北京风情 – an amorous scene of Beijing
搓澡图 – a picture of cuō zǎo scrub down
A drawing depicts scrub down at a bathhouse, an art work I found at Panjia Yuan 潘家园 – I didn’t buy because I don’t like the calligraphy.
Btw: the current the skin-shedding scrub down would not have a towel covering the customer, totally naked, as a pig being slaughtered, laying on a table while the scruber is fully clothed. Well, at least in the female section.
Isn’t bath a form of art itself? I think so. It steeps in our veins and ingrains in our culture. I miss the soapy smell, the steaming vapor, the skin-shedding scrub, the relaxing linger, the invigorating feeling you get when walking out of the door, leaving behind the dirt and problems. A brand new you, high in spirit with softer skin.
The bathhouse is back, in vogue, much to my delight. It isn’t just being rejuvenated all over China, it’s been the major undertaking for many western hotel chains. Hoooraaaay! I couldn’t think of a better way to fight jet-lag than a trip to the bath house.
One of to-dos on my agenda was visiting the bathhouse although few local friends perplex up on it. A personal preference? Because few others indulge as much as I do.
We have visited 5 houses/clubs in Beijing and 2 in Shanghai. They all have huge attention seeking façade (except QingHuaYuan), that’s mostly why we went. As soon as we walk into the bathhouse, off with our shoes and we’re issued a pair of sandals, plus a wrist key on an elastic band. Our shoes are stored behind the counter, at the shoe bar. The wrist bands are locker room keys that also served as ID/charge-card in the club, surrendering it at the lobby counter when leaving and paying.
Male and female entrance, oddly enough have no pinyin nor English. But worry not because there are enough staff in the lobby, some in business attires and some in the evening gowns. Into the locker room, there are girls/women greeting us, lead us to our lockers and open it for us. Next step is to strip naked, go shower, soak in the tub or sauna. The first time or two one might feel awkward, because the attendants were plentiful and all fully clothed. They hang around closely, trying to serve you.
All the clubs we visited, have the open shower stalls, no doors nor curtains except Morley Holy Club. After the shower, the attendant would hand you a towel. Some attendant would give you a little rub on the shoulder as she put the towel on your back while others just pointed to the pile. Then they’d give you a set of PJ, thick and stiff. Every club sells lingerie, they’re always prominently displaying in the locker room. In the common areas, customer has to wear PJ, either reusable one or one purchased at the club. The company issues feel like jail uniform thou. Beijing clubs provide bath towels while Shanghai offer only the hand towels, and being stingy about it: you can’t bring it to the sauna, for example.
Over all, the service is much better in Beijing. The staff or the tentative attendants in the capital would non stop singing 贵宾，荣幸为你服务 – honored guest, it’s my pleasure to serve you, helpful to a fault. Over kill yes, but it beats lousy service.
Steam room isn’t favored by my fellows because except one that works fine, all others either not working or cold. Sauna is fine at all houses we visited.
Some of the attendants seemed like to staring at the customers. In one of the Shanghai clubs, Pump was handing me a cup of water by the machine and one attendant had to bend down, cutting between us to put her drinking bottle down. Couldn’t she wait just one split second when we finished? Didn’t she consider it to be rude? Very different culture and habit.
They all open 24/7 but each club has its own cycle to calculate the entrance fee and room rate. Service by the min/hour aren’t affected by the cycle. In Beijing, it tends to be every 18 hours (except Swan Lake) and Shanghai gives only 12 hours. Which means, if you’re staying beyond the cycle, you’ll be charged again.
All clubs provide undies, tooth brush and toothpaste free of charge. However, no dental floss nor mouthwash. The female pads ¥2 each, no OBs/tampons.
Few clubs provides kids area and we did see young children with parents and grandparents, like an outing.
All the houses/clubs we visited, although some were dingy but none was sleazy. The masseurs that work in the common area, some are young and some are old, both genders. Customers can choose to have the service in the open area or private. Few times, as we were touring the club, I saw young girl giving massage in private room, with the door wide open. Gulangyu was mentioned to me by a friend, we found the others by chance or having passed it by – having done no homework.
- Morley Holy Club 摩力圣汇
- YiHai 艺海
- Bizhonghai 碧中海
- Qinghua Chi 清华池
- The Swan Lake 天鹅湖
- Dalang Taosha 大浪淘沙
- Gulangyu 鼓浪屿
- Aegean Bath Xi’an 爱琴海, 2016
Meals all clubs in Beijing offer 4 free meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack 宵夜 while the two Shanghai clubs included only one free meal, they all offer 4 meals but at additional cost.
Cycle each club uses different length (in hours) to calculate the admission and room fees. 18 hours each cycle seems to be the norm in Beijing while 12 hours for Shanghai.