One of my colleagues was leaving China for good and wanted to have a foot massage before she left.
There was supposed to be one in my building, but the security guard told us it closed shop six weeks ago. I found this strange since I could have sworn I saw a sign advertising its prices everyday when I came into work.
But my friend knew of another place -- her Chinese teacher told her about -- so we went in search of it near our office.
At first she thought it was near Wu-Mart, the Chinese version of Wal-Mart, but there was no sign of a "big foot" billboard anywhere. Then we thought it was near KFC, but it wasn't there either.
She remembered her teacher describing the place as having a sign with a giant foot and it said "foot massage" on it.
We walked for almost an hour in the humid heat, wandering back and forth, looking for this giant sign, but it was nowhere to be found.
I finally spotted a small awning with a white cloud and against a gray background in black letters it said "foot massage".
We walked down the stairs of this posh-looking place with shimmery gold fabric undulating from the ceiling into a clean plain establishment filled with rooms.
We were shown into one of them that had two giant reclining chairs. Two young men placed basins of "medicinal tea" by our feet and we soaked them in the hot concoction. It was a soaking our sore feet truly deserved.
After several minutes the men reappeared again, washing our feet with their hands and then wiped them dry. We reclined back but not without a heated pad filled with beans that was placed around our necks.
The masseurs brought out their tool boxes complete with lamps and started cleaning our feet before doing the actual massage. And we laid back, watching a show on CCTV on musicians performing Chinese folk music. It was visually interesting and matched the atmosphere of where we were.
But then the show was over. And of all things "The Sound Of Music" followed afterwards. It didn't start from the beginning, but from the part where Maria starts teaching the children how to sing. It was so bizarre, but also so enchanting to watch the young Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, that my friend didn't want to leave!
We told the masseurs that we had a lot of trouble finding the place. And they explained that they had changed the sign a few weeks ago because of the Olympics. Authorities are cracking down on places that may offer services other than massage. That explained why the sign was less obvious. And perhaps why the place in my building was no more.
When we emerged into the evening air refreshed, it turns out the massage place is only a 10-minute walk from our office. And only 156RMB (US$20.55). Next time we know.