After our day’s outing at Shijiazhuang Ski Park, Andy and I joined Leo and a group of family friends for a big Chinese dinner party. It turned out to be a gathering of powerful and wealthy men among Shijiazhuang’s political and economic circles – all of whom were both friendly and interesting – but more interesting to me was the opportunity to witness Leo doing something at which he truly shines.
Leo is a natural alpha-male of the group, a master at “working the crowds” and a fantastically radiant person who never seems to stop smiling. Had Andy not pointed it out, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed his deliberate methodology of carefully dividing up his time, giving each and every dinner guest plenty of one-on-one conversation while simultaneously keeping the overall group going with frequent commentary and toasts. There’s no doubt in my mind that his mastery of social dynamics played a large part in driving him towards his currently successful position. And why shouldn’t it? It’s nearly impossible to hang out with the guy and not have a fantastic time!
From that day on, the remainder of my visit (to China and to Asia for that matter) was fairly relaxed. As I mentioned briefly in this post, the incessant firework explosions made it virtually impossible to sleep – for two solid weeks – and without a good night’s rest to speak of, both Andy and I came down with some fairly debilitating sicknesses. The result was that neither of us felt all that motivated to go out and explore…so we remained generally at home, recovering, and learning how to cook custom ROMS for our fancy new cellphones 🙂
…That is, with the exception of one visit to a particularly luxurious massage parlor.
When I visited China for the first time back in 2005, my traveling companion and I certainly got our share of massages – how can you not at $7 for a full arm, back, leg, foot, and neck rubdown? But since neither of us spoke Chinese, nor did we have any idea about where was good and where wasn’t, we usually found ourselves in the same little parlor right next door to our Shanghai youth hostel.
This time, I was with a local – and he knew exactly where to go.
The “parlor” Andy took me to was more like a converted hotel, with a fancy lobby and many floors of individual rooms. Each room was furnished with a pair of huge padded recliners, fresh fruit bowls, tea, candles, incense, a 60″ plasma TV, and a private washroom. The staff treated us like absolute royalty – at one point a woman even came in to play a beautiful song on an instrument strongly resembling a harp. At any given moment there were no less than three individuals tending to each of us – freshening our drinks, rubbing our feet, and massaging our back/arms/shoulders. The full-service package also included a facial, ear candles, foot cupping, a BOILING foot bath, and a packet of steaming hot silkworm feces on my belly. It lasted at least three hours…all for well under $20USD.
(When I say those foot baths were boiling, I do mean boiling. When Andy finally pulled his feet out they looked red enough to’ve been lobster claws. I simply couldn’t stand the heat, and asked the staff to add some cold water…Twice).
We’d also originally planned to spend my last weekend in China in Beijing, but called that off on account of the sickness. That’s alright. It was a wonderful trip, and a relaxing conclusion to six more months on the road. Six months which came to an end that following Monday – when I caught a morning train to the capital city, spent one afternoon ambling around the largest open-urban square in the world, and hopped on a flight home. I had an entire row of seats to myself, and spent nearly the whole time asleep.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am caught up on my blog! 😀