Article by Tim King
Running the biggest English-language media empire in Xi’an can be stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but the grind of the production cycle is relentless. The three constants in my life are death, taxes and that Xianease comes out on the 7th of every month, no matter what. The hunching over computers for hours on end, and that tense lock my head and neck get into when I get stressed out, ensure that I’m usually knotted up worse than Christmas lights in July. With all this going on, I decided that I was going to treat both myself and my girlfriend (who has the unfortunate circumstance of being the person who usually has to deal with me when I’m stressed out) to a massage at the Westin Hotel.
The Westin’s spa is located in the basement of the hotel, and as soon as the elevator doors open you can feel the change in atmosphere. The spacious, shiny, angular modern layout upstairs is eschewed for cozy, white brick-wall corridors and intimate sitting rooms. From then on, I was on autopilot, because they took care of the rest.
First, we were greeted by what the Westin refers to as “spa ambassadors.” They gave us each a pot of tea with a small cup of dried fruit, which we enjoyed while we checked out some of the wellness literature laying around in the waiting room (How Not to Get Fat was the best title for its almost comic bluntness and the worst because I’d already failed in its titular mission). After a couple small cups of tea, we were lead into our massage rooms.
In this particular instance, we were placed in separate rooms, though there are options available for couples’ spa experiences. The treatment started with a white tea foot scrub, an exfoliating delight for my Adidas-choked dogs. I also took this opportunity to get to know my masseuse, a young woman from Chongqing who had come to the Xi’an Westin after years of spa experience in Southern China. We chose to speak mostly in Chinese, but her English was more than competent for giving instructions and taking feedback, as well as a bit of light conversation. I also appreciated that she didn’t draw any attention to the weird extra bone I have in my right foot; most foot massages I’ve gotten end with the masseuse poking at it and asking a lot of questions I don’t have the answers to, so it was nice not to feel as self-conscious about it.
Speaking of being self-conscious, when the foot massage ended it was time for the robe to come off and for me to get my underwear-covered ass onto the massage table. She gave me three options for my massage: soft, medium, or hard. I went for medium, but it was nice to know that there was a choice and that I could negotiate it if it wasn’t to my liking. The hour that followed melted away like it was in a Salvador Dali painting.
I floated out of the room after the massage was over, my head and neck lolling about as if the stress I usually carried in it was the only thing keeping it upright. I met up with my girlfriend, who had a similarly relaxed aura about her. It was tough to leave such a serene place, but their parting gift of a chocolate truffle was consolation enough for having to go back out onto the busy Yanta streets.
Being a five-star hotel, a spa experience at the Westin may seem a bit costly for many of Xi’an’s workaday laowai, but if you can find your way to treating yourself, the amenities and the sheer professionalism at the Heavenly Spa will make the trip worth it.
Tim King is the editor-in-chief of Xianease Magazine and doesn’t even hold the world record for being the most Tim King. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org