When you are in China, indulging in a massage, or more specifically, a foot massage in Shanghai is a wonderful, relaxing and revitalising experience. My most recent visit to Shanghai saw me experience probably the finest foot massage of my life.
It was early evening on a Sunday. It was getting dark outisde and I felt jaded. I’d just returned to Shanghai from a weekend away yet knew it was too early to go to bed, otherwise I wouldn’t sleep all the way through the night.
So, I reminded myself that no trip to China is complete without the authentic massage experience.
Normally I opt for a full body oil massage yet I feared that tonight with this I’d just fall asleep on the bed and not even notice a massage taking place at all.
I also remembered that it had been a few years since I’d opted for a foot massage instead. Foot massages are renowned for being very good and I’ve heard people claim that a foot massage can create positive benefits to all areas of the body, not just the feet.
I was located at the Courtyard Hotel Xujiahui in Shanghai and knew from experience that numerous massage parlours were a short walking distance away. In fact the nearby street of Xin Geng Road had a plethora of Health and Wellbeing spas so I was spoilt for choice.
I also followed my previously documented tips on massage in China in my selection of where to go.
Where I went for my foot massage in Shanghai China
I stumbled upon Shirley’s Massage Parlour which looked respectable. Firstly there wasn’t a selection of pretty girls at the doorway trying to lure me in. Secondly there are more than half a dozen of this brand of massage parlours around Shanghai so it was ticking a few boxes. Already confidence was building that this was a wise choice.
As I entered a ground floor sign indicated that I had to take the lift upstairs.
As is typical of Chinese massage parlours I was greeted by a lady in an elegant dress like uniform. She guided me to the range of massage treatment options on available.
I immediately indicated the basic foot massage treatment whilst she tried to up sell.
With the exchange rate currently of less than 10 CNY to the £ I know that massages in China are no longer as cheap as they used to be. Even more so I knew what I wanted to try that night so left it at that.
This lady then led me down a dark and windy corridor to a small room at the end.
There were two soft furnished chairs with nearby foot stools in front of them.
As I took my seat the lady indicated the complimentary drinks menu, (not untypical in a massage parlour) and I opted for a green tea.
Once I’d removed my trainers and socks I settled into the arm chair and began supping my tea.
Then a gentleman with a black shirt and trousers appeared with a large wooden bucket. Inside the bucket was very hot water which contained some pink petals.
I was advised to place both feet inside as I sat. Admittedly the water at first appeared too hot but soon it felt more comfortable.
This gentleman then asked me, whilst remaining with my feet in the bucket, to move 180 degrees and sit on the foot stool.
He then began to spend the next 10 minutes giving me an expertly executed back massage.
Almost after the very first touch he honed in on the knots and tension in my right shoulder. These have been present for over a decade and masseuses seem to identify it quickly.
After a while he’d covered my shoulders, arms and back. At one point he gripped my shoulders as he pressed his knee into my back then ran it down my spine.
This preparation massage took around 10 minutes and to be honest felt complete in itself.
Once he asked me to return to the armchair and recline I felt like completely flaking out and going asleep.
Every single muscle in my body was relaxed, at ease and in no pain.
At this stage I felt as though I’d already got my money’s worth.
The masseuse then pointed to the 3 foot massage options on the service list. He kept pointing to the middle one suggesting it was the one I should have.
After this preparatory massage I knew this guy was really good at what he was doing, no matter what choice I made I knew I’d be having the best foot massage in Shanghai.
I agreed to his suggestion.
Pretty soon the guy had brought a selection of towels, cloths and oils into the room.
He also brought a heated cushion which he placed just behind my shoulders. The cushion was very warm and remained hot throughout the hour long event. It was perfectly placed and soothing.
In turn each foot and shin was gently covered in oil as he began to work his magic.
Pressing, squeezing, rubbing. Each pressure point in my feet was found.
I was getting the clear benefits of a foot massage. It is known to benefit blood circulation, aid relaxation and clear toxins from the body. Everyone ticked.
In the past I’ve had a history of ankle sprains yet when he slowly forced twists of my feet I never felt any strain whatsoever.
At times I would grimace, especially as he pushed hard on the balls of my feet. As I winced he once asked if I was okay. Of course I was, whilst there was at times a bit of discomfort I always knew this happens with a decent foot massage.
No pain, no gain as people say.
And I was gaining a lot from this.
At times he would firmly punch my shins and feet with the base of his fist. It was firm yet not aggressive.
Later he applied some therapy with hot towels, which also cleansed the oil from my feet.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that he did for a little while use some hot stones as part of this foot massage in Shanghai treatment. I don’t think I’ve ever had a hot stone massage before and this Shanghai massage parlour also offers them. I’m now very interested in trying this in the future.
Following the stones he brought in a couple of wooden hammers that had, what looked like, rubber tips on the end. He then began battering my legs and feet with them. It was as if he was playing drums. He was loving it and so was I!
I was partially amused by the sounds of the wooden hammers against my legs as my skin vibrated to the unpainful pulses.
Then before I really knew it it was all over. Yes my hour was up and I was in a trance of complete relaxation.
I was relaxed, refreshed and revitalised all at the same time.
The masseuse was even brave enough to grab my socks (which I’d worn for most of the day) and put them back on my feet! (I fear for anyone who is brave enough to touch my smelly worn socks!)
As is typical for any massage in China he left me with his staff number and card. He also told me that his name was Michael. They do this so that if you wish you can specifically ask for them again if you revisit.
Michael guided me down the corridor to the front counter where I paid and said my goodbyes.
With maybe a 10 minute walk back to my hotel I was almost gliding. I’d gone into Shirley’s feeling very exhausted yet now came out revitalised, as if I was a new man.
I was blissfully happy with my foot massage in Shanghai experience. Yet I wonder if next time I’ll go for the hot stone or full body oil massage? If the masseurs are this good I’m going to be onto a good thing.
This was an entirely independent review. I paid for my own treatment. I was not approached by the massage parlour to write the review and they do not know that I have done so. I’ve not been compensated for writing this article.
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