While with a small tour group in Xi’an, we had some spare time in our schedule, so our guide asked us if there was anything we’d like to see or do. A few people in the group suggested that we go for a massage. Surprisingly, our guide was able to arrange a massage for 6 of us (3 men and 3 women) at the same time, along with 4 pedicures for the others in our group.  I was thinking it must be a big salon to accommodate all of us at one time on such short notice.  I started to get excited about my first Chinese massage.

Upon arriving at the basement level salon, nothing seemed out of the ordinary as we all waited patiently in the waiting area. The group of 4 was first called for their pedicures, and then a few minutes later, the rest of us were called, all at the same time, for our massages. We were lead into a large sterile room (only in appearance) with 6 massage tables and a large curtain divider in the center of the room.  This is not what I’m typically used to when I go for a massage.   Where was the private room?  The relaxing music?  The scents of Aromatherapy?

We were instructed to take off all our clothes except our underwear. Yes, a group of strangers (some in their 60s) were required to strip down in front of eachother, but at least there was a privacy curtain drawn shielding the women from the men.  As I put on the white top and shorts that were left on my table, all I could smell was the body odor of poor souls who were as unfortunate as me to get a massage at this place.   These clothes stunk so badly, and they were paper thin.  Why on earth did I think it was a good idea to strip and put these on against my skin?  Fortunately, I did not break out with any strange rash.

I should have opted for the pedicure. CC Image courtesy of Jirka Matousek on Flickr.

I should have opted for the pedicure.
CC Image courtesy of Jirka Matousek on Flickr.

As we all lay on our stomachs awaiting the arrival of our masseuses, the dividing curtain was opened, and now we are all facing eachother; this was truly going to be a group massage.  What type of salon is this?  I hope there was nothing lost in translation.  I did say I wanted a massage for medicinal purposes, not for pleasure?  Or maybe I agreed to being pleasured?  My Chinese langauge skills are severely lacking, and I guess that’s what I get for saying “she she” to everything — Yes, thank you.  Yes, thank you.  The masseuses entered the room together, and I swear, they all had to be about 16 years old — yes, 16 year old girls for the men, and 16 year old boys for the ladies.  What did I get myself into???? Please tell me there will not be a happy ending.  I now start chanting internally, “no happy ending, no happy ending, oh please, no happy ending.”

My young masseur did not hesitate to jump right in, literally. The table was obviously too high for him, so he conducted the massage by jumping on the table and sitting on my lower back and buttocks. Oh how I wish I would have kept my pants on.   Let’s just say that this was going to be the first massage where I actually got tenser as the massage progressed. I was as stiff as board by the time it was over.

It could have been worse, they could have set me on fire. (CC Image courtesy of HiTricia! on Flickr)

It could have been worse, they could have set me on fire.
(CC Image courtesy of HiTricia! on Flickr)

As the boy pounded away on my back, all I could hear was slapping noises from across the room. I have no idea what the young girls were doing to the men, and I was just praying I would not have a similar fate, as it sounded painful and awkwardly familiar, too.   After my back endured a beating, the young boy jumped off the table and continued with a basic massage of my arms and legs.  It truly felt as if he had no clue what he was doing, he just kept pinching my arms and legs.  He wrapped up the massage by placing hot stones on my back (at this point, I was thankful he didn’t throw them at me) and finally left the room.  I thought that was the end, I had survived. I finally felt a slight bit of relief and relaxation.

About 5 minutes later, my young masseur returned… reeking of cigarettes. I had thought and prayed he returned to simply remove the stones from my back, but oh, how I was mistaken. After removing the stones, he jumped back up on my table.  I was terrified as to what might come next.   As he straddled over me, he looped his arms under my arms to raise my upper torso. He held me in this position for a good minute or two before he started to lift me up and down and then sway me slowly, side to side. About a minute later, he goes into a full swinging motion with me, I swear I thought he was going to break me in half or fling me off the table. Now I really wished I would have kept my bra on.  I looked over at the ladies next to me, and they were going through the same routine, and all I could think was “I hope I don’t look as ridiculous as they do,” but I’m pretty sure I did.

When it was all over, no one said a word. Everyone was in a mild state of shock from the experience. I was stiffer and tenser than when I arrived, I now smelled like body odor and stale cigarettes, I had red marks all over my arms from the pinching, and my breasts hurt and were probably slightly bruised. I think the next time I go to China, I will skip the massage.