Getting a Blind Massage in China

At the risk of sounding overly gluttonous, I have to admit that I’ve been in China for just over two weeks and have had five massages. Not only are they dirt cheap (five dollars for an hour), but there are so many varieties and each time is a totally different and amusing experience. The first time I got one was in Bejing. My friend Emma and I had been wandering around the streets all day and were tired and sweating bullets from the humidity, when there was a sudden thunderstorm and downpour. Being without an umbrella or poncho, I thought to myself, what better way to spend the thunderstorm than relaxing on a soft cushion and having a lovely cheap massage in some dimly lit massage place? That’s how I pictured it anyway. I reminisced on my time in Bangkok, and how wondeful it was to treat myself to about one seven dollar massage a week, and the environment was always relaxing. I assumed it would be somewhat the same here. I was wrong.

We stepped into a little rickety hole in the wall Chinese Medical massage venue we stumbled across. We were greeted by a smiling girl at the front desk, surrounded by puke green walls that looked like they could crumble any minute. For a moment I was worried about my safety just standing there, which is never a promising start. After Emma and I played a rather lengthy game of charades trying to get the message across that we both wanted full body massages, the girl directed us to a couple little plastic stools to sit on in front of a blaring TV.

After ten minutes or so, a blind man in a lab coat walked out. The girl motioned to me that I should follow him. I was first up, and Emma wished me all the best. As soon as my blind masseuse and I turned the corner, I was confronted by what resembled a shanty hospital room. About 20 people laying side by side on small cots, fluorescent lights, people shrieking. He directed me to a cot in the corner and I took note that he was definitely blind. He spoke to me in Chinese until he realized I was an utterly useless conversation partner. I didn’t even have the language to tell him I was utterly useless at speaking Chinese. All I knew how to say at that point was “Rice”, “How much does it cost?”, “Thank you”, “No money”, and “Spicy”, which has actually gotten me pretty far.

He spent the next hour yelling intensely at the other people in the room, which I could only assume was a friendly conversation. He wreaked of smoke and even hawked a couple loogies on the floor mid-massage. Not exactly the serene environment I had envisioned, but I quickly reminded myself that… well, I’m in China now. And, as I like to say, it could have been worse. At least he didn’t light a cigarette or piss on the floor. Although from what I’ve observed in China so far, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Blind masseuses are common in China. It’s the professsion many of them choose to go into, and they’re believed to be in-tune with sensing the body’s soreness. And despite the loogies, fluorescent lights, and seemingly unnecessary yelling, I was actually quite pleased with the massage. I also had a massage in Yangshuo by a blind masseuse in a lab coat, and the environment was much more relaxing than in Beijing. Three of my masseuses in China were not blind. One was fantastic, and two were too weak for my taste. I’ve come to conclude that I have better luck getting a great massage if my masseuse is a blind man wearing a lab coat. Those are now my requirements. What can I say, this is China.

3 comments

  • Well, you’ve convinced your mom that if you can survive a blind massage in that “relaxing” atmosphere then you can probably survive anything. Great story, Emily!

  • LOL! I was in China in August as well and it made me laugh reading about your charades communication and the friendly yelling conversations. We dealt with the same things and it is insane. Our first day we thought everyone was angry, but then we realized people were just talking and in China that means yelling. (and I totally understand when you say you wouldn’t have been surprised if he smoked or peed on the floor…….we saw a lot of both in our week in China).

    Oh, and the blind massage thing is very common in Southeast Asia. We live in Kuala Lumpur and there are four that I’ve seen in our neighborhood and we saw a few in Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia. Though, the ones I’ve received here are quite a bit different than you experienced in China. lol.

    Here is my take on blind massages: http://welcometoerinsworld.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/eastern-traditional-blind-massage/

  • Thanks for the comment, Erin! Love your take as well! Gotta love Asia and all its amazing and interesting quirks 😉 What do you do in Kuala Lumpur?

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