Saturday, January 26, 2008

In the hands of the blind

You know you’re onto a good one the moment when you can’t breath for a couple of seconds, the pain is acute, and perhaps a sliver of saliva will slide out of the corner of your mouth uncontrollably onto the crisp white sheets that your body is pounding.
I’m no sadomasochist, but when at a blind massage joint they ask soft, medium or hard, I’ll always go hard and then ratchet up the pressure once underway. “Is OK?” they’ll say. “Harder,” I venture. Moments later they’ll inquire again, “Is OK?” and I wince back in a falsetto crescendo that yes it is OK.
The point that takes your breath away is invariably around either the fourth vertebrae or as your neck is needled.
Any trip to the mainland is always accompanied by regular blind massage excursions. I find their sense of touch is naturally that bit sharper, their keenness to impress is more noticeable and unlike the other massage parlours that dot most streets in the People’s Republic there is no hanky panky insulations, just a straight, hard rub down that always seems to make me taller and unwrap the knots and kinks in my crumpled body. And at roughly 1RMB a minute there are few better ways to spend your money than a one-hour blind massage.
In Beijing I go to a place just next to the old Red House on Chunxiu Street, where an albino, blind lady has such a fantastic grasp of her profession that she can tell you things like, “You use a computer mouse too much the wrong way so that is why this knot here,” cue sharp intake of breath to suppress the howl of pain on my behalf, “is so big and hard to get rid of.” In Guangzhou there’s a decent place on lovely old Shamian Island while this week I found a massage heaven in Shanghai that surpasses my old regular behind the Jingjiang Hotel. Next time you’re in Shanghai make sure you head to FeiNing Massage Centre at 597 Fuxing Road, near the intersection with Maoming Road. A cracking place, literally.

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