city too. We told our guide and he said if you are a man walking alone at night it is quite common to be propositioned. So, reputable Chinese massage therapists have the same problems we do here!
The only thing I had ever heard about massage in China was about how they train blind individuals how to be massage therapists as the do in other countries. I did not find any of these establishments while I was there. One other thing I researched was licensing and training requirements in China. I was not able to find any information. If you know, please contact me.
Gift giving is common in China, and gifts that are made in the USA are preferred in China. So the massage therapist in me could not help but bring Omni Massage Rollers (Red=Lucky) as gifts. I gave them to my guides, government officials, and my daughter’s foster family. Massage is really a universal language.
We have made it home as a family of four. 36 hours of travel (16 in the air), four countries, economy seats, and very little sleep… I am ready for my massage now!
Next week I will attempt to discuss using massage for adoptive parents looking to connect, bond, and aid in attachment.