Review: Le Zhu Tang, Xiamen, China

There must be literally hundreds of foot reflexology shops in Xiamen, ranging from small 4 person palours in small shops, all the way to establishments that employ hundreds of foot masseurs with their own building.

Whenever I am in Xiamen, I will visit one, both to relax and to get my regular dose of foot massage. I’m always spoil for choice amongst the hundreds of foot reflexology palours in Xiamen and I normally visit one that is near to my hotel. My last visit was to Le Zhu Tang, literally translated as Happy Feet Hall, which is just adjacent along a busy street where I was staying.

Front entrance to Le Zhu Tang

It was my last day in Xiamen and I should be leaving for the airport in a couple of hours. I normally spend the remaining time in a foot massage palour to kill time, relax my tired feet as well as get some free food.

We chose a 1-hour session as we wanted to have more time to have lunch. We were lead to a private room that had 3 massage chairs, a LCD TV and an en-suite toilet/shower. There were two of us but typically in Xiamen, you’ll be given such a private room even if you were to visit alone.

The massage routine was similar to other reflexology palours I had been to in Xiamen. The usual routine consist of a hot water foot wash, the actual foot massage, a short, quick back and shoulder massage and a hot towel wrap of the feet and leg.

The private room we were in; complete with LCD TV and toilet

The masseur use fire to sanitize the massage rod

Once the foot massage was over, we had a choice of relaxing in the room or have lunch at the cafe. (Most other palours serve food to your room; for Le Zhu Tang, you have to go to a cafe).

The cafe was not packed as we were there during a lull period. Unfortunately, the choice of food was also minimal for the exact same reason. We had local porridge, a specially cooked noodle dish as well as some juices.

Some of the other larger places I had visited in Xiamen had double-boiled herbal soup, bento sets, dim sum, dessert and other delicacies. In comparison, Le Zhu Tang seem to fail in the food and beverage department if compared to other similar establishments in Xiamen.

It was soon time to leave for the airport. We paid up, said our goodbyes to the cafe ladies and was soon out to the hustle and bustle of Xiamen streets.

While Le Zhu Tang has good number of rooms, they are not the biggest or the swankiest in Xiamen I had been to. Their massage and service standard are average and so is their price of RMB75(US$12) for an hour of foot massage.

Will I come back again? I guess not; not when there are hundreds of other similar places I can visit in Xiamen, many of which are newer, bigger and swankier for the same price.

Location of Spa:
Jiahe Road, Xiamen, China

Size of Spa: Many rooms within a 2-storey shophouse
Facilities: Private room with LCD TV and en-suite toilet and shower. Common cafe area

Friendliness: Friendly
Pricing: 1 hour foot massage starts at US$12. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards.


Review: RI-Star Spa, Xiamen, China

We know that China has taken the capitalistic route for a long time and is on it’s way to becoming a rich country. We can see the rich and famous spending serious money on all sorts of luxurious items – cars, fashion, food, housing, entertainment…. and high-end spas.

I was in Xiamen, China recently and had the chance to catch a taste how the noveau and rich live in China – by visiting one of their most upmarket spa.

I had been in Xiamen before and really enjoyed visiting Riyuegu – an open air hotspring resort out in the countryside. This time, I did not have the luxury of time and will need to make do with a visit to a spa within Xiamen itself.

There are many foot reflexology places in Xiamen and I have been to their hotel spas previously. This time round, I wanted to go where the locals go and not where tourists will go. I ask my hotel concierge to direct me to an upmarket spa where the rich and famous in Xiamen will go. He promptly recommended that I try the RI-Star spa. (The spa is pronounced as Li-Jing in Chinese).

The taxi driver had difficulty bringing me to the spa. Not a good sign that this is a famous upmarket spa in Xiamen – not when a taxi driver is not aware of it’s existence.

Eventually, we found the spa. Or should we say the building… because the spa occupies it’s own building. No doubt it’s a small building and located in a side-street but the entrance to the building tells you it’s a place to be reckoned with.

The entrance and lobby reeks of opulence. You can feel that it is different from other spas. This was confirmed by the price list – everything are priced at least 2 to 3 times that you’ll need to pay at most good quality spas in China – and matches the price of upmarket spas in Singapore. Even the entrance price to the spa – without any treatment thrown in – cost a hefty US$20.

I decided to check out it’s grandiosity.

There are separate spa entrance for male and female. Once past the entrance, attendants jump to attention to serve you from clothes changing to showing you to the showers to pouring cups of tea. By the way, the changing area is where an offer was made to wash and dry my socks… and where the impression scale begin to take off!

Once past the changing area, you enter the wet area which includes cold and hot pool, steam and sauna rooms, a small lap pool and in the middle of it all – a live aquarium and food area.

It was obvious that the spa is not brand new but was definitely opulent when it first opened and despite it’s age, attained a certain level of class. (I later found out that the spa is more than 12 years old but still remain as one of Xiamen’s highest-end spa).

I used the facilities and then hit the shower. Unlike most spa which kept one or two choices, you had a whole selection of brands of shampoo, cleanser, tooth-paste and even facial scrubs and toners to choose from. The towels are soft and fluffy – closer to hotel towels then the typical thin towels you find in spas.

Massage at Phuket airport departure lounges
The Wet Area

Massage at Phuket airport departure lounges
The food and rest area

This was the first time I see food and drinks served in a wet area. As soon as I sat down, I was offered a choice of tonic soups and a selection of local delicacies including steamed sweet potatos, stewed eggs and oyster noodles. I tried all of them and they were delicious.

I was then lead to a 2nd level where the massage treatment area were.

Each treatment room has a TV… not that I would want to watch TV during a massage. I had opted for a 1 1/2 hour Royal Jade massage; which is very much like a hot stone massage that you may find in Japan or Thailand. However, instead of hot stone, heated Jade were used, which the Chinese believe to have detoxification and medicinal effects.

I never had a hot stone (or Jade) massage before; believing it to be a gimmick and also because it tends to cost a premium. I’m glad I did try it this time because the effect of hot jade on the body does have a therapeutic effect you may not get from other forms of treatment.

After a very satisfying massage, I was lead to the rest and food area. I had complimentary fruit juice and Chinese dinner. The dinner was very satisfying with attendants again on full alert to my every move and request. In most other places, you need to stand up, wave your hand or look around for an attendant to come to you. Here, a mere look upwards mean an attendant will appear at your side!

You can then choose to relax in one of the soft sofa available, watch TV or listen to the live performance of a Chinese Pipa performer. (Pipa is an ancient Chinese musical instrument – and yes, it’s a live performance). Or choose to smoke a complimentary cigarette or cigar. This is also the area where you can mix with your partners – if you are visiting with members of the opposite sex.

At this point, a guest relation officer approached us, to talk to us about membership schemes. Apparently, this spa sells membership, and membership entitles you to treatment discounts as well as a whole private section area within the spa. Members are also entitled to visits to similar LiJing spas in major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Qingdao, Zhejiang and Hangzhou.

The GRO tells us the spa is known as a CEO spa as apparently, many top CEOs within China are members. The spa chain even publishes it’s own magazine and list major movie and TV celebrities such as Zhang Ziyi and Li Bing Bing as members. Hmmmm…

I decided to check out the audio-visual room where a high-resolution projector was showing a movie. I had a choice of smoking and non-smoking section and again, attentive attendants will set you down comfortably and pour you drinks. I told the attendant I would like to rest and to wake me up an hour later.

An hour later, it was time for me to get up to change to leave.

A quick choice of the varied shampoo and cleanser and a shower later, I was refreshed and ready to hit the streets. I paid at the reception area and was offered a salute from the security guard as I stepped out. This is a special spa indeed.

Will I come back? Yes and No.

Yes, because this is obviously a very special spa with superb facilities, service and massage standards. Despite being a little bit dated and expensive, it’s well worth it.

No, because I simply don’t like that smoking is allowed in both the wet area and rest area. And no, because I am sure there are still many good spas waiting for me to discover in Xiamen and in China.

If you are a first time visitor to Xiamen, go visit Riyuegu. Only then should you choose the RI-Star spa. Have fun!

Location of Spa:
128 DongDu Road, Xiamen 361012, China

Size of Spa: Hugh. Has it’s own 3 storey building
Facilities: Full spa facilities. Wet area, rest area, movie area and private member area.

Friendliness: Extremely Friendly. Extremely attentive.
Pricing: Spa entrance at US$20. Treatment starts from US$65.


Spa Review – Touch Spa, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Xiamen, China

Like many countries, spas in 5-star hotels in China has gone upmarket as well. Gone are the days when mainland China spas are dodgy, performed only Chinese TuiNas or has poor service attitude.

Many of the 5-star and resort hotels in the big cities are competing to bring in the best spas and many are marketing their in-house hotel spa as a key attraction. I stayed 2 nights in Crowne Plaza Hotel in Xiamen, China and was able to use the fitness centre, swimming pool and spa to great satisfaction.

Crowne Plaza
Crowne Plaza, Xiamen at night

The Crowne Plaza is an international hotel chain that tends to cater to business traveler than the leisure traveler. Even then, 5-star business hotel tends to provide a good swimming pool, fitness centre and a spa because even business travellers would want these facilities as a minumum in a good business hotel. The Crowne Plaza is less than 6 months old as of this date and is centrally located in Jiahe Rd in Xiamen, China. Because it is so new, the fitness centre, swimming pool and spa are relatively devoid of people and I enjoyed great individual attention when I was there.

The swimming pool was a relative small one and one can only do 20meters laps. However, ample sunshades and deck chairs were provided for one to enjoy a tan and a swim. I also used the gym which was a little small and lack the full range of fitness machines although it had the necessary running, cycling, sit-up machines and a full range of loose weights.

Fitness Centre
The Gym

The changing room also had a full complement of sauna, steam and hot pool and the facility attendant was very attentive and was always around with a fresh towel. Once I had finished using the facilities and changed up, I went over to the Touch Spa located on the same level. The Touch Spa is a local Chinese spa chain that models itself after the top luxurious spa chain in various parts of the world. Due to it’s upmarket image and service, it is now the residential spa facility in Sofitel, Sheraton and Crowne Plaza chain of hotels in China.

The Touch Spa in Xiamen is nicely decorated in traditional Balinese concept and has 11 single and 1 couple rooms done up nicely. All rooms come with toilet, shower and rest areas. Some rooms even come with a hot pool.

The service attitude in the spa is top-rate and service staff would give a slight bow and greet you whenever they pass by you. The spa offers all traditional forms of massage including aromatherapy, Thai, Chinese Tui Na, foot reflexology as well as a host of facial and body treatments.

There is also a rest area that has comfortable sofas and soft music for you to relax after a massage session. One good extra mark for this spa is that you can choose to relax in this room as long as you want. Because the spa is still relatively new, there are not many customers and I had the entire rest lounge to myself.

Prices tend to be a bit high by China’s standards. As an example, a aromatherapy massage for 60 minutes would easily cost US$80 not including a 15% service tax added to the price. As a guest of the hotel, you are entitled to a 25% discount which is effectively only 10% given the 15% tax.

Will I return? Well, if I am busy with work and cannot hunt for a good spa, then I’m prepared to pay for the upmarket price. As much as it is expensive by China’s standard, the prices offered are still competitive when you compared with major cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing or Singapore.

Pix credit:

Location of The Touch Spa @ Crowne Plaza Hotel Paragon, Xiamen, China No.199 Jiahe Road, Xiamen 361012, China

Size: Upmarket, luxurious Mid size spa with all private rooms. Hydro-massage bath and jacuzzi available in some of the rooms.
11 single and 1 couple luxurious massage rooms. One area dedicated for foot massage and the other for rest.
Friendliness: Polite staff and good massage therapists.
Pricing: Starts from US$40 for a facial, wrap or bath. US$60 for Body massage. Various spa and beauty packages available and starts from US$120.


Dragonfly Therapeutic Massage Retreat, Beijing, China

DragonFly Forbidden CityI was in Beijing, China, for some work recently and I had web-surfed for Beijing spa and massage reviews prior to my trip as I had a very packed work schedule and yet did not want to miss out on good spa and massage opportunities in Beijing, China.

One name that constantly popped up in my web-engine search for Beijing spa and massage venues with positive reviews was the name, Dragonfly Therapeutic Retreat. I made a mental note to fit a trip to DragonFly into my tight schedule.

Beijing remains an ultra-large, busy and bustling city especially with the Summer Olympics just a couple of months away. I managed to find some free time in my schedule and as soon as possible, rushed down to DragonFly. I was hoping against hope that I would not be disappointed. I had been disappointed by many highly acclaimed and reviewed spa previously!

Reception AreaDragonfly Therapeutic Retreat in Beijing is located in a small lane near to the famous historical Forbidden City along a row of restored historical old houses. If taking a taxi, simply tell the taxi driver to go to the Forbidden City or Dong Chen Men (East City Gate) and you can’t miss the place. (See first photo for how the entrance looks like)

I came hopeful but was prepared to be mentally disappointed. To my joy, this time round, I hit ‘Jackpot‘ and was not disappointed at all! DragonFly really live up to it’s reputation as a delightful massage palor.

Dragonfly is not very big in size but I rate it’s service and massage quality as comparable to any top-class spa. The decor of DragonFly is old Chinese, the mood relaxing and the service attitude of their masseurs as first-class. Prices are moderate and business, at 3pm on a weekday, was very good with a constant stream of both local Chinese and foreign tourists coming in and out.

The Rest AreaDragonFly offers typical Chinese traditional massage, foot massage, Shiatsu, aromatherapy and other popular massage services. What was different was that they have packages where more than one masseurs work on your body at the same time – very much like the Thai ‘4-hands massage’.

I chose such a package – the Royal Delight – which starts with an hour of foot massage and then an hour of traditional Chinese body massage.

The foot massage started with a foot-bath and then a foot massage. While one masseur was working on my foot, at the same time, another masseur was behind me, massaging my head, neck and shoulder. Call it the ultimate relaxation package! I had the massage room all to myself but eventually had to share it with another 5 Caucasian tourists and from their bemused look, were apparently having a foot massage for the first time in their life!

Foot Massage RoomAfter my foot massage, I was led to another small room which had it’s own individual massage bed. Then, it was another hour of good, solid Chinese Body Massage or Tui-Na. Nothing beats Tui-Na from a good, dedicated Chinese masseur with a positive smile on her face all the time.

All too soon the massage was over and I had to return to the reception area. I was served Chinese tea and paid for my treatment in cash. It was RMB360 or about US$45 for a two hour massage session attended by three committed masseurs! Wow!

As I left DragonFly, customers continued to stream in, and I made a mental note that I must recommend it to my follow spa enthusiasts. So, if you are ever in Beijing, and going to the Forbidden City is a must-have if you are ever visiting Beijing, make sure you visit this wonderful little massage boutique near the East Gate of the Forbidden City!

Note: It is indicated in their brochure that they have branches in Shanghai and Suzhou in China as well as branches in Norway and Dubai!

Location of Dragonfly @ the Forbidden City
No. 60 Donghuamen Ave., Dong Cheng district, Beijing, China
Size: Small massage boutique palor with multiple rooms
Facilities: Rest area, toilet

Friendliness: Extremely polite staff and massage therapists.
Pricing: Ranges from US$15 to US$40 for massage only. Between US$85 to US$175 for massage, beauty or detox packages.


Review: Riyuegu Natural Hotspring Spa Resort – II

Spa EntranceRiyuegu Hotsprings Spa Resort is really one resort in two physical locations. There is the resort hotel on one side of the road and a hot-spring theme park and spa retreat on the other side of the road. (Please see previous article for more details about the resort hotel)

Generally, if you are a hotel guest, you are likely to move between the two physical locations but if you are a visiting local, you are likely to visit the theme park only. You can take a hourly shuttle bus from Xiamen or drive directly via a highway and parking is free in the large surface carpark. It is obviously a popular destination for Xiamen families, group of friends and the courting couple to spend half to a day here.

EntranceThe Riyuegu Hotsprings Spa Theme-Park offers the paying public a choice of over 100 outdoor pools with 40 different choices of natural hot spring water for a relaxing soak.

These 40 different types of pools have various types of spices and extracts (milk, rose, lemon, ginger, peppermint and all sorts of tea etc) mixed into their natural hot spring water. Unlike many other ‘hot spring’ operators in China, we were assured that the spring water here is the real stuff and not water from the pipe or a mixture of spring and tap water.

Spa choicesAll the hotspring pools were tastefully secluded from each other to allow for private enjoyment. You can actually walk around in your bathing suit to wander from one hot tub to another. If you fancy some fish therapy, the Fish Pool has an additional charge.

You can also have your massage done at an additional cost RMB40 (about $5) for a half hour. The massage is performed with you lying on top of a giant stone slab that is heated by hot spring water underneath.

There are also written explanation on each hotspring for user to understand what each hotspring contains and its therapeutic effect. We were really amazed at how big the hotspring park is. The hotspring theme-park opens from 3pm to 1am during summer and 12noon to 1am during winter.

Members of the public pays a flat RMB118 (about US$17) or RMB168 (about US$24) with a buffet dinner and gets to enjoy all the facilities in the hot-spring theme park. The park also provides free bathing suits, towels and bathing soaps and gels – so don’t bother to bring anything; just come as you are!

Spa ReceptionSlightly aside from the hotspring theme park is the spa retreat. Guests at the spa retreat do not mind spending a bit more for their own private room which also comes with a outdoor hot-spring bath. Private massage services are also available in the room. The minimum charge for the usage of private room is approximately RMB210 (US$30) & RMB260 (US$ 37) for small & big rooms respectively. For those guests who also choose a spa package treatment, the room fee will be waived.

Hot spring bathMy husband and I chose to do our spa treatment at the spa retreat. I opted for a 210 mins Aromatic Treatment Package which included a hot spring milk bath, body polish, body wrap, floral water spray and a 60 mins of aromatherpy massage.

The entire package cost us RMB1020 (@ US$144) for 2 persons, 4-hour spa/massage package in a private treatment room. (YES! There is no mistake!)

Massage RoomWe were led by our friendly masseur to our treatment room. The treatment room was extremely spacious, nicely decorated with both natural and dimmed artificial lights and divided into a wet and dry area. Clearly, a lot of careful and detailed planning had gone into the interior design!

The hot spring stone bath tub was simply the biggest I have seen in a personal room.

ShampooThe hot-spring bath lies directly under an open ceiling. As you soak in the hot bath tub, you are able to star-gaze during the night. At the end of the massage treatment, light snacks (sandwiches, fruit platter and a dessert soup) were served to guests in the treatment room. You could also order additional food and we did order a delicious black chicken soup with abalone, Xiamen dumplings and bean-curd skin shrimp roll. Most delicious!

TapsYou could tell that the owner and management of this spa resort had spent a lot of time, money, energy and effort in adding little touches to this resort.

It is always easy to hire the best interior designers and buy the best decorations to do up a good-looking resort but small, little touches such as bamboo containers for the shampoo, wooden combs, bright happy-coats, distinct wet and dry areas, bamboo screens for privacy and star-gazing outdoor spa pool can only be a result of much observations and considerations by the spa operator towards the comfort and enjoyment of the customer.

Again, if you ask me to be really fussy, the only thing that I do not like about the spa was that there is a time limit for you to relax in the room after treatment. You were only given a short 30 minutes to finish your food, change up and soak in the lush sofa. This put a sudden pressure on the guest to rush off after nearly 4 hours of peace, quiet and bliss!

If you are transiting through Xiamen or already staying in a hotel in Xiamen, make sure you check out the hotspring theme park or the spa retreat. You will certainly enjoy the facilities and treatments here. If you are planning a visit to Xiamen, why not choose to stay at the Riyuegu Spa Resort hotel. You will enjoy the resort and there are hourly shuttles to Xiamen so that you can shop, play and enjoy in Xiamen as well!

Location of Riyuegu Hotsprings Resort:
1888 Fulian Road, Haicang District, Xiamen, China 361027
Size of Resort: One luxury hotel, one hotspring theme-park, one spa retreat
Facilities: Multiple luxurious spa facilities

Friendliness: Extremely polite resort staff and massage therapists.
Pricing: About US$17 for hotspring theme park entrance fee. Massage treatment ranges from US$15 to US$40. Between US$85 to US$175 for spa, beauty or detox packages.


Riyuegu Hotspring Spa Resort, Xiamen, China

I have been to Xiamen, China, several times but had missed the chance to visit this well-known Riyuegu Hot Springs Spa Resort in Xiamen each time due to one reason or another.

Riyuegu Hot Springs Resort is very famous natural hot spring spa resort in Xiamen, China and had been extremely well-reviewed in travel and spa magazines.

Riyuegu Hotspring Resort
Entrance to the Hotel

Hence, in my recent trip to Xiamen, I made sure that I set aside at least 2 free days to visit Riyuegu Hot Springs Resort. I was so determined that I must visit this spa resort this time that even before my trip, I booked my accommodation online to ensure I had no further reasons not to go to this resort.

Riyuegu Hot Springs Spa Resort is probably one of the nicest spa resort in Southern China. From previous written web and magazine reviews, I was aware that it is owned and managed by a Singapore company. The resort offers a 4 star class luxury hotel and just across a busy highway on the other side is the outdoor hot springs theme park and a spa retreat. An electrical golf-cart shuttles you between the two locations if you need to travel between the two.

The grand lobby

Hotel Lobby

In my opinion, the hotel should be rated 5 stars as I feel that the whole hotel resort was very well done-up with nice landscaping, elegant interior decoration, very clean and had pleasant and helpful staff.

The hotel rooms at Riyuegu Hot Springs Spa Resort are beautifully decorated, spacious, modern and all bathrooms has a large stone bath tub with piped-in hot spring water. This is the best part… hotel guests can enjoy a hot spring bath in the room if they wanted more privacy or perhaps too lazy to go across the road to the hotspring theme park. The hotel also has a very nice outdoor swimming pool for guests to relax to. There is also a Western and Chinese restaurant.

The biggest drawback, if I can nit-pick, about Riyuegu Hot Springs Resort is that the whole resort is located in an industrial zone and Xiamen city is about a half hour drive away. For hotel guests, you can’t go or do anything else except stay and enjoy the facilities within the hotel or spa. But then again, if you are really looking for a spa resort to get away from civilization… well then, this is it!

(Note: A travel website review that I read before arriving at Riyuegu described the resort as being surrounded by lush greenery and scenic countryside all around. Don’t believe that review … it is all factories and industrial buildings once you move away from the resort!)

Riyuegu Hot Springs Spa Resort has two spas. One is located within the hotel and the other is located across the road together with the hotspring theme park. Both spas offer almost the same spa, beauty and detox treatments and has similar prices. The difference is …. treatments done in the hotel spa are subjected to a 15% government tax but not at the spa retreat for hotel and non-hotel guests alike. (Hint from me: Now you know where you should have your massage!)

The Hotel Resident Spa

Entrance to the Spa

The hotel spa has a relaxing lounge whereby after your treatment, you can rest and relax at the lounge as long as you want. The hotel spa also offers a oxygen spa treatment room which the spa at the hotspring theme park does not.

I must say that I was very impressed with Riyuegu Hot Springs Spa Resort. It is definitely worth a trip as the facilities are fabulous, services good and prices, simply affordable – compared to other large cities around Asia.

I highly recommend this spa resort for jaded spa enthusiasts who want to try something different other than their usual spa holidays to Bangkok, Bali, Penang, Ko Samui or Phuket.

Spa Reception

The grand Spa Reception

Compared to a typical beach resort, the entire Riyuegu Spa resort is supplied with natural underground hotspring water, (even in the hotel rooms) which is said to contain minerals that are good for the skin and body. Definitely a plus point over beach-side spa resorts which may actually cost harm to the skin and body if one is not careful to be exposed too much to the sun.

Getting There
Situated just half an hour drive from downtown Xiamen, Riyuegu Hot Springs Spa Resort offers a shuttle service pick up hourly at the carpark opposite SM Square (Fuxia Road, nearer to Kentucky Fried Chicken).

Coming Up…
Watch out for our next article as we reiew the Riyuegu hotspring theme park.

Location of Riyuegu Hotsprings Resort:
1888 Fulian Road, Haicang District, Xiamen, China 361027
Size of Resort: One luxury hotel, one hotspring theme-park, one spa retreat
Facilities: Multiple luxurious spa facilities

Friendliness: Extremely polite resort staff and massage therapists.
Pricing: Ranges from US$15 to US$40 for massage only. Between US$85 to US$175 for spa, beauty or detox packages.


Hair wash and ‘free massage’ in China

If you are visiting China for a tour or a working trip and need a little ‘motivation’ before touring yet another gigantic historical/cultural monument, why not perk yourself up with a quick hair-wash and massage?

Hair wash in ChinaWhat most of us outside of China accept as a normal hair wash in a hairdressing salon has evolved into a highly sophisticated routine in China. You see, in the early days when China was still poor, the only way to get some hot water, some relaxation and peace from the ever-crowded home was to visit the neighborhood hairdressing salon.

In the 60s and 70s when life was simpler, getting one’s hair washed in a salon was like giving a little treat or reward to oneself. Hence, it was not uncommon to visit a salon just for a hair wash and not a hair cut. Because of this simple demand, hair washing in China has evolved into a sophisticated affair where your hair is washed, your ears are washed, your face is treated to a wash cum facial massage and your upper body is massaged – all on the salon chair and usually by an apprentice or a junior hair stylist. Hence, what we take for a simple hair wash can take 45 mins or more in China because of all the additional ‘treats’ and you even get the option of chatting with the hairdresser or not!

Today, regardless if it’s a neighbourhood salon in Shanghai or a sophisticated classy salon in a Beijing shopping mall, hair washing in China remains affordable and retain all the previous extra ‘treats’ except that you now lie on a massage bed with appropriate opening for a hair wash while lying down instead of sitting up on a salon chair. The entire hair and face washing with a simple massage thrown in can be done without you getting up and down from a chair at all. Talk about sophistication! And all these extra treats for an affordable RMB20-30 or US$2 to 3.

So, the next time you feel tired or flustered in China, just walk boldly into any hair salon and ask for a “xi fa” or hair wash!

Location of Hairdressing salon: Any hairdressing salon in China
Size of Salon: From simple neighbourhood salon to sophisticated, classy salon
Friendliness: Usually Friendly
Facilities: Hair-washing cum massage bed; normal hair cut salon chairs
Pricing: RMB20-30 for a 30-40min hair and facial hot water wash with face and simple body massage included.


Filipino masseurs in Xiamen, China

1969 Spa boutiqueWestern-style luxurious Spa boutiques are beginning to make their presence felt in the land of Tui-Na, Acupressure and Foot Massages. You can usually find one or two of such spa boutiques in the main shopping mall or shopping street of any mid-size and above city in China.

1969 Spa boutique is supposedly a branch of a similar spa boutique chain from USA. Their main spa boutique in China is located at Xiamen, China and they occupy their own 3-storey building. This is an upmarket spa boutique and it is not unusual to see Tai-Tais (rich local housewives), executive-type, model-type and expatriates walking in and out of this spa boutique. Some of the receptionists even speak good English; a rare exception in China…

Front entranceThe lowest level of the spa is a reception area decked out in luxurious furnishing. The second level is a treatment area for ladies and the third level, a treatment area for men. This is rare in China as most spas are gender-segregated as they chase after their respective market audience. High-end western-style spa boutique such as this one tend to cater to the ladies market only in China and it is a pleasant surprise that both men and women can actually enjoy beauty and massage treatment in the same spa.

This spa offers beauty treatment, detox and rejuvenation treatments and massages. It is interesting that beauty and detox treatments are handled by local Chinese therapists but the massages are provided by Filipino masseurs. This is both a testimonial to the massage skills of the Filipinos as well as frank admittance by the spa management that the local Chinese has not reach the necessary skills and expertise to provide Western-style massages such as Swedish massage, Aromatherapy and Deep-tissue massage.

In addition to about 12 treatment rooms per level, there are jacuzzi, hydro-bath and a relaxation corner in each level. There are ushers in each level and they will guide you around, provide tea and generally tend to your well-being at all times.

I did not have time for anything but a 2-hr massage by the Filipino female masseur. The Filipino masseurs are glad to have English-speaking customers and they would love to chat. Most of them are in China for a 2-year contract and they could fit in well in China because Chinese food is not a problem. Majority of them would have picked up a smattering of Chinese by the end of their two year contract.

The Filipino masseurs provide a massage which essentially combines Swedish, aromatherapy and Thai massage techniques. If you love massage, this would be an ideal combination and with the naturally soft and wonderful skills of the Filipinos, you have reached massage nirvana in China!

Location of Spa: HouJiang Dai Rd, Xiamen, China
Size of Spa: About 25 treatment rooms over 2 levels
Friendliness: Friendly
Facilities: Individual treatment rooms, showers, jacuzzi, hydrobath
Pricing: RMB198 for two hours massage (Promo prices); RMB398 for rejuvenation package


Amazing super-size foot massage palor in Xiamen, China

Large Foot Massage Place in Xiamen, ChinaTalk about up-sized! I know foot massage is a popular past time in mainland China but can you imagine a foot massage joint with a hundred over massage rooms and three hundred over massage therapists?

I recently visited a foot massage palor in Xiamen, China which can take in hundreds of customers at any one time and it is aptly named as ‘Da Tong Shui’ or literally ‘Big Bucket of Water’…

Da Tong Shui is located in a busy commercial district in Xiamen, China and has a grand entrance flanked by pretty female receptionists. Two flights of automated escalators lead up and down to the second and third floor of the building leading to a further myriad of hundreds of massage rooms. One can get lost easily in the corridors of hundreds of massage room maze…

Grand EntranceThe entire complex is done up very grand, elegant and opulently, very unlike the small and humble foot massage joints one is more likely to encounter in most places in Asia. Prices are clearly stated at RMB50 (US$6.25) an hour of foot massage with a free flow of food, soup, dessert and beverages! These prices are ready to knock the socks off all the small foot massage joints! No wonder there are hundreds of rooms because I am sure at that price, foot massage enthusiasts would be flocking to it!

Large water bucketsThere were two of us and the ushers lead us to a private room. Everyone gets a private room even if you walk in alone. Each room comes with comfortable seats, piped in music, magazines, LCD TV and a FREE FLOW of drinks, double-boiled soup and food which you can ask for anytime. There is even a printed catalogue with the the bio-data of each of the foot therapist including his/her specialty or strength level so that a customer can even find a therapist customised to his liking.

Foot massage therapistTea was served immediately and soon, two foot massage therapists came in to start our treatment. We started with a hot water soak in a herbs-filled wooden bucket (hence the name Da Tong Shui or Big Water Bucket) and then the actual foot massage started.

Treatment lasted for an hour and included some shoulder and hand massage. You can also add a foot pedicure for RMB20, Gua-Sha for RMB30 or Chinese Tui-Na Massage for RMB50. We chose an additional one hour of Tui-Na Massage and the foot massage seats were miraculously transformed into a sort of massage bed. We could even do our Tui Na or Chinese massage with the same therapists without leaving the room!

Tui Na was equally good and it was so easy to fall asleep in such a conducive environment. All too soon, one hour was up and it was time for some nourishing soup and food! We were presented with a menu with a large selection of soup, food, dessert and drinks. Ordering any of the soup or food alone would have easily exceeded RMB50 in a nice restaurant and it was amazing how the bosses of Da Tong Shui could have made any money with his low prices! What’s more, as a customer, we could have stayed in the room as long as we want with as much food or drinks as we want!

According to the Chinese massage therapists, Da Tong Shui is packed to the brim on weekends and in the weekday evenings. Despite the hundreds of massage therapists available, it is difficult to get a vacancy unless one books ahead in the evenings or the weekends! Wow…

We had good soup and food and watched TV for a couple of hours before deciding to leave. On our way out, we saw a row of computers and decided to spend some surfing the Internet and answering emails; again for free.

Of course, we also wanted to quickly update our blog so that you too, can enjoy the same kind of royal treatment the next time you happen to be in Xiamen, China!

Location of Spa: Jiahe Rd, Xiamen, China
Size of Spa: Hundreds of rooms; several hundred massage therapists
Friendliness: Cold friendliness
Facilities: Showers, bathrooms, internet access, free flow of food/beverages
Pricing: RMB50 for Foot Massage; RMB50 for Tuina, RMB20 for pedicure, RMB30 for Gua-Sha

(Note: USD$1 = RMB8)