Spending Time with the Locals in China

Today’s Post by Ken MacAdams

We were welcomed at the doorway and ushered into two of the seven large cushioned seats at the Pedicure Palace. Eighteen pair of Chinese eyes were fastened on us, maybe among the first foreigners to visit their establishment? The manager handed us an option sheet—in Chinese— so we resorted the worldwide method of communication of hand signals and pointing! Smiles quickly came to all faces as we arranged for the “top of the line” treatment.

We joined five other customers with our feet soaking in large wooden tubs, each filled with very hot water, including some tea leaves! While our feet soaked, we were given an upper body, neck, and head massage. Thoroughly massaged and pummeled, they started on our feet. I spotted their official certificates, complete with the Party seal, indicating they’d undergone special training for massage and podiatry. I knew we were in good hands!

Forty five minutes later, we were ready to don our shoes and head for the street. I’m sure we were the subject of a lot of their conversation, but broad friendly smiles broke out any time we made eye contact. Our nails and calluses pared with an X-Acto knife, toes massaged, and lotion applied, I went to settle up: 30 yuan, or $4.50 USD each! We closed the door to smiling faces, and hands waving “good-bye!”

This little side street screamed, ‘locals!’ Motorbike horns beeped and bicycle bells jingled lest we side step into their way. Shopkeepers would stop, stare, then return our smiles! The folks living and shopping here couldn’t afford the mall prices found elsewhere in the city. We wandered into a large covered market, where spreads of greens met slabs of pork and hanging sheep. Tofu shops competed with noodle stands, and spice shops ground red-hot chilies into powder. Oranges nestled with pomelos, and apples overlooked the tangerines. Dogs roamed and barked at the slinking cats, and grandmothers wheeled their little grandbabies through rows of cabbages and cauliflower.

Food vendors hawked steamed dumplings or noodles and soup but we don’t have a ‘locals’ cast iron stomach, so headed back out to the bus stop for a lift back up town. Finding a clean little ‘hot pot’ restaurant next to Hoo Coffee (a Starbucks type knock-off) we dined on egg drop soup with seaweed, steamed cabbage, and a mystery meat noodle bowl. One thing’s for certain, there’s never a dull moment here!

All images with a Panasonic Lumix G85, Lumix G Vario 12-60mm Power OIS lens. Images handheld, AWB, Program setting, Auto ISO. Apertures ranged from f/4.0 to f/8, shutter speed 1/60 sec. to 1/125, and ISO from 200 to 1000.