The first time, our coworker and friend, Linda, brought us, plus our friends Helene and Henry, to her favorite massage place. This would end up being a terrifying experience for Henry. I would like to share that experience with you now.**
We arrived in fashion (and by fashion, I mean an every day taxi), driving up to a very sketchy looking building. Luckily, Linda was standing right inside the door so she caught us before we could stand outside too long wondering if this was the right place.
We were ushered in and provided sanitized flip flops and food (noodles), and then we were separated into our gender-specified changing rooms to change into the very flattering pink pajamas you see up there in the picture.
We opted out of the shower. (We would have had to shower in front of each other, which was a bit much.) So we head to the sauna and wait for Henry to join us. And we waited. And we waited. Until finally he stumbled through the door, disheveled and looking way more stressed than when we entered. (Given that this was a place designed to do the exact opposite, we had cause for concern.)
Unlike us, who had the benefit of a translator, Henry had been alone in the male dressing room. He didn't know what the protocol was, only what the man in the changing room was able to mime to him.
So he took off his shirt. The man shook his head and gestured down. Henry took of his shorts. Man shook his head, gestured down. Soon Henry was standing alone in a room with a Chinese man and only one of them had any clothes on. Awkward levels rising.
Then he gets escorted to this jacuzzi/bath thing. Luckily no one else was in there, but Henry sat in the tub until the man told him (or rather, gestured to him) to get out of the tub and was promptly handed a washcloth to dry himself.
And, with credit to the institution, the man in the locker room was willing to go beyond the call of duty and started helping Henry dry himself by patting down his back... all the way down to his bum.
Now some of you might be going, why didn't Henry do anything? Well, there's this thing that happens when you're in another country where you don't know what's going to offend people, what's appropriate/inappropriate, and (arguably the most important factor) unable to eloquently express yourself in their language.
Henry ended up using five of these "towels".
So, not unfairly, he was pretty shaken up by the time he got to the sauna.
The massage was... painful. We requested women masseurs. We would later request men and be perfectly satisfied.***
One of the girls was completely in love with Henry, but lost interest once she learned she was older than him.
All in all, it makes for a good story.
*If you know where to go. I recommend having a Chinese friend/local recommend a place, especially in Beijing or Shanghai, where people can recognize foreigners and promptly rip them off. OR you might be signing up for more than a massage. (Just saying.)
**Don't worry, he's more or less given me permission to share this story. I'm not sure if he meant the entire internet, but that's what you get for not reading the fine print.
***Yes, I realize that could be taken in a completely different way.
(Thank you to Henry for a good blog story.)